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Ask 411 Wrestling: Could Hannibal Be Prosecuted for the Blood Hunter Incident?

December 26, 2021 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Hannibal Bloodhunter Image Credit: SWE

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Bryan has a question about everybody’s favorite Canadian not named Tyler:

With the incident involving Hannibal, the Canadian wrestler, blading a ref, can he be prosecuted for that? I know wrestling exists in its own world legally, like international waters, but taking a razor to a guy’s head, is tantamount to assault. I don’t know what was discussed before the match, but I doubt the ref agreed to it.

Yes, he absolutely could be prosecuted.

However, the key word there is “could.”

This is an area where it’s probably better to analogize professional wrestling to sport than it is to acting. Generally speaking, if you’re engaged in a game or sport with somebody, they cannot be prosecuted for doing anything to you that falls within the generally accepted rules of the game, no matter what the consequences are. If a clean punch in a boxing match or an MMA fight just happens to land in such a freakish manner that it permanently injures or god forbid kills somebody, the person who threw it is not going to be considered criminally responsible for it.

However, that’s not a blanket exception for all criminal liability. If you’re in the same boxing match or MMA fight and you rabbit punch your opponent in between rounds when they’ve turned to walk away from you and THAT results in serious injury or death, then you could be prosecuted, because by going outside of the established rules you’ve done something that the other party did not consent to, and that is either assault or battery depending on the definition used in your jurisdiction.

The same thing would, by analogy, apply to professional wrestling. If we’re talking about a standard, run of the mill situation in which two wrestlers have agreed that one will blade the other (as occasionally happens when a wrestler is not comfortable blading himself for whatever reason), the wrestler who does the blading is probably not going to be prosecuted almost regardless of what happens afterwards, because everybody was a willing participant and because blading, as odd as it might seem to an outsider, is an established part of professional wrestling.

It is true that everybody seems to be in agreement that, in the angle which occurred between Hannibal and this referee, the referee was going to blade. However, that’s not what happened. There was an outright stabbing – not just once, but multiple times – with a metal spike. If Hannibal popped him once with the spike because the blade wasn’t working and it went deeper than anybody expected, that would be one thing. It’s a completely different thing, though, for multiple unagreed to shots to occur as is alleged to have happened here. That’s where the line is crossed.

This is in many respects similar to the infamous “Mass Transit incident” involving New Jack stabbing an underage enhancement talent during an ECW match. In that instance, it was agreed that there would be a bladejob, but Jack’s actions, much like Hannibal’s, went well beyond the norm for getting color in wrestling. New Jack was, in fact, prosecuted for those actions. Granted, a jury ultimately determined that Jack was not guilty of the alleged crimes, but that was not the question. He was in fact prosecuted.

Keep in mind that, at the outset of this, I said the key word is “could.”

Even though it is my opinion that a local district attorney would be well within their rights to bring Hannibal up on charges, you still may not see it for a couple of different reasons. The first is the notion of prosecutorial discretion. A prosecutor is not required to pursue a case every time they believe that a crime has occurred. They get to decide which goes through the system and what doesn’t, and there are several reasons a particular case may not be pursued, with some of the most common being a lack of financial resources or concern that, due to the particular circumstances of a case, a jury might not convict almost regardless of the evidence put in front of them, which would make the whole thing a futile exercise.

The second reason that Hannibal may not see charges brought against him is the fact that he is a Canadian citizen who presumably went back to his home country after the incident occurred in Texas. Though it is technically possible to arrest a criminal defendant in one country and transport him to another to stand trial, there is quite a bit of additional time, process, and expense involved in it, and the players involved may decide that it is simply not worth the trouble for a crime of this nature.

It should also be noted that prosecuting somebody is a fair deal different than convicting them. Prosecuting just means that a criminal case has been filed, but everybody in the U.S. system is presumed innocent during their prosecution. It is only after a trial (or knowing waiver of trial to enter into a plea bargain) that somebody can be found guilty of having committed a crime.

