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Matt Watches 1989 AJPW/1986 NJPW on a Treadmill


Matt D
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3 hours ago, Matt D said:

5/19/86: Fujiwara/Yamazaki vs Ueda/Yamada: Interesting pairing here. I'm just glad it's not Takada and Koshinka in another tag (they're in a singles match but I kind of want to see that). Both Yamada AND Ueda looked pretty good here, with Ueda able to manage some nice flowing matwork early with Fujiwara. Yamada held strong on the mat early and then looked tough by enduring a lot of damage later on. He even managed a tombstone on Fujiwara which was a hell of a thing. In a kind of neat way, it ended with a bit more of that flowing matwork but this time, it was late in the game and Fujiwara can go all night but mere humans can't so he got three steps ahead of Yamada and armbared him to death. This was good though, and probably the best Ueda has looked in 86 (or maybe ever? Just saying). I really do believe that working the UWF guys night in and night out made everyone else better.

The story about Ueda goes that his early bit was a super solid but incredibly boring technical wrestler; he was nicknamed "Toilet Time Ueda" at one point. I'm surprised to hear that he might have brought a bit of that back so late in the game.

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5/19/86: Koshinaka vs Takada for the Jr. Title: I was looking forward to this one after how heated the last couple of house show tags were, but I didn't realize it was the title match. You'd figure that'd be on TV but whatever. After the pomp, Koshinaka started, once again, with the slap, but this time Takada didn't bite. He held cool and just played the mat game. That was probably the first sign that the belt was in trouble. Koshinaka was able to hang, but when Takada got on a hold, he clinched it for a time. When Koshinaka did, Takada was able to reverse more quickly. It's not that Koshinaka wasn't getting holds on but he was having a harder time keeping them. And that was before the kicks which were brutal and dropped Koshinka repeatedly. He'd come back with the butt butt but it all felt a little inevitable. They traded bombs at the end with a missile dropkick from Takada and real close near fall on a German from Koshinaka. We lose a little bit of this to the crowd jumping up and our poor handheld filmer struggling. Finish was a massive jumping tombstone where Takada had to pin him twice to get it done but he did. The UWF guys seem so happy for him, especially Yamazaki; Koshinaka swipes at him after the match, poor loser that he is

5/23/86: Sakaguchi vs Masked Superstar: Match dripped competence, with these two going on the mat in a more pedestrian but still smooth and slick and competent sort of way. Obviously it's not going to match what Koshinaka and Takada did but the sheer size of these guys balances it out. Sakaguchi just had this confidence to him and Eadie was maybe the best ever at stomp clubbering credibly. Everything was full of struggle despite being a very different sort of affair than the UWF stuff. Pro wrestling is a broad and varied thing and what matters the most is that the wrestlers are engaged to the point where they engage the crowd as well.

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Posted (edited)

5/23/86: Inoki/Ueda/Fujinami vs Andre/Murdoch/Samu: I've been pushing the speed a little bit lately. Look, I get that a ten minute mile isn't a big deal for actual runners but I really want to get 3 miles in 30 minutes and it's kind of kicking my butt to try. So I got this one in but then switched over to Dark afterwards instead of going after the Kimura vs Kerry match attached to this show. It also means this was a little bit of a blur. Immediate takeaways: Inoki got way too short a haircut and had a Baba look going. I had no idea who Samu was for the first few seconds and half wondered if Gary Young was there instead. Bizarre. In general, there was a lot to like in this one. Big characters. Samu in there to bump. Murdoch in there to stooge. The heels all having credible offense. Fujinami and Murdoch continue to match up well. Andre was just knocking guys down left and right at one point. Inoki really wanted him badly at another. My favorite bit of all of this was when Inoki had a standing leglock/toehold on in the middle of the ring and Andre (who had already destroyed Fujinami's crab attempt on one of his partners by just reaching in previously) kept whacking him with the bullwhip. Nice hot finish that almost had an AJPW chaotic feel down to the triumphant fist pump in victory by Inoki and the post-match getting heat back by Andre.

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Edited by Matt D
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Posted (edited)
19 hours ago, Matt D said:

Immediate takeaways: Inoki got way too short a haircut and had a Baba look going.

