Once upon a time there was an incredible and terrifying tag team known as The Steiner Brothers.
The two real-life brothers were amateur wrestling standouts that entered the professional world and became one of the best duo to ever do it. For over a decade they enjoyed immense success and respect from their peers. It wasn’t hard to see why: both of them were physical monsters that matched their physical strength with incredible amateur prowess. Scott also exuded this intense energy and Rick had a sense of wildness to him that made their opponents wrestle them with trepidation.
But did their matches live up to all that hype? Let’s take a look at one of their most widely-hailed matches and find out.
As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star and almost-Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.
The Steiners reaped the benefits of WCW’s working relationship with NJPW by being booked on NJPW’s biggest cards more than almost anyone. NJPW was glad to have them: they were two almost stereotypical American monsters that were the perfect outside forces to bring in and use as foils for the local heroes. Two of NJPW’s top stars at the time were Keiji Muto and Hiroshi Hase, who put their own personal feud aside to take on the much bigger threat (both literal and metaphorical) in the Steiners.
Muto and Hase were both incredible stars on their own, but could they work together well enough to out-wrestle two of the most skilled and dangerous wrestlers in North America at the time?
This match originally took place on January 4, 1994. It was rated ****1/4 out of five by the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer.
They shake hands to start things off and both Hase and Scott begin the match. Scott scores an amateur take-down and controls Hase on the mat for a bit. Hase escapes and then scores a take-down of his own but Scott gets a ropebreak. They lock-up again and Scott lands an easy overhead suplex but Hase wrestles out and then lands a fireman’s carry. The two continue chain wrestling on the mat until Hase escapes once more and tags Muto but then so too does Rick.
Rick lives up to his nickname “the dog faced gremlin” for a moment and bites Muto’s hip. Then he gets serious and starts grappling and then tags Scott, who hits an overhead belly-to-belly suplex that causes Muto to bail and then tag Hase. There’s some more technical wrestling and countering on the mat with various holds and exchanges until Hase gets a ropebreak to escape a sort of grounded camel clutch/leglock combo.
Hase shoots Scott into the ropes but Scott knocks him down and then lands a butterfly suplex slam. Muto tries interfering but Rick cuts him off and both Steiners hit stereo overhead military presses. The Japanese duo get a breather as the Steiners pose in the ring and then Hase chops Scott into his corner and tags Muto. Muto dumps Scott onto the elevated entrance ramp and hits a snap suplex onto it. Muto dashes up the ramp, gets a huge running start, and lands a big running clothesline much to the crowd’s delight. Then he suplexes an interfering Rick and Hase does the same running clothesline to him.
Back in the ring Muto locks in a figure-4 leglock and rolls over to tag Hase while the hold is still on. The two wrestlers hit double knee smashers and then Hase hits several Indian deathlock drops followed by a Muta lock. Muto tags back in and he and Hase hit double leg stretches. Muto follows with a heel hook/toe hold-type move but Scott counters, only for Hase to tag in again. Hase hits some chops but Scott no-sells and counters into a dragon suplex.
Rick tags in but the ref makes him back off for a moment to check on Hase. When he gives Rick the OK, Rick hits a Dominator press into a corner but then Hase fights back. Hase chops Rick into his corner and tags Muto, who hits his snapmare/flashing elbow combo followed by a short arm scissor. Rick counters that hold with an impressive deadlift overhead suplex but Hase tags in and lands an uranage. Hase goes for a top-rope dive but Scott holds him in place long enough for Rick to land an avalanche belly-to-belly suplex.
Scott tags in, hits Hase with a lariat, knocks Muto off the apron, and then lands a tilt-a-whirl side slam on Hase for a two-count. Then Scott yells “he ain’t getting up from this one” and puts Hase in position for a vertical suplex. He yells “this is for all you guys”…and spikes Hase with a Steiner Screwdriver! Scott: “WHO THE F**K IS BETTER THAN ME?!” The crowd goes nuts for Scott’s incredible head-drop.