So, there you have it. It is entirely possible for Hannibal to be prosecuted here, but the mere fact that it is possible does not mean that it will occur.

(The preceding commentary is meant for general information and does not constitute legal advice. If you are seeking legal advice, please consult an attorney about your particular situation.)

Brendan has a hard time saying goodbye:

This is a two part question. First, do you know or have any guesses as to why the (W)WWF rejoined the NWA in the mid-70s? With such a huge market and ability to get talent to come to the Northeast, I don’t see the benefit of rejoining an organization they had left 10 years earlier. And once they rejoined, there were several times where Backlund faced the NWA champion, Harley Race or Ric Flair. And these matches were promoted as for the undisputed championship, putting the (W)WWF title on par with the NWA title. Shouldn’t the NWA belt been recognized as more prestigious? I can understand this being done for matches from New York, since at the time, fans of other territories wouldn’t necessarily be aware of how these matches were promoted. But I found a promo on YouTube from the Georgia territory between Flair and Backlund where the (W)WWF belt was presented on par with the NWA title. Why was this allowed?

Regarding the WWWF rejoining the NWA, it actually occurred in 1971 and not the mid-1970s. Do you remember what other seismic shift happened in the WWWF in ’71? Bruno Sammartino lost the WWWF Championship for the first time and started working much less regularly for the promotion. My understanding is that, as you might expect, this lead to a decrease in business. I have seen one article implying that rejoining the NWA resulted from business being down around that time, and it’s not a stretch to think that business was down due to Bruno not being as prominent. Rejoining the NWA provided some additional opportunities for income, including booking the WWWF Champion out to other NWA territories, which started happening when Pedro Morales held the belt.

Regarding the presentation of the WWWF Title in matches against the NWA Champion, there’s a simple reason for the two titles being presented as equivalents: It makes the build for the match better. What is a more exciting spectacle: 1) A match where one wrestler is portrayed as clearly superior or 2) A match where both wrestlers are portrayed as decorated and formidable champions on the same level?

The answer to that one should be apparent.

Chris isn’t red and yellow. He’s green:

It seems to me that champions dictated and called moves during the match. Is the reason Hogan’s PPV opponents did not respect him as a in-ring performer? Or am I completely wrong?

This may seem like a bit of a cop-out, but Jim Cornette just answered a very similar question on his podcast, and I have a hard time believing that I will answer it any better than he did, so here you go:

Let’s check back in with a Tyler from Winnipeg question from a while ago:

Can you tell us a little bit about Dr. Death’s and Dan Severn’s careers in Japan as individuals?

In case you missed it, I covered the Dan Severn portion of this question a while back but deferred on writing about Dr. Death at that time because it would require substantially more room to do his run in Japan justice.

The very short answer to this question is that, while Severn worked in Japan only occasionally, “Dr. Death” Steve Williams was one of the most significant foreign wrestlers in the history of puroresu, particularly in All Japan Pro Wrestling.

Williams started wrestling in 1982 in Bill Watts’ Mid-South territory, a protege of Watts himself. After becoming a top star for that promotion, he was given his first opportunity to go to Japan in 1986 when scouts from New Japan Pro Wrestling were impressed by him in some Mid-South/UWF footage that they saw. His first tour with New Japan was from July 4 through August 7 of ’86. He teamed with other foreign wrestlers like Bad News Allen (Brown) and the Canadian-pretending-to-be-Russian Alexis Smirnoff but also received a couple of noteworthy singles matches, as he lost to Tatsumi Fujinami via disqualification on August 1 and then faced the biggest star of the era, Antonio Inoki, on August 5 at Sumo Hall in a bout taped for television. To nobody’s surprise, Dr. Death lost that one.

