Hostile Takeover: The Birth and Death of WCW’s Yamazaki Corporation

Brian Damage

The Four Horsemen were a very important cornerstone for the NWA and Jim Crockett Promotions. When the Horsemen were separated, the entire landscape of that promotion changed. That didn’t stop promoters and bookers to try and recreate the Horsemen magic. This is the story of the birth and subsequent death of the Yamazaki Corporation.

It all started in 1988, when two of the anchors of the Four Horsemen…Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard quit the NWA and joined the World Wrestling Federation. The move gutted the Horsemen and was a huge blow to both Jim Crockett and Ted Turner. Ric Flair was upset over their departures and even considered jumping ship with them after receiving a call from Vince McMahon himself. There were strong rumors that Flair would show up in the WWF in late 1988, however that was not to be.

On WCW’s side of things, with both Arn and Tully gone…they decided to restock their most important faction. According to Tony Schiavone, WCW considered several top names to join the Four Horsemen including the Road Warriors, Nikita Koloff etc. In the end, they were able to bring Barry Windham’s younger brother Kendall up from the Florida territory and join the Horsemen. With Kendall Windham barely getting his feet wet as a member, another big blow was sent to the faction and WCW. The Four Horsemen’s manager J.J. Dillon accepted a front office job with the WWF.

Now, the Horsemen were without Arn, Tully and Dillon and consisted of just Flair and the Windham brothers. WCW had brought in George Scott (an old school wrestler turned old school booker) to lead the promotion creatively. Instead of familiarizing himself to the current product, Jim Cornette claimed all George did was bring in his old friends to help build a roster he could trust. The way George Scott decided to replace Dillon as manager of the Horsemen, was to bring in his old friend Hiro Matsuda to manage them.

Hiro Matsuda had a good career as both a wrestler and as a trainer, but didn’t nearly have the microphone skills and charisma that Dillon offered. Instead of having Matsuda simply as the new manager of the Four Horsemen….Scott decided to have Matsuda represent a Japanese company called the Yamazaki Corporation that bought out the remaining Horsemen contracts. The idea for the Yamazaki Corporation came from the real life news items of rich and powerful Japanese Companies buying out American businesses.

Not only had the Yamzaki Corporation “buy” the contracts of Flair and the Windham Brothers….they also purchased the contract of Butch Reed who was also managed by J.J. Dillon before he left the company. The Four Horsemen were essentially….no more. The Yamazaki Corporation angle didn’t last all that long as members kept coming and going. Kendall Windham left WCW to return to the Florida territory and Barry Windham had a falling out with Jim Herd over money and quit the company to rejoin the WWF.

Butch Reed was such a non factor, he disappeared from the company for a while and former Freebird Michael Hayes was added to the group. The Yamazaki Corporation angle never got over with the fans and it was ultimately dropped. The Four Horsemen would eventually reunite….but to many fans and critics….the faction was never the same again.

4 thoughts on “Hostile Takeover: The Birth and Death of WCW’s Yamazaki Corporation

  1. Its amazing to think, within the context of this angle going on, Flair and Steamboat were tearing it up over the world title, while the WWF was having their blockbuster Mega Powers fallout – with Arn and Tully in supporting roles. Against this backdrop, the group didn’t have a chance; not when coming out of the Horseman ashes.

    The other thing is, Flair turned face after he beat Steamboat at Wrestle War and went on to feud with Terry Funk. Had he not left the company when he did, Barry Windham could easily have filled that Funk role and feuded for the belt in a heel capacity – with preceding tension building up in the Yamazaki Corporation. When the two did meet again four years later, it wasn’t the same.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. To be fair, while George Scott was not a creative force by then, he had been in the past. He was responsible for booking Mid Atlantic in the 1970s and made the promotion one of the hottest in the nation. He was also super instrumental in the WWF’s national expanse.

    Liked by 2 people

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