Dark Side Of The Ring Recap: Collision In Korea

Dark Side of the Ring does a terrific job of shedding new light on some of the industry’s most discussed periods and moments. However, its best episodes cover topics that are shrouded in mystery. There might well be no topic more mysterious in the wrestling business than New Japan and WCW joint show that took place in North Korea.

Collision In Korea took place in 1995 and was the subject of this week’s Dark Side of the Ring. While some of those who made the bizarre trip have discussed it in the past, nothing like this episode has ever been put together before. It tells the tale unlike it has ever been told before, and truly paints a picture of just how strange, scary, and spectacular the four-day journey was.

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Connections To Korea

The episode begins with Eric Bischoff explaining his role in WCW during the 1990s and his goal to re-establish a connection with New Japan. Bischoff explains WWE’s relationship with the company had soured and he wanted to capitalize on a gap in the market. WCW and New Japan would work together and share talent on numerous occasions, but none made history quite like their joint show in North Korea.

Bischoff may have had connections, but it was Antonio Inoki who made the Korean trip happen. Inoki was New Japan’s chairman at the time and with political aspirations as well as his wrestling ones, he had the lofty goal of repairing the incredibly damaged relationship between North Korea and Japan. Inoki pitched the idea to his North Korean connections and the ball was rolling.

Bischoff loved the idea and went about putting together a group of wrestlers who would be interested in joining him. Hulk Hogan declined, but Ric Flair was excited to be a part of it. Bischoff believes Flair may have been offended he was the second choice after Hogan. Inoki mentions Michael Jackson’s name being brought up. Although that didn’t happen, Muhammad Ali, who had worked with wrestling promotions in the past, traveled to Korea with the wrestlers.

Bischoff explained getting permission from the US government to travel to North Korra could take months. Since time was of the essence, he neglected to let them know his plans. He didn’t even tell his boss, who was presumably Ted Turner at the time. Bischoff, Flair, and the other WCW stars making the trip went to Japan and flew to North Korea from there.

Arriving In North Korea

The plane that took them from Japan to North Korea was the first red flag. An old military plane which Flair was very reluctant to travel on. Understandable since The Nature Boy survived a plane crash early on in his career. Once they arrived in Korea, officials at a deserted airport snatched their passports and anything else they had related to America, even their Walkmans.

The wrestlers were paired off and taken to their hotels, stopping to pay their respects to The Great Leader on the way. The moment was filmed and presumably shown to North Koreans, making it appear as if that was one of the reasons they had made the trip. Once at the hotel, there was very little to do. Scott Norton explains that guards stood outside their room and watched their every move.

Norton, Chris Benoit, and a couple of others found a pool table in the lobby. It took them two hours to get the balls and as soon as one of those balls fell off the table, the guards put a stop to the game and told the wrestlers to go back to their rooms. Norton wanted to teach one of the guards a lesson but was thankfully talked down.

Korean-American Relations

One of the more famous stories from the trip is Bischoff’s run. The former WCW president recalls waking up really early one morning while in North Korea and going for a run. The streets were empty, but as the sun came up and people started to head to work and school, what North Koreans thought of Americans started to become clear. People moved out of his way, looks of terror on their faces. When Bischoff returned to the hotel, the woman assigned to look after him was livid. He feared that she might be killed for allowing him to leave the hotel without her.

While that moment was scary for Bischoff, perhaps the worst moment of the troubled trip happened to Norton. After three days, Norton was finally able to call his wife from his hotel room phone. She didn’t believe what was happening, accusing him of partying so hard that he had just forgotten to call home. The line went dead, and Norton assumed she had hung up on him.

That wasn’t the case. Officials had been listening in and cut the call short after Norton dared to say disparaging things about North Korea. The wrestler was taken to a room to be interrogated and threatened. Norton swore he wouldn’t say anything else bad about North Korea, admitting he feared for his life and just wanted to get out of that room.

The Biggest Wrestling Shows Ever

The day of the first show finally arrived and nothing could have prepared those involved for what they were about to experience. People lined the streets and when Norton commented on how many people wanted to see them, the driver informed them that they were forced to go and would be killed if they didn’t. The numbers vary depending on who you ask, but there was a minimum of 170,000 fans in attendance on night one, and the same for night two.

collision in korea
via Dark Side of the Ring

Norton wrestled in the main event of night one and recalls the fans not reacting at all. It was dead silent in the enormous stadium across both nights, largely due to the fact people were forced to be there and didn’t know what it was they were seeing. It wasn’t until Flair and Inoki wrestled that the crowd started to come alive, and apparently the reaction was incredible.

While Inoki has no North Korean blood, he was trained by Rickidozan. Rickidozan was a Korean who wrestled in Japan and tried to keep his nationality a secret. He was killed by the Yakuza in 1963. That link meant Inoki got the hometown reaction for Collision in Korea. Well, the only reaction.

Scorpio And Hawk

Throughout the episode, the story of a fight between 2 Cold Scorpio and Road Warrior Hawk is told. It begins with a fight on a bus in Korea during which Scorpio lands a number of punches on Hawk. The two then clash again on the way to the first show after Scorpio claims he tried to patch things up. That prompts Scorpio to sharpen a chopstick with a means to stab Hawk with it. When they come face to face for the third time, they agree to bury the hatchet, at least until they are back in Japan, so the makeshift shiv is never used.

Once the wrestlers get back to Japan, the first thing Flair does is get on his hands and knees and kiss the tarmac. The political sway Inoki hoped to get from the trip didn’t come to fruition, as he lost his bid for re-election shortly after the trip.

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