Doc must have impressed somebody, because he was back in NJPW in October and November of the same year, with the very first match of the tour on October 13 being a rematch with Inoki that went to a double count out. Williams also faced a young Keiji “The Geat Muta” Muto, who was just two years into his career, on this tour. Perhaps the most oddball trivia fact about this run in New Japan for Dr. Death is that one of his tag team partners on the tour was “Super Mario Man.” If you’ve not heard of Super Mario Man before, it’s because it was essentially a one-off character based on the popular video game series portrayed by journeyman wrestler Ray Candy. If a Mario gimmick in wrestling doesn’t sound odd enough, the real kicker is that Candy was Black, whereas Mario is, well, not.

One thing that Japanese wrestling fans have always loved is a good round robin or “league” tournament, and Williams had his first opportunity to compete in one of those throughout February and March of 1987 when he entered that year’s IWGP Tag Team Title League alongside his partner Rick Steiner. (Scott Steiner was still a few months away from his in-ring debut.) Williams and Steiner were fairly successful in the tournament, finishing in fourth place overall, wrestling to a double count out with eventual tournament winners Keiji Muto and Shiro Koshinaka and defeating teams like the Sheepherders (a.k.a. the Buswackers) along the way.

In October 1987, Williams was back in NJPW and this time wrestling far more singles matches on the tour than he had in the past. This included three more singles bouts with Keiji Muto and a first-ever encounter with Yoshiaki Fujiwara (the inventor of the Fujiwara armbar). Dr. Death won the vast majority of these bouts, and that’s because they were all part of building him up for another Sumo Hall encounter with Antonio Inoki, this time with the IWGP Heavyweight Title on the line. (That championship had just been established in June 1987, in between Dr. Death’s tours of Japan.) Inoki retained the championship, though he was only able to win by count out.

Doc also had an NJPW tour that started in December 1987 and continued through January 1988, though there were not a lot of standout matches for him that time around. Williams did have some notable tag team partners on this tour, though, which included Big Van Vader, Owen Hart, and future Dark Side of the Ring star Johnny K-9. An October 1988 tour was also relatively uninspired, bringing about another match with Inoki, albeit this time with no IWGP Title on the line because, at the time, the belt was in the possession of Tatsumi Fujinami. Inoki won this encounter with Dr. Death clean in the middle of the ring.

NJPW did start to put some steam back on Williams when he was on the May 1989 tour, as at that time he got singles wins over Tatsuhiko “Mad Dog” Goto, former Russian amateur wrestler Vladimir Berkovich, and puroresu veteran Masa Saito. Those wins were likely all meant to help set Dr. Death up for the New Japan World Cup tournament in November and December 1989. This was a unique tournament that saw twenty wrestlers divided in to four five-man blocks, with the top two men from each block advancing to an eight-man single elimination bracket. Williams won his block, which also included past opponents Koshinaka and Berkovich in addition to Super Strong Machine. In the single elimination portion of the tournament, Doc got past another Russian, Victor Zangiev, in the fist round but fell in the second round to Shinya Hashimoto.

1990 was when things really changed for Williams. As noted above, his prior Japanese tours all lasted six to eight weeks. In between them, he was wrestling for promotions stateside, originally for the Mid-South/UWF and later for Jim Crockett/WCW when the UWF was absorbed into that company. However, in ’90, Dr. Death’s foreign commitments ramped up and he primarily because an employee of Japanese promotions as opposed to an American guest star.

Japanese wrestling was also in a unique place in 1990 in that the country’s two top promotions, New Japan and All Japan, which had been rivals since they were both formed in 1972, actually started doing some collaborative work. AJPW’s top executive, Giant Baba, reportedly had the idea of teaming Williams with one of All Japan’s top foreigners at the time, Terry Gordy, and he struck a deal with New Japan’s Antonio Inoki to make it happen. After one New Japan match in February of ’90, Williams began teaming with Gordy in All Japan rings as the Miracle Violence Connection, and they were immediately a force to be reckoned with, going on a nine match undefeated streak in their first two weeks in the promotion and then defeating Genichiro Tenryu and Stan Hansen on March 6, 1990 to become the AJPW World Tag Team Champions.