It was a display of contrition after he was caught having an affair, IIRC.

Edit: yup, that was it. With a Roppongi hostess, apparently. 
Inoki's money problems had him leaning on Mitsuko's acting income for a long time, and I believe their marriage went south after her cash went into the money pit that was Anton Hi-Cel. It was pretty much over between this and the affair that she'd had the previous year, and they divorced in 87. 

Edited by KinchStalker
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So speaking of that, let's jump to...

5/30/86: Inoki vs Sakaguchi: This was part of the IGWP League, whatever that was and I'd say these two match up pretty well. Sakaguchi comes off as hugely credible, not as fast as Fujinami or Kimura but as technical as them with the size to put him over the top. He dominated a good chunk of this and really seemed like he had Inoki's number at times, though it's not like Inoki had his share of holds and without the same sense as someone "giving" him something you'd get from the UWF guys out of necessity. Finish was an errant crotching over the ropes by Sakaguchi onto Inoki for a rare loss that I feel was another display of contrition maybe?

And jump back to

5/23/86: Kimura vs Kerry Von Erich: When I said that Kerry could match up against the Fujnamis and Kimuras of the world... maybe just the Fujinamis? This wasn't great. You actually got the sense, much like the Maeda match, that there wasn't a ton Kerry could do if Kimura wanted to stretch him and Kimura, while fiery at times, is not Maeda. Kerry, on this tour, has come off as such an Emperor with no clothes without the wherewithal to work heel or really protect himself. He hit the discus punches twice here and Kimura just sold them like a normal punch, not even like a Fujiwara slap or anything else. The simple fact of the matter is that what Kerry is called upon to do here in 1986 NJPW works against every single one of his strengths. It only really works when he's flexing the power and he didn't do that nearly enough here.

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5/27/86: Koshinaka vs Takada: Congrats, everyone, we hit the first match that I was kind of dreading to watch. Another 20 minute handheld between these two. It really wasn't fair to them though, as it wasn't a bad match. We don't have the beginning so we don't know if it started heated, but we came in with Koshinaka controlling things pretty soundly, one hold after the next. Takada would try to get out, would try a few kicks, would get cut off. There were some really good specific spots in there, including Takada eating the butt butt when he was on the apron and bumping to the floor. And the comeback when it came had a lot of very satisfying kicks because who doesn't like seeing Shiro get kicked, right? I thought Takada sold well when he was trying to fight for comebacks but the finishing stretch had a few too many bombs and not quite enough selling overall, before they did the fight-to-get-back-in double countout.

5/30/86: Fujinami/Kimura vs Murdoch/Superstar: We have around 10 minutes of this and was good. I don't know how many times I can call Murdoch and Superstar credible, but they were, and they used their size so well on holds and shoulderblocks and whatever else. They have a sequence towards the end of the footage where Kimura is running through Eadie and he just gets jammed on the third shoulder block. Really compelling spot. Kimura played face in peril well. I've seen enough Fujinami now (heavyweight Fujinami as opposed to the earlier version of him) and one thing I think he's excellent at is squaring up and anticipating a moment. He has a way of physically prepping the crowd for something like a back body drop that makes it feel more important. It's such a key element of having star power and working for the back row and he's very good at it. Anyway, this cut off midway so we have no finish.

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5/23/86: Maeda/Fujiwara/Kido vs Cuban Assassin/Klaus Wallas/Tony St Clair: Doubling back for this. We just get a minute of it. Just Wallas getting pile driven by Fujiwara and then crushed by Maeda. Nothing to say really. One huge aspect of Maeda is that he had the relative size, he had the kicks, he had the suplexes, and he had the spin wheel kick which he used to win this one. It stands out when it comes to his star power.

6/6/86: Fujinami/Kimura vs Samu/Snuka: Snuka's one of our big foreigners for June and that's not necessarily a good thing. It's amazing just how done he was after 84. That said, he's still not 89-90 Snuka. He can come in and hit the leapfrog, leapfrog, chop spot and second rope diving headbutts/fistdrops but you're also liable to get a long, dull, empty-eyed chinlock after that. He wasn't even in this all that much. Samu took most of this and he was less of a bump machine and more focused on keeping control. He had these vertical front chest rakes that were kind of interesting. My takeaway match after match is how well Fujinami matches up against everyone. Finish was fun with Kimura hitting the Inazuma Leg Lariat on everyone. The fans pop really big for it every time.

