In the 1980s, the era of territory wrestling came to an end as Vince McMahon started to sign the most popular wrestlers to contracts with the WWE. Instead of having many small promotions, wrestling was set to go national. By the 1990s, the WWE’s only national competition was the Ted Turner-owned WCW. The promotions were always looking to one-up each other to gain national attention including, in some cases, going into a communist country on what was termed, “a peace-keeping mission.”
In 1995, a Japanese wrestling promotion called New-Japan Pro-Wrestling approached American wrestling promotion World Championship Wrestling about doing a co-branded event in North Korea. The event, which was promoted as part of a peace festival, would take place over two nights. To increase the international buzz for the event, Muhammad Ali was added as the official guest of honor. While the event was a success for both companies, stories of issues behind the scenes have leaked out. However, this episode of Dark Side of the Ring (2019- 2021) is the first time many of the participants sat down to discuss exactly what happened.
The episode, titled “The Collision in Korea,” begins with Eric Bischoff introducing himself and the concept of the event. We get the self-importance for which he has become famous for within minutes. Since he was running WCW at the time, it is doubtful that the event would have happened had he not been involved. From the beginning, several questions loomed regarding whether the event would happen. As several wrestlers opted out, it was the addition of Ali that seemed to cement people’s trust in the event. Only two wrestlers who performed at the event were interviewed in this episode. Of those two, Scott Norton comes across as the most legitimate and trusted source for factual events.
Most of what is covered before the event is what you would expect for Americans visiting North Korea. Passports and anything considered overtly American was confiscated. The wrestlers were expected to remain in their rooms and any deviation from that was accompanied by armed guards. While not specifically a result of the trip, the rift between the late Road Warrior Hawk and former drug addict Two Cold Scorpio gets a lot of focus. While surprising to hear about, nothing about the series of events had much to do with the trip (other than Scorpio planning to murder Hawk).
The episode wraps up with talking about the event and the process of getting home. Again, Norton is the person who shines here. He touches on both the awe of performing in front of so many people and the unsettling silence. The directors drive home the fact that much of the crowd was forced to be there, which led directly to the silence of the crowd, since many were not sure how to react. Norton and Bischoff both tell the story of Ric Flair kissing the ground once they returned to South Korea; while a simple act, it reiterates how tense the trip was for the wrestlers.
While ‘The Collision in Korea’ was an interesting episode, it doesn’t feel like it fits within the series. Dark Side of the Ring is most successful when it focuses on the lives of the people in the wrestling business. Nothing surrounding the event was particularly surprising or dark. While the fights between Hawk and Scorpio were concerning, they were not a result of the trip. Bischoff, of course, tries to use the episode to get himself accepted back into an industry that has shunned him of late. Hopefully, next week’s episode gets the series back on track as it focuses on Jim Hellwig, The Ultimate Warrior.