The men continued to be undefeated in AJPW through the end of May 1990 and had one successful defense of their titles in that time, besting former champion Hansen and his new partner Danny Spivey. On May 24, Williams returned to New Japan for a week and had a handful of matches there, including a televised singles bout against Bam Bam Bigelow that he lost via disqualification. From June through mid-July, Doc actually alternated weeks between the two companies, continuing the team with Gordy in AJPW while being pushed as more of a singles star in NJPW.


On July 19, 1990, the first AJPW Tag Title reign for the Miracle Violence Connection came to an end, with Jumbo Tsuruta and the Great Kabuki taking the titles off of the Americans. Even without the championships, Williams and Gordy continued to be a dominant tag team throughout the summer, though Williams did occasionally step into the singles division as well, including a win over Toshiaki Kawada on July 27 and his first shot at AJPW’s vaunted Triple Crown Championship on September 1, which was a loss to defending champion Stan Hansen at the Nippon Budokan.

After a few fairly mundane matches in New Japan and a trip to the United States to work for the Herb Abrams UWF in September of ’90, the AJPW team with Gordy resumed in October, and they entered the Real World Tag League, All Japan’s annual round robin tag team tournament. In a field that included teams like Giant Baba & Andre the Giant, Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada, and the Funk brothers, the Miracle Violence Connection won the whole tournament and as a result became the AJPW Tag Team Champions for a second time, as those belts had been vacant since July due to the Great Kabuki leaving All Japan to join the upstart promotion SWS (which would be out of business two years later).

Williams would have his final run with New Japan Pro Wrestling in December 1990, wrestling five matches over the course of the week, the most notable of which was a disqualification loss to Masahiro Chono on December 11.

In 1991, Williams and Gordy continued to dominate as a team. They successfully defended their titles against Misawa and Kawada on February 26 and then against Akira Taue and Jumbo Tsuruta on March 4 before ultimately losing them on April 18 to the Hansen and Spivey team that they had previously defeated. The Connection won the belts back from Hansen and Spivey on July 6, but it was a short run with no successful defenses, as Misawa and Kawada unseated the Americans on July 24. Just a few days prior, Dr. Death had received the second Triple Crown match of his career, a losing effort to Jumbo Tsuruta.

The Miracle Violence Connection entered and won their second consecutive Real World Tag League in 1991, coming out on top of a field that included Hansen & Spivey, Andre & Baba, Tsuruta & Taue, and Misawa & Kawada. The oddball team in the tournament was Johnny Ace (a.k.a. John Laurinaitis) and Sonny Beach, whose only other run of note in wrestling was with the Herb Abrams UWF. I’ve not been able to confirm this anywhere, but I strongly suspect that this was as a result of a connection with Williams, who was not working much in the U.S. at this point but was appearing for the Abrams promotion when he was. MVC became the Tag Team Champions for a third time by winning this tournament, as Misawa & Kawada had vacated the belts for the sole purpose of putting them on the line in the tourney.

The 1991 tag league was AJPW’s final tour of the year, and the first tour of 1992 did not go particularly well for Williams and Gordy, as on March 4 in the Budokan they lost the titles in their first defense, falling to Tsuruta and Taue. Not long thereafter, Dr. Death got to wrestle significantly more singles matches than at any other point in his Japanese career to date, as he entered the Champion Carnival round robin tournament for the first time. That year’s tournament consisted of two blocks of ten men each, with the wrestler finishing on top of each block wrestling in the finals. Williams finished in second place in Block B, with the block winner being Stan Hansen, who eventually went on to win the whole tournament.