Rick knocks Muto off the top rope and the crowd roars as Scott tries picking up whatever’s left of Hase. Scott kicks Muto away and charges for a running lariat. Hase ducks once and then somehow remains standing as Scott hits two running lariats. Scott charges again. Hase counters with two more uranages. One, two, Scott kicks out.
Muto tags in and runs wild on both Steiners. He lands a back body drop and a dropkick on Scott, then tags Hase, and the two of them hit a tandem move similar to The New Day’s Midnight Hour combo. Muto knocks Rick to the floor and hits a plancha as Hase nails Scott with a bridging German suplex for another two-count. Bridging northern lights suplex. Rick saves his brother. Muto tags in and hits his corner handspring/bulldog combo. Rick stops a dragon suplex but Hase takes care of him. Muto lands a rib breaker followed by a snap moonsault. One, two, Scott survives. Muto charges to the ropes…and runs into a standing Frankensteiner from Scott. The crowd goes nuts as both Hase and Rick tag in. Rick knocks Hase down and then hits a walking overhead press slam for a two-count. He follows with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and then drops Muto. Then the Steiners hit a Doomsday DDT on Hase and double shoulder tackles on Muto. That’s followed by a Doomsday Bulldog. Muto jumps from the top rope to try and break up the cover. But he’s one second too late as Scott gets the three-count.
Winners after 20:51: The Steiners (Scott & Rick Steiner)
Fun match though not a classic by any stretch of the imagination. It was fast-paced and filled with big moves, especially the Steiner Screwdriver which I think has been featured in countless wrestling compilation videos for almost three decades. It was a simple match with a straightforward story, though I think it could’ve been told in a better way. The idea was that the Steiners were simply a much better team in every conceivable way. They were stronger, more technically gifted, and more cohesive as a team compared to Muto and Hase. The story that was supposed to be told was that nothing the Japanese duo did was enough to keep the Americans ay bay. They tried to get this message through the moves they used and when they chose to do said moves. But the action didn’t complement it; the match peaked with the Steiner Screwdriver and everything after that was something of a jumbled mess.
That head spike marked the peak of the match, but instead of it ending shortly thereafter, the match continued and went in a somewhat nonsensical direction. Scott’s badass boast was followed with a sudden and inexplicable superhuman comeback from Hase that, for all intents purposes, killed the heat generated by that Screwdriver. Hase survived, had little struggle coming back, and resumed wrestling a normal tag match. He basically no-sold that big move and continued wrestling as if there was no change in urgency or shift in tone for the match.
As for everything else that happened, the match just continued on listlessly with moves being hit in a random and rudderless manner. There was little progress towards a visible conclusion and everything came across as chaotic and lacking in structure. This overall lack of cohesiveness to the match gave it the sense of unpredictability needed to make it a good match, but also robbed it of the sense of escalation towards a final crescendo needed to make it a great match.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Most people will remember this match for the Steiner Screwdriver and nothing else and to be honest I’m not surprised. This match had all the right tools and elements in place for it to be a classic: two excellent teams of wrestlers with impeccable pedigrees, a big and excited crowd, and some solid chemistry between all four wrestler involved. But when the time came for all of these elements to be mixed together, the end result was off. Key parts of the match were put in haphazard order and things weren’t built to in the most exciting and enjoyable way possible. What the audience was left with was a match that peaked ten minutes too early and a failed comeback sequence from the local babyface underdogs that failed to hit those highest notes of tension and excitement.
I’ve heard and read many things about how the Steiners were an awesome tag team and I thought this would be their magnum opus. It really is a shame that this match just isn’t as outstanding as it could’ve been. All it would’ve needed to make this match better was for them to rearrange the order for some moves and amp up the sense of desperation on the part of the babyfaces and we would’ve had something truly special. Alas, given how things were actually sold and structured here, what we were left with here was a somewhat mechanical and disappointing match that had one or two impressive moments and precious little else.