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BANK ON HISTORY #3 - Hashimoto vs Corino for the NWA Title in 2001

I recently learned that “the King of Old School” Steve Corino will be going into the Indie Wrestling Hall of Fame, presented by Game Changer Wrestling, alongside Sabu, the Briscoes, Trent Acid, and legendary wrestling fan Kevin Hogan on Sunday, April 7, at the Sheraton Hotel in Philadelphia, PA.

I have long been a Steve Corino fanboy. From his days as a mouthpiece for Tajiri, Rhino, and Jack Victory, to becoming the ECW World Heavyweight Champion at November 5, 2000 at the November to Remember pay-per-view in a “Double Jeopardy” match against Justin Credible, Jerry Lynn, and the Sandman, Mr. Corino has been an underrated entity in the independent scene.

He had a legendary rivalry with Homicide in the “golden days” of Ring of Honor. He has held numerous championships in the independent wrestling scene, including the MLW World, AWA, and ROH World Tag Team Championships. He also ran a few local promotions, including the Premier Wrestling Federation and World-1 Wrestling. He commentated for ROH during its mid-2010s resurgence alongside Kevin Kelly. He even booked in Puerto Rico and for the 1PW promotion in England during the mid-2000s. Currently, he is a producer in WWE’s NXT, developing the next generation of pro wrestlers.

Mr. Corino might very well be pro wrestling’s last true journeyman.

However, his biggest run in the business as a performer might have been for Zero-One in Japan.


I neglected to mention earlier that Steve Corino is a former NWA World’s Heavyweight Champion. There is a reason for this.

After ECW had their last events in the first few weeks of January 2001, Corino signed a contract with World Championship Wrestling weeks later. However, with the Fusient Media Ventures deal falling through and WWF scooping up 24 contracts (not Mr. Corino’s), assets, and the tape library on March 23, 2001, “the King of Old School'' continued his wrestling journey on the independent circuit.

On April 24, 2001 in the infamous Armory in Tampa, Florida, Corino defeated “the Colorado Kid” Mike Rapada to win the NWA Title. In the same venue where “the American Dream” Dusty Rhodes won his first World’s Heavyweight Championship in 1979 from Harley Race, Corino put himself on the list of legends to hold the “10 Pounds of Gold”.

Although by 2001, the NWA World’s Heavyweight Title was not as strong in value as it was in the 1980s and early 1990s, “the King of Old School” did his best to be a fighting champion. He traveled multiple times to ECCW in Canada, the United Kingdom, various NWA affiliates, and even to his own Premier Wrestling Federation in Pottstown, PA to bring back the “traveling world’s champion” schedule, on a modern-day independent wrestling slant, to the gold. He faced men like CW Anderson, Sabu, Dr. Luther, Pat Tanaka, and even David Flair, the son of the ten-time former NWA World’s Heavyweight Champion “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, at the 4th Annual Brian Pillman Memorial Show.

In spite of this, Corino was considering leaving professional wrestling.

At the 53rd Anniversary Show for the NWA on October 13, 2001, Corino was scheduled to face Japanese legend and three-time former IWGP Heavyweight Champion Shinya Hashimoto for the Championship. Corino stated that this was supposed to be his final match in professional wrestling.

However, this didn’t exactly happen that way.


Full disclosure: I try to get my hands on any form of old wrestling media and listen and watch as much as I am able to consume. It’s a true passion of mine.

Knowing that I wanted to talk about this match, I remembered on my old iPod Classic that I had an old Colt Cabana “Art of Wrestling” podcast with Steve Corino from 2011 that vividly discussed this match in particular. After digging through plenty of old boxes, I found the iPod, booted it up, and listened to the story. I was enthralled by it deeply.

Of course, I cannot and will not use Mr. Cabana’s audio for my own use, but I will transcribe it for you in BANK ON HISTORY.


After a frustrating title defense in ECCW against Winnipeg wrestling talent Spyder, “the King of Old School” was done with the wrestling industry. He was ready to quit.

As Mr. Corino told Cabana, “My last match was to be against [Shinya] Hashimoto, right? So they tell me it was going to be a DQ finish. I said, ‘Why?’ [The NWA responded] ‘Well, Hashimoto wants to win the belt in the US, but we want to see if we get him for one more booking.”