6/6/86: Inoki/Sakaguchi vs Andre/Cuban Assassin: One aspect of Andre we haven't seen quite as much is the comedy that I've seen in 80 earlier in Japan. Here he did bellow and accidentally smack the Assassin and it was welcome. Otherwise, this wasn't very long and I don't have too much to say about it. Sakaguchi felt like a big deal, like he usually does. Inoki, by this point, didn't have the driving forward energy of Jumbo, but he could save up for big bursts when it really mattered and the crowd went along with him.

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So I had thought that there was a 20 minute Fujinami vs Snuka match I had to get through at this point and I was dreading it, but good news, it was the tag from the other day instead.

Instead..

6/6/86: Ueda vs Maeda: This was a hell of a five minute piece of business actually. Ueda dominated on the mat to start and it was solid but believable. Interestingly, the commentating didn't start until Maeda started to kick the everliving crap out out of him though. That was all sorts of brutal. Then Ueda came back with an object and got DQed and continued to beat on him after the match as they tried to restore order. Good stuff!

6/12/86: Sakaguchi/Kimura/Ueda vs ANDRE/Murdoch/Superstar: Is that foreigner team basically the best ever or what? Again, a little more comedy than before, both Superstar and Andre miscommunicating and Murdoch eating a shot and stooging all over the ring. They controlled on Kimura well though he also scrapped out of it well when it was time. The match built to Sakaguchi vs Andre and that felt like a lumbering battle of the titans. Andre had an amazing missed headbutt in the corner and then Kimura rushed in and started on his midsection until Andre just swatted him away. In general, Andre was a little like an exploding steel cage. Get too close to him when he was on the apron and he'd just swat you down. This got pretty chaotic in the end with Ueda threatening people with chairs and Yakamatsu pulling a leg out and we actually miss whatever Andre uses to actually put Ueda down.

6/12/86: Inoki vs Fujiwara: 32 on the 80s set and I can see it. Brief comment on the opening of the match and then I'll lead into more general comments. This starts with Fujiwara taking down Inoki over and over again with mares, getting him in a hold and then taking him down again over and over again and locking in another hold until Inoki can slip out. It's a great, bombastic, character-driven way to start the match, full of energy, and leading to just a huge pop as Inoki slips out and locks in a hold of his own.

I have two things I want to talk about here and they're interconnected.

  1. Inoki, even in 86, was a star because he understood the important of moments. Often times his matches lead to big, over the top, visual moments that pop the crowd huge. He can't go steadily for too long at this point. He was 43 years old or so and had been through a lot. He can't match the UWF guys on the mat, no matter how much he wishes he could and no matter how much it benefits him to have the illusion that he could. But, they can design sequences that build to a big escape or big comeback or big reversal that creates a more meaningful illusion than if he was able to really grind on the mat with them. He can build to one block and one leap as he hits the back brain kick. He can get behind Andre and hit him with one belly to back. And he is savvy enough and confident enough in his own mastery of the company to know how to give his opponent exactly enough that when he does these things it matters. A lot of that is on him and his understanding of his audience and his opponents and of wrestling, but so much of it was because...
  2. NJPW is not AJPW. For the sake of this comparison, remember that I looked at 89-90 AJPW, but it's mostly true earlier as well. The house style is athleticism and sport, pressure pushed up against the walls at almost all points. It's what would logically happen within the world they've created. There are openings and moments of transition and counters but it's about constant forward motion and whether or not the wrestler is up to task in enduring it and stopping it. NJPW simply isn't that. There are still trappings of sport, especially with the UWF guys in the mix, of course, but it's more theatrical. It's not just Inoki. There are more moments built to and these moments mean more than in AJPW where every moment feels like it's treated almost as important (which makes every moment important, but it also means that a spike piledriver is worth the same as a bulldog headlock or a powerslam). There's more of a manipulative attempt to pop the crowd. There's more overt and preconceived artifice. There's still not that level of complete narrative organization you get in American wrestling (especially in 1986, prime Tito) with shine>heat>comeback and the requisite transitions and cut offs, but it's sort of a middle ground between the WWF style and the AJPW style. Sometimes that gives you something better than either. Often times, it gives you something more muddled and less pure and less satisfying.