In the spring and early summer of 1992, Williams and Gordy were still wrestling and mostly winning for AJPW but did not have a lot of direction. In June 1992, they went back to the United States, specifically WCW, where they had a brief Tag Team Title run. By October ’92, they were back in All Japan where they had a rare unsuccessful challenge for the Tag Titles, losing to champs Tsuruta & Taue on October 7 before heading into November’s Real World Tag League where, for the first time in history, they entered and lost. However, they did still come in second, tied with Stan Hansen & Johnny Ace.

On January 2, 1993, Doc helped to launch the career of a now-famous rookie by the name of Jun Akiyama. Akiyama had a “trial series” of matches, which is a Japanese concept in which a wrestler, usually a younger one, has a series of singles matches against established opponents as a means of helping them raise their profile and gain experience. Williams was the first wrestler to face Akiyama in his trial series, and, predictably, Dr. Death won, though the younger was able to hang with him.

Later the same month, the Miracle Violence Connection were back to their old ways, defeating Hansen & Ace in a match for the number one contendership for the AJPW World Tag Team Titles and then going on to win the championships once more, taking them off of Misawa & Kawada on January 30 in Chiba.

In March, Williams and Gordy both entered the Champion Carnival again, with this year’s version of the tournament consisting of thirteen wrestlers in one block. This meant that the Tag Team Champions had to wrestle each other as part of the Carnival, which occurred on April 12 in Osaka with Gordy picking up the victory in a bout that lasted just under 25 minutes. One unusual competitor in the ’93 tournament was “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith, who Williams managed to defeat in their tournament match. Ultimately, Doc finished in fourth place in the tourney, tied in terms of points with Gordy but considered to have finished behind him because Terry won their one-on-one encounter. Williams would suffer another setback on May 20, when he and Gordy lost their Tag Titles again, this time to the Holy Demon Army of Akira Taue & Toshiaki Kawada. Taue & Kawada would also win a rematch for the belts on July 26.

And this is where things go a bit sideways. During the summer of 1993, Terry Gordy suffered a severe drug overdose and wound up comatose for a period of time, leaving Williams without his regular tag team partner. Dr. Death would start teaming with Richard Slinger (who previously would regularly team with the MVC in six mans) or Tracy Smothers instead and also got a bit more of a singles push, defeating Kenta Kobashi for the number one contendership to the Triple Crown on August 31 though ultimately losing his title shot to Mitsuharu Misawa on September 3 in the Budokan. The August 31 match against Kobashi is a noteworthy one in Williams’ career, because it is the first of three times that Doc was in a match that received a five star rating from Dave Meltzer.

When the Real World Tag League came around in November, Terry Gordy still was not available, so Williams entered with Big Bubba Rogers (a.k.a. the Big Boss Man) as his partner. They did not do as well as Wiliams & Gordy typically did, finishing in fourth place. Interestingly, Williams’ regular partners around this time, Smothers & Slinger, were left to team with each other during the tournament and finished dead last, not winning a single match.

The first couple of months of 1994 were not too meaningful for Williams. His team with Slinger continued, but he also started partnering somewhat regularly with Johnny Ace. However, neither team accomplished much. In March, it was back to the Champion Carnival, and this was a big one for Dr. Death. At the end of the league portion of the tournament, Doc and Toshiaki Kawada were tied with 19 points apiece, forcing a playoff match that Kawada won. In July, the Ace & Williams team received its first Tag Team Title match, though they fell to champions Kobashi & Misawa.

Dr. Death would very quickly get his revenge, though, as on July 28 in Shimizu, he defeated Misawa for the vaunted Triple Crown. Doc successfully defended the title against Kenta Kobashi on September 3 but then lost it to Toshiaki Kawada on October 22. After taking a couple of weeks off to lick his wounds, Williams was back for the 1994 Real World Tag League, teaming with Ace and finishing in fourth place for the second consecutive year.