Corino continued, “I started telling them, ‘Do you realize that Hashimoto is a huge star in Japan - he sold out all these things - he wants to beat me once.’ Well, Hashimoto is a big wrestling fan and he wanted to win the championship in the Tampa Armory like Dusty won it.”

However, the match would not take place in the Tampa Armory. Due to the low advance at the gate, the NWA decided to run their 53rd Anniversary Show at the IPW WrestlePlex in St. Petersburg, FL instead.

This match was something to behold. Although it was only ten minutes long, both men really beat the Hell out of one another. In a very Japanese style fight, Corino took a beating at the hands of the heavyweight striker Hashimoto. Even though this match only had 300 people in attendance, both men brought their A-Game.

In the end, Hashimoto’s strong strikes rocked “the King of Old School” into next week, including about four straight roundhouse kicks to the head, busting Corino open after the last one. Referee Paul Rubenstein called for the bell, stating that Corino could no longer continue, and that the match was thrown out, with Shinya Hashimoto winning the NWA World’s Heavyweight Championship.

After the match, Corino and Hashimoto had a very real fight in the ring, as Corino felt he was shot on by the Japanese legend. The entire locker room cleared out to break it up, and referee Rubenstein, who was also an NWA executive, argued with other representatives on his decision making.

Twenty-three years later, it still looked as real as could be. To be straight-up, I thought Hashimoto’s one roundhouse to Corino’s head as the champion was on his knees was one of the most vicious strikes I’ve ever seen in wrestling.

Mr. Corino, on the Art of Wrestling, actually recalled this finishing sequence vividly from a behind-the-scenes perspective.

“So I come up with this finish where Hashimoto would shoot bust me open into the eye, work on it, and the referee would stop the fight. The best part was that all these NWA guys were such a huge mark for Dave Meltzer that they would tell him what’s going on.

So I told Howard Brody [NWA President] ‘Here’s your thing. You should send in the results to the Torch and Observer before the show and just tell them to not post them before 11 o’clock.’ I also told him to put Corino over Hashimoto by DQ, but what we’ll do is a technical knockout, and then everyone will think it’s a shoot because it’s already going to be reported.

He goes ‘Oh, I sent it over to the Japanese, they don’t like it.’ I went ‘Really? They $#!+ on it? I mean, this was a year removed after the [Naoya} Ogawa and Hashimoto shoot fight that got stopped [in New Japan Pro Wrestling], so I was kind of basing it off that.

So I go over Howard Brody’s head and I fax the idea over to Mr. Nakamura [then-Pro Wrestling Zero-One owner]. Mr. Nakamura calls me within three minutes and says ‘Oh my God. I love it. Let’s do it!’

So we meet at Hashimoto’s room and he goes, ‘Are you sure you want to take this? I hit hard.’ And I said, ‘I know you do. But I want you to hit me as hard as you can.’ And the referee was Paul Rubenstein, who was also an NWA official, so he knew the finish. Only five people knew the finish: Christopher Daniels was one. Hashimoto, Hashimoto’s young boy knew, and Fred and me.

The idea was that Fred would stop the match and I would go ape$#!+ that I just got shot on, the opposite of a year ago of what happened to Hashimoto in Japan. It would get to the point that I would punch Hashimoto in the face for real and Christopher Daniels would go and say, ‘There’s a shoot in the ring!’ and everyone would hit the ring, so we would have something for the Japanese press.

Hashimoto loved it, and it came off so well, because we sent [the results] in and we didn’t tell the NWA guys there.

Bill Behrens gets the blame for this, and I don’t think it was him, but it gets a big buzz for the next couple of days after this as ‘Did Hashimoto shoot because he wanted to win the title?’ or ‘Did I not want to do the job?’, as this is four years out from Bret and Shawn and I wanted to retire with the belt. That was my idea and that’s how I pushed it.

What was great was that Jimmy Del Rey from the Heavenly Bodies tried to go after Hashimoto in the locker room because he shot on me. Nobody could ever say a bad thing about Jimmy Del Rey because he thought I was f***ed up. And I was, as I took a big shot to the eye and it sounded like coconuts. And it got to the point where Fred forgot the finish and was really concerned for my life. It comes off so authentic and so cool.” 

