Great-ing Gimmicks of the Past: The Jung Dragons

The Jung Dragons – WCW, 2000

History
WCW had a problem. Well, actually by this point they had many, but we’ll focus on this one. They had the idea to form an Oriental stable to feud with Three Count. One problem – they didn’t have three male Oriental wrestlers they wanted to put in the group. They had Kaz Hayashi and Jimmy (Yun) Yang, but they needed one more.

You be the booker! What do you do?

1) Scout the independent scene, looking for a talented cruiserweight with an Oriental look.

2) Send someone to Japan on a recruiting tour.

3) Take a white guy, stick him under a mask, and tell him, “Now you’re Japanese.”

If you chose 1 or 2, you’ve obviously never seen a WCW broadcast before. Anyway, with Jamie Howard (better known as Jamie Noble) under the mask as Jamie-san, the trio was complete.

Kaz was the first one to compete in the trio’s debut on Nitro, which happened on March 6th, 2000. He was taking on Psychosis in the show’s opening match. He wound up with the victory after the Artist Formerly Known As Prince Iaukea (henceforth known as The Artist) clocked Psychosis with the cruiserweight belt.

The Dragons faced Three Count for the first time on the 13th’s Nitro, and wound up losing as Shannon Moore pinned Jamie-San. That pushed Three Count into a gauntlet match against Brian Knobbs.

The group’s luck wouldn’t improve on Thunder. Kaz took on Psychosis again, and lost when Psychosis rolled him up. Of course, that brought out the Artist to attack Psychosis.

The Dragons got a rematch against Three Count on the March 22nd Thunder. It took just over three minutes for Shane to put Yang away with a frog splash. In retaliation, the Dragons ran Three Count out of the ring while they were doing a victory dance and stole their dancin’ circles.

That week on Worldwide, Jamie-San and Yang took on Shannon and Evan of Three Count. They still didn’t win, but this time the match ended in a double countout as both teams brawled on the outside.

The Dragons had a busy weekend as they took on Frog and PG-13 (JC Ice and Wolfie D) on Saturday Night. They picked up a victory as Yang hit a swanton bomb for the pin.

On Nitro, the Dragons took on the Mamalukes (Big Vito and Johnny the Bull (Stamboli)), and Disco Inferno. They opened the match by mocking Three Count by dancing on their green circles and mimicking their singing. After the Harris Brothers interfered by attacking the Mamalukes, Yang and Jamie-San hit a double legdrop on Disco for the win. After the match was over, the Harrises obliterated the Dragons for the heck of it.

The Dragons would make their next TV appearance after the chaos of the Russo-Bischoff return started on the April 15th edition of Worldwide. Jamie and Yang took on Frog and JC Ice. The result was another victory for the Dragons.

All three Dragons took on PG-13 and Frog on the next week’s show. The Dragons pulled out another victory after all three hit sunset flips on the other team.

The Dragons wouldn’t show up again until the Nitro on June 19th, once again taking on Three Count (who had somehow gotten their circles back). Three Count put away Jamie-San with a triple facebuster, only for Lance Storm to attack the Count after the match.

The Dragons would be back on Nitro the following week. It started with Big Vito (the Hardcore champion) issuing an open challenge. Jamie-San came running to accept. Yang came out of the back next and joined in the fun. Kaz hit the ring almost immediately after, and all three Dragons were able to put Vito away. Of course, this wasn’t an “official” match, so no title change.

Big Vito got his rematch on the following Thunder. Yang was the first one out, and lasted about a minute before Vito pinned him. Kaz picked up there, and lasted about a minute and a half before losing. Jamie-San was the final entrant and managed to defeat Vito for the title with a dropkick. Then we noticed that there were two Jamie-Sans in the ring, and one was much taller than the other. The tall one (who’d just won the match) then unmasked to reveal that it was really Johnny the Bull.

On Worldwide, the Dragons took on the team of Shane Eden, Terry Knight, and (TNA’s Cowboy) James Storm. The match ended when Kaz and Jamie-San hit their finisher – a legdrop/senton combo, and Kaz covered Eden for the win.

The Dragons continued their TV appearances on the next Nitro. Three Count made their way out as Tank Abbott ran DJ Ran out of the booth. Tank then commented about DJ Ran living up to his name. Anyway, things didn’t go well, as Tank attacked the Dragons when they got the advantage, leaving Yang easy prey for Shannon Moore.