Then, in 1995, the Doctor got himself in a bit of trouble. Ace & Williams continued to team throughout the first three months of the year, including an unsuccessful tag title shot on March 4 against Kobashi and Misawa that would be Williams’ second five star match from Dave Meltzer. Despite its critical acclaim, this would prove to be Williams’ last Japanese match for a little while, as he was busted with marijuana at an airport in the country. For those who are not aware, Japanese culture has been historically much less accepting of pot than the United States and a similar incident would have been career ending for wrestlers who were not as big as Williams was in Japan. According to Doc’s obituary in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, it took Giant Baba exercising significant political connections to get Williams back into the country and even then it was only after Doc was forced to serve a one year suspension.

Due to that suspension, Williams did not wrestle in Japan at all between March 4, 1995 and March 22, 1996. When he returned, he went directly into that year’s Champion Carnival, this year featuring twelve wrestlers in one block. Dr. Death and Jun Akiyama were tied atop the rankings at the end of the tournament with 17 points each, leading to a sudden death match which Akiyama won. Ace and Williams also had another unsuccessful crack at the Tag Team Titles on June 7 against Akiyama & Misawa, which was Doc’s third and final five star match from Da Meltz. Williams and Ace’s fortunes reversed on September 5, as they scored the team’s first run with the belts but Williams’ sixth overall. They successfully defended the belts on October 12 against Kenta Kobashi and The Patriot, though as reigning champions they did not fare as well as you might have expected in the Real World Tag League, finishing fourth behind winners Kawada & Taue.

Winning a tournament in which the champions were also completing got Kawda & Taue a title shot, and they made the most of it, defeating Ace & Williams for the belt on January 17, 1997 in Nagano. Another Triple Crown match was also on the docket for Doc in ’97, though he was unable to defeat champion Misawa when the match occurred on March 14. The 1997 Champion Carnival was also not great for Williams, as he finished in sixth place, his lowest ranking in the tournament to date. Kawada, Kobashi, Misawa, Stan Hansen, and Akira Taue all finished ahead of him. Perhaps the most notable development in Dr. Death’s career in 1997 was his finding a new tag team partner, as Gary Albright started regularly teaming with him instead of Johnny Ace. Albright and Williams had almost immediate success, defeating Ace and Kenta Kobashi for the AJPW World Tag Team Titles on July 25 at the Budokan. They successfully defended against Akiyama & Misawa on August 26 but dropped the belts back to Ace & Kobashi on October 4. A week later, Misawa got another victory over Doc, successfully defending the Triple Crown against him. Williams and Albright also managed a third place finish in the Real World Tag League.

1998 was a fairly middle of the road year for Williams in All Japan, as he and Albright fell to Taue & Kawada in another Tag Team Title shot on February 28, while the Champion Carnival saw a fifth place finish for Doc. And then . . . he left the company. Jim Ross convinced Doctor Death that he ought to sign with the WWF, and his last AJPW match for the time being was on June 12. Aside from appearing in a six man tag team match on the May 2, 1999 memorial show that occurred a few months after Giant Baba’s death, Williams did not wrestle in Japan again until January 2, 2000.

In 2000, Dr. Death formed what may have been his scariest tag team to date (and think of the ground that covers) with his new partner Vader, who he had previously worked with in New Japan. The two of them defeated Takao Omori and Yoshihiro Takayama in Korakuen Hall on February 12 to become number one contenders to the Tag Titles, and they capitalized on that status to defeat Akiyama & Kobashi for the belts on February 20. While holding the title, Doc entered in the 2000 Champion Carnival, which that year had been retooled into a single elimination tournament. He defeated Taue in the first round and Jun Izumida in the second but was eliminated by Takao Omori in the third. Perhaps as unfortunate as that loss is the fact that Williams and Vader had to vacate the Tag Titles in April due to an injury suffered by Vader.