Here though, it was likely better. Because Fujiwara absolutely gets it as well, and he can back it up 100%. The match, after that opening, is full of momentum shifts and oneupmanship and big transitional moments and counters. A lot of exclamation points with a series of periods leading up to them. The finish is out of this world, with Inoki finally coming back and hitting the back brain kick only for Fujiwara's hard head to completely shut it down and for him to milk a moment of his own as he stares back at Inoki defiantly. Incredibly iconic. The writing is on the wall there and Inoki is able to get a German immediately thereafter, with Fujiwara knowing he is unable to kick out and instead trying to work at Inoki's interlocked fingers, but to no avail. Just a hell of an encounter that made certain things really click for me about the promotion and style as a whole.

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Posted (edited)

6/12/86: Fujinami vs Maeda: Number SIX on the NJPW set. I think I'd like it more if I didn't know that. What I liked most about this match was the notion, in my head at least, that Fujinami had to wrestle a perfect match to stay in it. Why? Because for every one thing he does, Maeda can do three. He's got the reach. He's got the variety of offense. He's just that explosive. At the start Fujinami does wrestle a perfect match, all building to the great moment where he ducks the spin wheel kick and hits the clothesline. But Maeda gets out of the half crab and drops onto the leg with the legbar and then, more importantly starts with the kicks. After that, Fujinami spends the rest of the match fighting for his life. The perfect match is gone and he's always fighting with a deficit that can only ever get bigger, not smaller. He has some nice comebacks, a pile driver, the scorpion, that final German, because he is that good, but Maeda's too much and even when he gets an advantage, he can't keep it for long. Down the stretch Maeda opens him up, either with the spin wheel kick in the corner or right before and it's pretty ghastly. And it's great Fujinami survives, amazing he survives, heroic he survives, and he's pretty great in that role, even  able to survive the Dragon Suplex, but I don't buy the finish. I don't think he did enough damage to Maeda, I don't think he was able to play quite enough offense. I don't buy the execution of whatever limb he got in there to cause the double KO on that last spin wheel kick. It didn't feel earned enough. It's still got a lot of great stuff and I get why people voted it six and I'll go over to PWO and see what people thought about it, but I'm not at all sure it was better than Inoki vs Fujiwara let alone, let's say the 5x5 match that came in 8th. I would have liked this more if either Fujinami did more to earn the double KO in the stretch or if there was some finish where the ref called it for blood loss but Fujinami wanted to keep fighting, maybe?

Edited by Matt D
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Fujinami was bleeding too rapidly for them to have gone to the thirty-minute draw they clearly intended. I've always liked the finish because I felt like it deepened the theme more than that draw would have. After the match, and after all the shit Maeda had talked about Fujinami, he said this: "I believed myself to be alone. I believed to live in a deserted island. But this night, that has changed. This night, I have found out that there are brothers here." That fits the finish we got better than what was obviously the plan, but your point has long been at the back of my mind.

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13 minutes ago, KinchStalker said:

Fujinami was bleeding too rapidly for them to have gone to the thirty-minute draw they clearly intended. I've always liked the finish because I felt like it deepened the theme more than that draw would have. After the match, and after all the shit Maeda had talked about Fujinami, he said this: "I believed myself to be alone. I believed to live in a deserted island. But this night, that has changed. This night, I have found out that there are brothers here." That fits the finish we got better than what was obviously the plan, but your point has long been at the back of my mind.

The shake at the end feels like the end of the heated UWF vs NJPW feud which really boiled over all the way with the May 5x5 and this match could have justified that but it would have been better a suplex or another clothesline later. Plus I have no idea what’s next. All of this is new to me.

I didn’t mention the botched exploder either because that’s not generally the sort of thing that bugs me (it can help a match feel like a struggle depending, but didn’t really here), but I also didn’t mention how cool it was Fujinami got the German out of catching a kick and slipping around like the slickest guy around. 