On the July 5th Thunder, the Cat made his way out for a karate demonstration. His sparring partners? The Dragons. To make a long story short, the Cat pulled out the win, and then called the Dragons back into the ring so the crowd could cheer for them.

Backstage, the Cat told them that he hadn’t had that much fun in a long time and gave them a big wad of money.

That brings us to the 2000 Bash at the Beach. The show opened with the Cat climbing out of his limo and immediately getting attacked by the Dragons. He fought them off and made his way into the building.

After a pep talk from the Cat, the Dragons would continue to stalk him. After an interview with Jeff Jarrett where he told Miller to be sure that Hogan was there that night, they attacked and left the Cat lying in the middle of the ring.

The war with Three Count heated up again the next night. Tank and Three Count had come out with a ladder to hang up their new gold record, and the Dragons attacked with a new ally – the Great Muta. As the Dragons took care of Three Count, Muta sprayed Tank with green mist. The Dragons stole the record and cleared out.

Later in the night, the Dragons jumped the Cat again. This time he left all three of them lying.

Thunder opened with Tank and Three Count taking on Muta and the Dragons. The match would start as the Dragons attacked while Three Count and Tank were dancing. Unfortunately, the match ended when Yang got clocked by one of Tank’s punches and Shane got the pin.

Later, the Dragons ambushed the Cat again. He ducked and they crashed into each other. He easily dispatched the three, and walked off.

On the next week’s Nitro, the Cat was hitting on a Nitro girl when the Dragons attacked again. Stevie Ray was not as pleasant as the Cat, and started attacking. The Cat got Stevie to stop, because the Dragons were his friends. Stevie stopped, after getting a match against Jeff Jarrett.

The Dragons took on Three Count in a ladder match for the gold record later on which wasn’t supposed to happen. You see, the match was set for the New Blood Rising pay-per-view but an interview segment (?) turned into one. At least that’s the story I’m going with.

As Three Count sang, Jamie-San started up the ladder. Finally Evan got thrown off the top and Jamie-San got the record.

On Thunder, the Cat was coughing in the back when the Dragons attacked. This time, they came out on top.

They reappeared as Muta took on Tank Abbott. Tank dropped them, and then they got up and overpowered him. That brought the Cat out, who cleaned house only to get misted by Muta.

From here, problems began to arise. The next week, the Dragons took on MI Smooth (better known as Ice Train). Smooth defeated all three of them in a handicap match, with no interference or shenanigans.

The Dragons were back on TV on the August 7th Nitro. They opened the show by taking on Muta (with no explanation as to a split between them), Vampiro, and the KISS Demon. The match started with Tank Abbott walking out and grabbing a seat at the announce table. Foreshadowing? No! The match ended when Muta misted and hit a moonsault on Yang. After the match, Sting ran out and went after the Demon, Vamp, and Muta.

On the following Thunder, the Cat was talking to Mike Awesome and Heidi (WWF’s Bertha Faye) when some very familiar music started up. Sure enough, the Dragons attacked. The Cat cracked all three of their heads together, slapped them, and threw them out.

After that, Vamp and Muta attacked the Dragons and the Cat caught them. He ran Vamp and Muta off, and then set a tag match for later in the night. (The Cat and Sting would defeat Vamp and Muta in the main event).

That brought us to the Road Wild replacement, New Blood Rising. Three Count took on the Dragons in a ladder match for their gold record and a recording contract in the opener. In typical WCW fashion, Jamie-San grabbed the record, only to have Tank Abbott confiscate it. When Kaz and Shane Helms climbed after the contract, Tank knocked over the ladder, allowing Evan Karagias to grab it.

From there, it was back to Worldwide for the Dragons. On the 19th, they took on the Filthy Animals (represented by Disco Inferno, Rey Mysterio Jr., and Juventud Guerrera). Rey got the pin for the Animals after a top-rope legdrop.

Things went to “bowling shoe ugly” (in honor of poor, fired Jim Ross) on the next week’s Thunder, as the Dragons lost to the Harris Brothers. After the match, Leia Meow (better known as ECW’s Kimona Wanaleia), who was fresh off the failure of the Varsity Club revival, walked out and the Dragons followed her to the back.

Worldwide saw the Dragons losing to Sean O’Haire, Mark Jindrak, and Sean Stasiak in the main event. Of course, since Worldwide was taped at odd times, Leia was not with the Dragons.