During the summer of 2000, there was a drastic shift in the professional wrestling world, as Mitsuharu Misawa left All Japan to form Pro Wrestling NOAH, taking all but two Japanese wrestlers on the AJPW roster with him. Williams remained with All Japan, which had to reshape its roster radically. Doc did not accomplish much under the new regime at first, with his most notable matches in the second half of 2000 being loaned back to New Japan on October 9, where he defeated Scott Norton in an interpromotional gaijin dream match and then a bout in the first round of a tournament to crown a new Triple Crown Champion on October 14, which Williams lost to Kawada. Doc did pick up a great victory late in the year when he won the Real World Tag League for the first time since 1991, this time with Mike Rotunda as his partner. They defeated Kawada and Masa Fuchi in the finals, though in February 2001 they lost an AJPW World Tag Team Title shot against Taiyo Kea & Johnny Ace.

Dr. Death was solidly in the middle of the pack during the 2001 Champion Carnival, which was back to a round robin tournament for the year, but he was still tapped for a Triple Crown match on July 14 of that year, when he lost to champion Keiji Muto, who at the time was still a New Japan wrestler but had been wrestling in All Japan as part of an interpromotional angle. (Muto would eventually jump to AJPW and essentially take over management of the promotion.) Williams & Rotunda tried to recapture their success in the 2001 Real World Tag League, but it did not go particularly well, as they finished outside of the top four and were even beaten out by the Harris Twins of all people.

Williams stuck around for the 2002 Champion Carnival but did not do particularly well there, either. In fact, the entirety of his 2002 in All Japan was fairly uninspired, to the point that in September, the company allowed him to wrestle for the much smaller promotion IWA Japan, where he teamed with Gypsy Joe. (IWA Japan is perhaps best known for hosting the 1995 “King of the Deathmatch” tournament featuring Cactus Jack and Terry Funk.) Williams & Rotunda were back together in the ’02 Real World Tag League, securing a fourth place finish. Doc return for the January 2003 All Japan tour but, after that, he was largely done with the promotion.

It’s not entirely clear why he left AJPW, but this occurred at a time when many other stalwart foreign wrestlers finished up, so one can only assume that management, which by that point was being headed up by Keiji Muto, wanted to take things in a different direction.

Once he was done with All Japan, Dr. Death wrestled on one show on July 20, 2003 for World Japan Pro Wrestling, a startup group that was formed by Riki Choshu when he walked out on New Japan Pro Wrestling due to a falling out with owner Antonio Inoki. Somewhat coincidentally, the Choshu/Inoki heat resulted from Inoki’s belief that Choshu, who was helping run NJPW, created the situation that allowed Keiji Muto to leave New Japan . . . and it was Muto landing in All Japan that apparently caused Williams to leave that company. Williams’ one show in WJ saw him compete in a one night, single elimination tournament where he was bounced in the second round by Kensuke Sasaki.

After that one World Japan show, Doc’s efforts in the Land of the Rising Sun were largely focused on IWA Japan. He began teaming with a longtime independent wrestler by the name of Ryo Miyake, with the two winning a single elimination tournament for the IWA World Tag Team Titles. Their opponents in the second round were interestingly enough the reunited U.S. Express of Mike Rotunda and Barry Windham, working together again 17 years after they appeared on the inaugural Wrestlemania. Williams and Miyake were actually the last IWA Tag Champions, as they had to vacate the titles due to an injury suffered by Miyake. Williams continued to wrestle for the IWA through July 2004, after which he did a one-off appearance for All Japan, teaming with Tenryu to defeat Arashi and Nobukazu Hirai.

It was at around this time that Williams was first diagnosed with the cancer that, after some initial successes in treatment, would ultimately claim his life in 2009. That no doubt explains his lack of wrestling appearances in Japan for the remainder of his career, aside from a single bout for the IWA on July 19, 2009, where he defeated a masked wrestler named Helanto Machine #2.

It was on December 29 of that year that Steve Williams passed away, being a bona fide legend of puroresu.

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected]. You can also leave questions in the comments below, but please note that I do not monitor the comments as closely as I do the email account, so emailing is the better way to get things answered.

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Hannibal, Ryan Byers