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Posted (edited)
On 5/8/2022 at 2:06 AM, Matt D said:

 

5/30/86: Inoki vs Sakaguchi: This was part of the IGWP League, whatever that was.

The annual tournament that's now called the G1 Climax. It was called the IWGP League (International Wrestling Grand Prix) from 83-88. Hogan won in '83, beating  Inoki in the final. Then Inoki, Andre (over Fujinami!), Inoki, Inoki, Inoki.

'89 there was a World Cup single-elimination tournament including some Russian wrestlers (and Wayne "the Train" Bloom)! No Inoki. Mutoh vs Hash in the final.

There was no tournament in 1990, then the first G1 was held in '91

 

 

 

Edited by Gordlow
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This period of New Japan is a time I’m unfamiliar with but often hear great things. I’m more of a 90’s All Japan guy. But that’s why this thread is so exciting. I want more fawning over the badassery of Fujiwara. This thread has also made me appreciate Inoki more. Maybe I’ll try an get the New Japan set and get through the classics that I’ve seen less than half of.

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Bonus matches as I had some time to kill yesterday and our new friend in Japan posted a Bundy handheld (which we already had), which made me wonder what else we had from Bundy in 85.

1/25/85: Fujinami vs King Kong Bundy: A good amount to like here. Bundy was excellent in this match at knowing just how much to give/sell. I tend not to put him in the top level of wrestlers along those lines as I might a One Man Gang or Earthquake but he really had it down here. I probably use the term "large canvas" in my reviews of guys who hit hard against giants but it's very much appropriate here as early on Fujinami was laying in forearms. Bundy could clubber and did hit a short avalanche at one point but at that point everyone was watching Fujinami and whether he'd come back. Bundy didn't really start selling until the leg kicks came (and even a chest kick which is something I don't really see Fujinami do even in 86 vs someone like Maeda or other UWF guys; it reminded me of how Shunji Takano would have a more varied offense against someone like Abby because of the size differential unlocking his ability to do a little more) and Fujinami had a big moment staggering him with a clothesline before Bundy cut him off. They ended up outside and the other big moment was Fujinami forcing the draw by not letting Bundy back in and yeah, this was one of the first time those double countout finishes really clicked for me. I can see how this would have meant something even if it's kind of a BS finish.

5/31/85: Bundy/Adonis/Murdoch vs Inoki/Kimura/Fujinami: This one's a little bit of a blur looking back but Adonis and Murdoch were just excellent here. It's not like I didn't have an appreciation of Murdoch from his US work but he's really good in New Japan. Let me scan back through so I can write it up. Anyway, Adoins works everyone to start, matching up really well against Inoki and having a cool French Catch style exchange with Fujinami (Top Wristlock > leaping headscissors takedown counter > headstand out of the headscissors > leap forward for a headlock turned into a hammerlock). Inoi wanted to get his hands on everyone but the first half of the match really built to Bundy coming in and him fighting everyone until Fujinami rushes in with huge energy and can't slam him. Bundy had a really good abrupt knee drop. Not running, just dropping onto a guy's face. I've never noticed that before. Inoki takes the Calf Branding better than Kimura but not as good as Fujnami. Anyway, heels work the corner. Inoki plays face in peril until he can reverse an abdominal stretch and there's a big comeback until everything breaks down on the outside. Fun stuff.

10/18/85: KONGA THE BARBARIAN vs Inoki: Ten minutes of fun here. Konga had a lot of stuff at this point, and he'd just lean on Inoki until Inoki had enough and would fire back. Then, Barbarian would do something underhanded and take back over, including a slew of groin based offense (low blow, inverted atomic drop, headbutt to the groin). There was a cool delayed sunset flip from the outside in which almost turned into a slow motion code red but what was almost as cool were Inoki's headbutts/shoulder blasts to lead up to it as Barb took them keeled over. It was a good visual. Inoki took over on the leg after catching a kick and recovered well after screwing up a figure four by locking in a proto STF. The finish stretch was battle of the titans stuff with Inoki crashing into him and Barb headbutts and a huge power slam before he missed the headbutt off the top and Inoki hit the back brain kick. I'm sure Meltzer would have given this one and a half stars but it was cool stuff. It would have probably been even better a year or two later.