That may have been a good thing. The next week’s Thunder saw Leia slapping the Dragons around, threatening to make them lick her boots if they lost. So of course they didn’t have a match.

The Dragons showed up briefly on Nitro. Kronik asked if they’d seen the Harrises. However, they didn’t speak English, so Kronik just took out some frustrations on them and moved on.

On the September 9 Worldwide, Mean Gene interviewed Leia Meow. She threatened to teach the Dragons respect.

Later in the night, they took on Kory (Cory) Williams, Bryan McNeal, and (TNA’s Wildcat) Chris Harris. The Dragons won, but Leia decided that, while they were getting better, they still weren’t good enough. So the Dragons had a long night of boot licking ahead of them. Although ringsider Konnan did offer his assistance, as well.

The Dragons were back in action on the September 20th episode of Thunder as they took on New Blood Thrillers representatives Mark Jindrak, Sean O’Haire, and Mike Sanders. Things weren’t going well, and Jamie-San finally got thrown outside the ring. Leia popped him, then climbed into the ring, came off the top rope onto Sanders, and got the win. That’s right. A manager, who was not even involved in the match, scored the pinfall. Gotta love WCW.

On the 25th’s Nitro, there was a battle royal for the tag team titles and the Dragons were there with Kaz and Jamie-San entered. Thanks to Kaz, the Dragons were the first ones eliminated.

They were back on Thunder the night of October 8. This time they were in a handicap match against Scott Steiner. Leia sent Yang in, so Steiner picked him up and sent him back out. Steiner would up with a double Steiner Recliner on Kaz and Jamie-San while Leia attacked Midajah on the outside.

The Dragons took on Mike Sanders for the cruiserweight title on the 23rd’s Nitro. Sanders started the match by pouring “water” on his kickboxing gloves. And by water, I mean ether. Jamie-San lasted about 40 seconds. Yang lasted 30. Kaz also went down after about 30 seconds. Leia started into the ring and kicked Sanders below the belt. Sanders pulled out his cup, poured the ether into it, and chased her out of the ring with it.

On Thunder, the Cat and Ms. Jones took on Sanders and a mystery partner. Sanders, the commissioner at the time, called out Leia as his partner, threatening her job if she refused. The Cat wound up dropping Sanders, and both women climbed on him for the pin.

The Dragons opened the next week’s Thunder by taking on Three Count. After Jamie-San lost the match, Leia went berserk. She pulled his mask off and he was out of the group.

Three Count was having problems with Evan Karagias at the same time. Finally he was out and we had three tag teams – Three Count (Shannon & Shane), the Dragons (Kaz & Yang) and Karagias & Noble.

Analysis
WCW booking strikes again. Just like Three Count, this stable had talent in spades. They just never got the chance to shine. Every time they’d get a chance (like the ladder match with Three Count or the addition of Leia), they’d disappear from TV or get squashed for no reason. Let’s face it – Ice Train is never going to be a threat, no matter how you book him.

The worst problem with the Dragons was the fact that they were unable to use any mic skills they may have possessed – after all, they were all supposed to speak Japanese (although they may have unintentionally struck gold if they’d had Jamie-San try to speak Japanese).

The more I write on this, the more I’m reminded of an interview Steve Austin gave where he talked about the Hollywood Blondes (himself and Brian Pillman). He discussed how they were a popular tag team, and WCW booking would start burying them until the ratings sagged. Then the Blondes were front and center again. Looks like some things never changed.

Where Are They Now?
Kaz Hayashi was picked up by the WWF when WCW was purchased and sent to Les Thatcher’s Heartland Wrestling Association (at the time, a WWF development territory). He wound up requesting his release, and returned to his home country to compete in All Japan Pro Wrestling. He continues to work for various Japanese promotions today.

Jimmy (Yun) Yang was also picked up by the WWF in the WCW acquisition, and also found himself in HWA. He wound up being released in January of 2002. Yang went to Japan and competed in All Japan before returning to the US and joining the new NWA-TNA roster where he, Sonny Siaki, and Jorge Estrada formed a stable called The Flying Elvises. In September of 2003, Yang signed another WWE development deal, and shortly thereafter made his WWE television debut renamed Akio and allied with Tajiri and Sakoda as part of Kyo Dai. On July 5 of this year Yang was released again from his WWE contract and has returned to working on the independent scene, most notably with Ring of Honor. His website is http://www.akioyang.com .

