John LaRocca writes about Scott “Flash” Norton, and how great of a big man he was in his hey day.
When discussing the best working “big man” in pro wrestling, names like Big Van Vader, Bam Bam Bigelow, and The Undertaker are usually at the top of people’s list. All three are great, no question about that, but a name that always seems to be missing from that list is Scott “Flash” Norton. For years, Scott Norton was the top “gaijin” in New Japan Pro Wrestling in the 1990s and 2000s. The IWGP Heavyweight Championship has historically been one of the most prestigious championships in pro wrestling and Scott Norton is a former two-time IWGP champion, winning the gold in 1998 and in 2001. He would also hold the IWGP Tag Team Championship twice both with his Jurassic Powers tag team partner, Hercules Hernandez.
Personally, Scott Norton has always been one of my favorites. Norton was a multi-champion in the sport of arm wrestling, including four U.S. National Championships. My first exposure to “Flash” was in Sylvester Stallone’s arm wrestling movie, Over The Top. Little did I know, Scott Norton would cross into my world of pro wrestling two years later when he made his debut in Verne Gagne’s AWA. When I was a kid, I would watch anything that happened in a squared circled, so watching the dying days of the AWA on ESPN on summer afternoons was still appointment television for me. Norton’s debut in the AWA was hyped up for weeks and I couldn’t wait. Scott Norton debuted wearing black tights with a gold lighting bolt down the side. Scott “The Flash” Norton quickly won his debut. When the AWA folded, I could only follow his career through the Pro Wrestling Illustrated or other Apter magazines. Later on, I would get involved in the tape trading circles to see his work in NJPW and now, with New Japan World, YouTube, and other streaming services, everything is just a click away.
Recently, I stumbled upon a tag team match with Scott Norton teaming with another favorite of mine, Brad Armstrong. It was an IWGP Tag Team Championship match with the champions, Keiji Mutoh and Hiroshi Hase defending. Sadly, it was only the last few minutes of a twenty-two plus minute match, but what was shown was great. Even with it only being the last few minutes, the in-ring psychology of a great pro wrestling tag team match is there. You had Armstrong selling and fighting to make the tag to Scott Norton. One of my favorite moments of the match was when Hase had Armstrong locked in his Scorpion Death Lock. As Armstrong fought his way to the ropes to break the hold, Norton jumped off the apron and down to the floor to scream at Armstrong to keep pushing to make those ropes. In brilliant fashion, Hase turned Armstrong in Norton’s direction and Armstrong fought his way to make the ropes. This match was a quick reminder of how dramatic storytelling has taken a backseat to high impact spots and kicking out of multiple big moves for near falls. I miss the dramatic storytelling in pro wrestling. Thank goodness for old footage like this. When the hot tag is perfectly made by Armstrong, Norton comes in like a house of fire with speed and power. The timing was off a bit when Norton double-suplexed Mutoh and Hase at the same time, but the struggle of the move added to the believability and the crowd still exploded. Mutoh and Hase would retain, but only after an exciting finish.
After watching this match, it just reminded me of how great Scott Norton was inside the ring and how he should be at the top of “Best Big Men” list in pro wrestling history. Beyond his power and his speed for a man of his size at 6’3 and over 300-plus-pounds, Norton was great at all aspects of pro wrestling. The art of registering and selling for a big man is usually very tough. The majority of the big men in pro wrestling can’t do a convincing job of it, but Norton was one of the best. Another aspect of pro wrestling that people seem overlook is how you carry yourself in the ring. How you walk around before you even lock up. There are lot of big men who are bad hombres, but they don’t understand how to carry themselves as a bad ass. From the moment Scott Norton walked through that curtain, you believed this guy was going to rip his opponent’s head off. This is a major aspect in pro wrestling that is missing today. People today play bad-ass pro wrestler while Scott Norton was a bad ass pro wrestler.
As the booker for All Pro Wrestling in Hayward, CA, I would work with the young wrestlers coming up out of the APW Boot Camp training school. When I would see a big young kid, I would always recommend them to watch footage of other big men in pro wrestling. Lot of these young kids would of course know Big Van Vader, The Undertaker and Kane, but I would always recommend them to watch Scott Norton as well because he did every aspect of pro wrestling exceptionally well.
For a lot of pro wrestling fans, their main exposure to Scott Norton was during the Monday Night War when Scott Norton returned to WCW in 1995 (Norton was in WCW for a short time in 1993). WCW ultimately dropped the ball on Scott Norton. In WCW’s defense, Scott Norton was splitting his time between NJPW and WCW. My assumption is that WCW felt they couldn’t get fully behind him because he would not available for them all year around. Norton’s run in WCW did have some highlights though.
WCW teamed him up with the powerful and agile Ice Train to form the tag team of Fire and Ice. They had some fun matches with the Steiner Brothers. Norton always had great chemistry with the brothers from Michigan. Also during this time, Norton challenged The Giant for the WCW World Title on the June 10th of Nitro in 1996. These two had a fun match, which was less than two minutes, with The Giant coming out on top after delivering a choke slam on Norton to the floor. Norton would turn heel and a few months later join the hottest heel stable in wrestling at that time, the NWO. He formed a really entertaining tag team with Buff Bagwell as Vicious and Delicious, but the duo never won the WCW World Tag Team Titles.
In 1998, Goldberg was red hot and just won the WCW United States Championship. On an April 27th edition of Nitro that year, Goldberg put his streak and title on the line against Scott Norton. I highly recommend going back to watch this match. The crowd was going nuts for Goldberg and Scott Norton was looked upon as a legit threat to end the streak by that audience. When you are a bad ass and understand how to portray yourself as a bad ass, the people believe you’re a bad ass. Goldberg won in under three minutes, but Norton did a great job leading the young Goldberg throughout. At one point Goldberg hits his swinging neck breaker and then pops up to his feet. Norton grabs his ankle to get him to cover him for a two count. In classic WCW fashion, instead of building to a PPV match between Goldberg and Scott Norton, money was left on the table. Norton wasn’t undefeated on WCW TV, but he was rarely pinned. The fans believed his toughness and this should have been saved for a big PPV match.
Scott Norton would wrap up his WCW run in September of 1999 and return to New Japan still a member of the NWO Japan. Later, he would join Team 2000 and defeat Kensuke Sasaki to win the NJPW Heavyweight Championship on March 17th, 2001.
Recently, in our Fight Game Podcast Facebook Group, I posed the question to the group about who they felt was the best working big man in pro wrestling, past or present. As I expected, names like Big Van Vader, The Undertaker, and Bruiser Brody were mentioned. Scott Norton’s name never came up, which is a shame because Norton truly does belong in the discussion was one of the best big men to ever lace up pro wrestling boots. Norton was never someone he was not. He was a no-backdown from a fight tough guy. He was all power, great athletic ability and had quickness for a man of his size. Norton worked numerous great matches in Japan with various different opponents and styles. He was a great tag team wrestler with Hercules Hernandez, the very underrated Mike Enos, Shiyna Hashimoto and Buff Bagwell. Norton held the status of top gaijin wrestler in New Japan for over a decade. He was a leader in the ring with many great young talents in New Japan and WCW.
Scott Norton is one of my all-time favorites and I hope this article opens your mind about his work, and his legacy in the sport of professional wrestling. When the discussion of best working big man comes up again, I hope Scott Norton’s name pops up more on those lists.