 

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Posted (edited)

Just enough sickness in the house that I'm not treadmilling. Some more bonus matches instead:

2/5/86 and 2/6/86: Hogan vs Fujinami

Back to back matches best taken as a series. Remember, this is Hogan less than two months before Wrestlemania 1. When people talk about "technical Hogan who is better in Japan" I tend to think 90s Hogan in Japan where he does the hammerlock go behind takedown. But this first match was probably the most technical I've ever seen Hogan. Fujinami started strong winning a rope running exchange decisively with Hogan really hitting the mat on dropdown, high work. But Hogan came back and went from hold to hold to hold. Obviously he's not as smooth as the UWF guys or anything but between his size and Fujinami feeding him, you really believed it. It all led to a fairly impressive bow and arrow, actually. Fujinami struggled to fight back but did get the Scorpion on but really couldn't control Hogan's body because it was so big. Hogan increasingly heeled and bullied in his offense as the match went on (including a spit). This wasn't all that far from the Maeda or Bundy matches in how Fujinami worked to fight back. It was about getting him over through his survival and resilience (including surviving the axe bomber because he was so close to the ropes). He'd get a flurry here or there but Hogan continued to bully him, until he finally managed to get an advantage on the floor teasing the Dragon Suplex before tossing Hogan into the post. It was a near countout but Hogan made it back in. Fujinami stayed on him in the corner, tossed the ref away and then got distracted enough as the ref came back that Hogan got a cheap axe bomber out of nowhere for the win. Post match, Fujinami did get him in the Scorpion.

Second match played off the first as Hogan hit an axe bomber before the bell as the referee was checking Fujinami. he was a great troll here, counting the three and raising his hand, then hitting an elbow drop and doing it again. He was outright shocked when the match really began and Fujinami kicked out. Another mauling by Hogan here with Fujinami not coming back until they made it to the floor and he reversed a slam and posted Hogan again. This time Hogan bladed and Fujinami went right after the wound in the ring. Nice visual on an abdominal stretch with Hogan bleeding and the cameramen rushing to get a shot. Fujinami also hit a huge suplex followed by a seated chinlock which had Hogan selling and stooging big. It built to some big moments like Fujinami hitting a lariat before both guys went out for the double countout (but this time with Fujinami having a clear advantage and getting a moral victory over the WWF champion even if not a victory on paper).

6/11/85: Hogan (C) vs Fujinami: This was for the WWF title with Vince there. It's a bit of a hybrid of the above matches but with Hogan wrestling clean so it's not nearly as interesting. He does some technical stuff but it doesn't work as well. Fujinami has some big comebacks but the match as a whole is more even, strength vs speed. The Axe Bomber was a very useful spot in how it could have been ducked. You see less of that with Hansen's lariat, I think, because of how he comes at it with his whole body (and maybe because it was from the left side). Because it was for the belt, the fans bought Fujinami's kickouts and nearfalls as big deals. Finish was a ducked axe bomber where Hogan was supposed to hit the second but they were going a bit too fast for it to work maybe. I do want to point out how cool Hogan's dodge and double axe-hammer the guy as he's passing move was. I wish he had brought that back in 96 with the heel turn.

9/30/80: Inoki vs Patera: Patera was pretty great here. He started the match with three slams but slam isn't even the word for them. They were like lawn darts from slam position. Inoki soared across the ring. Patera followed it up by trash talking and going into the bearhugs. Inoki would escape and have fiery shots but the ref would slow him down and Patera would sneak cheapshots in and ground him again. It all built to Inoki firing his way into the ring with that shoulder blast again and hitting a big dropkick. I don't know if he gets credit for how quickly he can get up to the top in this period for the kneedrop but it's impressive. That's the vibe i get from him. Meaningful bursts. Patera's trash talk game is on point and keeps hie headlocks and what not entertaining. Patera finally locks in the full nelson and later goes for that big slam again but Inoki escapes and gets the Octopus. After that, it's just a matter of time. Patera is able to survive one and even kick out of the back brain kick/top rope knee drop one-two punch but it's right back into the Octopus for the submission.