Jamie (Jamie-San) Howard also found himself in HWA after the WCW buyout. In June of 2002, he was brought up to the main WWE roster as trailer park inhabitant Jamie Noble, who was the boyfriend of Tough Enough winner Nidia. In late 2004, Noble was released from his WWE contract after an incident when he reportedly confessed to his doctor that he had been taking steroids. Now known as James Gibson, he returned to the independent scene, competing for companies such as Ring of Honor (where he won their championship) and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. In July of 2005, Noble signed a new contract with the WWE, where he will be returning to the Smackdown cruiserweight division.

From the Mailbag
This week I’d promised to post the winners from last week’s question as to which Smackdown wrestler you would never want to see as World Heavyweight Champion. First up, I’d like to present a couple of honorable mentions.

Third place goes to Simon Dean, who was submitted by Jared Smith. I’ll let him explain his reasoning:

“…Writers with skill could develop a Nova, or any other `pure character’ wrestler into a franchise. …

…The climate today is the `character’ wrestler is a pure novelty act, accordingly pushed as a comedy alternative – to the point where we get sick of them after a short time, and then friends, it’s straight into the 2 minute squash.

Simon Dean never has a chance, he is a wuss more interested in extolling his supplements to the point of being delusional of his ability – that’s good for nothing BUT 2 minute squashes.

Obviously, fans aren’t stupid. In ECW we KNEW Nova wasn’t a REAL superhero.

Yes, he got over with BWO and comic book antics, but we recognised good wrestling – he was fast, he could fly high, and be it tagging with Meanie or Chetti he seemed to make up leaping neckbreaker moves at will.

So, through small, in-the-ring ways, ECW took us behind the `mask.’ When a friend of Nova’s went down – he charged in looking for the save, with REAL emotion on his face; if the Baldies wanted to `kill’ him in a brawl with their weapons – he’d fight for survival. Yep, he might let out a ‘waaaahooo’ before a plancha to the floor, but if the fight got dirty – he was all business. HE WAS REAL.

Result? To my mind, if he got in there with World Champ Mike Awesome, he’d make a stern challenge; a match with TV champ RVD could be a magnificent spotfest; and it seemed only time before him and Chetti were tag champs.

All this for a `character wrestler.’

Seriously, did WWE learn nothing from Cactus Jack//Mankind//Dude Love – not one but three personas Mick Foley took into World Title programs? Show us the character, give us the fun-and-games, but showcase the wrestler’s FULL ability in the role – and when things get tight, let them respond as any normal person//athlete would – let them rise to the occasion. Isn’t that what a Champion does, in ANY sport?

With the right opponents to `bump’ for you, and the right storyline for fans to get wrapped up in, World Champion is not so far fetched…for anyone.

But Dean, in this current environment, would be a mockey `Oh-my-god-he-was-getting-murdered-by-Bastista-when-JBL-knocked-him-out-with-a-cattleprod-and-put-lifeless-Dean-on-top-and-now-we-have-a-new-champ’ World title reign because it’s the only one we’d realistically accept…and we’d still crap all over it.

Why? Because for a team of writers with fine `soap opera’ experience – they know little or nothing about true, `REAL’, athletic character development. Sad isn’t it?”

Well said, and I’m surprised that Dean didn’t get more mentions. Kevin Bufton is representing the runner-up, a surprising choice but one that he explains very well.

“…Bit of a controversial one this one but my pick would have to be Rey Mysterio.

I know, I know…everyone’s clamouring for Vince to give one of the little guys a shot with the World Heavyweight Title and, of all the Cruiserweights, Rey seems to be the one with the Holy Trinity of fan support, respect in the locker room and a certain amount of believability, having wrestled much bigger guys than himself and won.

All of that, I will cheerfully agree to – however, I just wouldn’t buy Rey Mysterio as a serious threat to a heavyweight title-holder. Granted, in the wacky world of professional wrestling, there’s nothing to stop a 175 lb guy (if that) defeating someone like the Big Show or Undertaker every now and then, but you can only suspend your disbelief for so long. Yes, Rey could conceivably best Batista once, but I’d have trouble accepting that he could do it again. Okay, so two of the smaller guys on the roster – Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit – have both been champions in the recent past but they had attributes in their favour that Rey does not possess.