For further inquiry on it, I actually went to the old Wrestling Observer website from and FOUND the full write-up on the match from a writer named Larry Goodman, who reviewed the whole show.

Here is what he wrote from that night:

The NWA World Title was held up after a controversial finish to the match

between Champion Steve Corino and Shin'ya Hashimoto tonight at the NWA 53rd

Anniversary show. Senior NWA referee Fred Richards stopped the match and

awarded the belt to Hashimoto. I believe this was due to Corino not being

able to defend himself. Corino was down in the corner bleeding and taking

stiff kicks to the face when Richards stepped in to call for the bell. The

NWA board members were seen in a heated argument after the match with

Richards, who maintained that Hashimoto was the new champion. New NWA

President Jim Miller later stated that the title was held up and he had

physical possession of the belt. The match was brutally stiff with Hashimoto

landing numerous kick and being busted open hardway in two place by Corino.

Goodman continued: 

16) The NWA World Heavyweight Title Match between Shin'ya Hashimoto and Steve

Corino went to a no contest in 10:05 when the match was stopped due to Corino

being unable to defend himself. Corino came out with taped fists. Hashimoto

looked really heavy. Hashimoto took Corino down and Corino got a ropes break.

Hashimoto took Corino down again off a test of strength lock up. Corino

bridged and worked on Hashimoto's arm. Hashimoto landed the first big kick of

the match to Corino's thigh and followed with stiff chops. Hashimoto did a

leaping elbow drop for a two count. Hashimoto went for a submission on the

arm and Corino made the ropes again. Hashimoto scored with a spinning

backfist. Corino came back with a suplex for a two count. Corino worked on

Hashimoto's arm on the mat. Hashimoto used a judo type throw. Corino landed a

kick which just fired up Hashimoto. Hashimoto delivered a barrage of

devastating kicks to the face and ribs of Corino. Hashimoto hit a DDT for a

two count. Hashimoto dropped a flying elbow to Corino's back. Hashimoto was

bleeding from a small cut on his chest and another right over the cheekbone.

Corino caught Hashimoto with a cheap shot. Corino tried to trade with

Hashimoto and got knocked to the canvas. Hashimoto was kicking the hell out

of Corino with brutal blows to the face and chest. Hashimoto did a flying

elbow to Corino's back. Corino bladed. Corino was bleeding heavily and was

down in the corner taking more stiff kick to the face when Richards stopped

the match. Crowd chanted "bullshit" at the finish. Chaos reigned in the ring.

Richards raised Hashimoto's hand as the winner and awarded him the title

belt. Corino reacted furiously to the match being stopped. Corino jumped

Hashimoto and took another kick leading to a massive pull apart.

During the intermission to set up the cage for the War Games, the other NWA

Board members were outside the building in a heated discussion with Richards

about whether the ref stopping the match constituted a title change. The

Japanese press were eating this up. At one point, the Japanese were all

gathered around Hashimoto in his car with NWA Board members right there

arguing. The word I got directly from Miller was that he has possession of

the belt and the title is held up.

With the championship vacant for two months, the NWA was actually able to secure Hashimoto for another American booking in 2001, with him winning the vacant title in a three-way Iron Man Match on December 15, 2001 from the Sportatorium in McKeesport, PA against Corino and Gary Steele at NWA East Clash of the Champions.


The wild thing is that this match actually rejuvenated Steve Corino’s career. Initially not close with Shinya Hashimoto, this one match actually got “the King of Old School” as a major player in Pro Wrestling Zero-One, doing over seventy-five tours in Japan and developing a great friendship with the Japanese legend until his untimely passing on July 11, 2005, days after his 40th birthday, from a brain aneurysm.

This match might not be remembered as strongly by independent wrestling fans today, but it was a moment that really helped push along Pro Wrestling Zero-One in the early 2000s.

It also helped continue and build the legacy of Steve Corino’s passion and dedication to the art of professional wrestling. He truly is one of the industry’s unsung heroes, and I am so happy, as a wrestling fan, to see “the King of Old School” get his flowers in the Independent Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Congratulations Mr. Corino. Say hi to Mr. Wrestling 3 for me.

Also, Rest In Power to Shinya Hashimoto. He truly was a phenomenal talent for the wrestling industry. Gone FAR too soon.


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