Eddie would Lie, Cheat and Steal to keep his gold – and even then he could only do it for so long before a much bigger guy took it from him in the form of JBL. Chris Benoit, on the other hand, is hard as f*cking nails and tt doesn’t matter what size he is, because he destroy people with heavy chops, lightning fast suplexes and submission holds, none of which are affected or limited by one’s size, if you have sufficient strength.

Rey, on the other hand, relies on his speed and quickness and his trademark moves either require hugely contrived spots (the 619) or involve propelling his body into his opponent (the West Coast Pop). I’m sorry, but why should we believe that Batista, JBL or the Undertaker can catch a heavyweight coming off the ropes for a crossbody (or whatever) and the powerslam them, but be forced to accept that Rey’s miniscule frame would knock them for a loop, sufficient to put them in a pinning predicament?”

An excellent analysis. I remember how WCW showed this to perfection back during the rise of the NWO. Rey tried jumping off something onto Nash, Nash caught him, and threw him into a backstage trailer like a lawn dart.

So far, both winners have been disqualified from winning the world title because the only way they could would be with a fluke win. And now it’s time for our grand champion (and not one that I was surprised by):

Orlando Jordan. Orlando was the clear “winner” by virtue of votes cast. In honor of this “achievement,” I’ll put up a couple of different people’s reasoning.

First up is Erik Schwob:

“…For me it would be Orlando Jordan.

This guy has been in a feud with Benoit for nearly three months and has not had a decent match yet. Granted, they have been doing the whole tap out to Benoit in seconds thing, but the way they keep prolonging this angle makes me think they are trying to shunt him up the card. I mean, whoever thought Bradshaw would get the push he did (although I think he is an awesome heel despite what a rotten person he is and his lack of wrestling ability)

Anyway, here are my reasons:

1) Not one great or even good match in nearly two years
2) Can’t talk to save his life
3) Has a vanilla personality
4) Is in the WWE based on his look and nothing more. If Lex Luger or God help me Chris Masters can somewhat piece a match together. OJ is as green today as he was two years ago. Batista, Cena, Orton, Carlito, and other OVW guys have improved each year, while OJ shows that unfortunately, some people are not suited for pro wrestling.

How young wrestlers like Charlie Hass, Mark Jindrak, Daniel Puder, Luther Reigns, and Matt Morgan who have such upsides to them get turfed while this guy still has a job is unreal.”

Very true. I’ve said all along that Haas’s release was a mistake, Puder has untapped talent oozing out his ears (and I believe was only released to get out of the “million dollar” contract), and Morgan and Jindrak I’d thought had the perfect WWE look.

And to wrap it up, here”s Frank Castellon’s indictment of Jordan:

“The reason why I cannot ever, see or even want Orlando Jordan in the main event is because he sucks! He sucks in everything, wrestling, speaking, wrestling. He has had every opportunity to come out on top. The WWE gave him a great name so fans could remember him. I mean, O.J for “The Juice” and Jordan for that basketball guy but he has not taken advantage of all the chances he has been given.

They even gave him the second Highest Spot in “The cabinet” so that he may stand out like Rocky did when he was in “The Nation” and have him turn into a face but he just could not get over simply because he had no skills and fans, even though JBL was over, never took OJ seriously.

Man, they even gave him the US Title for who knows how long and didn’t do anything. They even did what was for internet fans the worse and most hated thing of all: He BEAT BENOIT!! and he still could not get over. Now I think, as a last resort, they are pushing him to get over as the guy who loses the fastest matches! Which I think will end up him turning face by having respect for Benoit. But I bet he will still fail!

I like the name, I like his look but man, he has gotten all these shots and has had zero effect. Which in turn would make him the biggest disappointment to the writing staff, which can’t be faulted here. So why would we want to see him in the main event?? NO freaking reason. …”

And here we hit the main problem with Jordan (which I see as well) – he’s not stood out at all. He’s been pushed to the moon, given titles, and prominent spots in stables, but he’s not really brought anything to the table. Although if they think that the losing streak gimmick will work, the writing staff’s gravely mistaken.

We had a good response from this, and thanks to everyone who sent their thoughts in! I think I’ll go ahead and post another question and then put the replies in next week’s column. Which Smackdown wrestler do you think should win the belt? I’ll put your answers and any comments you may have about this list in next week’s column – just so long as I get them by next Monday.

Next Week:
Fear the return of destrucity, Hogan.

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