Edited by Matt D
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Still dealing with colds here so no running.

Bonus matches continue

9/19/85: Inoki vs Fujinami: This was NOT on the DVDVR set and I'm not sure why. It's arguably as good as any 80s NJPW singles match I've seen as part of this project. I'm not sure I want to make that argument necessarily, and I'm sure a lot of people would like the action of Maeda vs Fujinami or the animosity of Choshu vs Fujinami more than something more mat-based like this but I will at least tell you why it's good. Fujinami went for a German right at the start and got jammed and they went into about twenty minutes of matwork and chain wrestling and holds and it's all very good and to me, tells a story. First of all, this is the best I've seen Inoki look on the mat in the 80s, or at least the illusion of it because he dominates the first few minutes going from one impressive hold to the next. When Fujinami gets an edge here, all he can do is contain Inoki. Throughout the match, though, that shifts and it becomes so that Inoki can contain Fujinami but that Fujinami's getting more impressive holds. There are some great bridges in here and just constant struggle. It all builds to a long and dramatic figure four by Fujinami where Inoki rolls a few times but Fujinami's able to hold on. Afterwards, there's such a sense of vulnerability to Inoki and Fujinami gets close by almost getting the scorpion on, by almost getting on another figure four (with Inoki valiantly holding the foot from coming down), and you feel like Fujinami is just so, so close. But he misses the back brain kick and Inoki hits one of his own (really amazing moment) and it sort of resets the match towards the finish as now Fujinami's scrambling to recover and they're hitting bombs. Inoki gets a couple of big punches off the ropes. There's a pretty dramatic moment on the top rope where I thought Fujinami might get a superplex. Fujinami goes for the German again but Inoki turns it around and hits one. Fujinami hits the dragon but can't keep the bridge. And then it's three octopus holds, with Fujinami escaping twice before special ref Lou Thesz calls the match as Fujinami can't continue. Look maybe some people aren't going to go for a five minute figure-four but within the context of the match and Fujinami and Inoki and who they were and the way the crowd felt about it it was all pretty awesome.

9/19/82: Slaughter vs Inoki: 3 years earlier this is what Inoki was up to. This is short, some clubbering and bullying by Slaughter leading up to a couple of really good minutes. Slaughter hits the gutbuster, then picks Inoki up outside with it and jams him into the post. Inoki comes back with a dropkick and Slaughter takes his corner bump. But Kimura(I think) on the outside distracts and he comes back with the cannon clothesline, but Inoki ducks another one and gets a backslide and hits the back brain kick which Slaughter takes a flying face first pancake bump on that's awesome. It was really missing some Inoki control to start where Slaughter would have gotten to stooge a bit.

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On dayquil, no running:

Bonus match: 1/1/84: Sakaguchi vs Abby: I want to figure out Sakaguchi a little more so let's watch some stuff. This was more or less a stand up brawl for ten minutes with about twenty seconds of nerve hold and a hot brawling finish. Maybe the best thing about Abby is the visual dissonance between his size and seeming power and the fact that most of his offense are these highly precise strikes. He started with a thumb/finger shot to the ribs (in between them presumably) and the throat. It's like how the best thing about Studd is his stalling since he's so huge that it pisses the fans off that he chooses to do so. Sakaguchi had great, great forearms but he kept doing this overhead karate chop which didn't look all that great, but Abby's sell of it WAS great so it sort of worked out. Sakaguchi later switched to punches and woundwork both of which were ok. After he bladed, Abby came back in and got pressed up to to the first rope. He came back with a headbutt from there and started laying those in to the point where I couldn't tell if Sakaguchi bladed or just was covered in some of Abby's blood. Eventually it spilled to the floor and Sakaguchi really swung a chair hard repeatedly. All in all, this was better than not. I wasn't expecting it to be so non-stop.

Bonus match: 5/24/84: Sakaguchi vs Andre: This had more motion than the Abby match but wasn't better for it. Good punches by Sakaguchi. Andre dominated a little more with big symbolic offense though Sakaguchi chipped away at him at every opportunity. They took two tries for the headscissors takeover and it's a testament to both guys how well they recovered and made it seem like organic struggle, but you still knew it wasn't. The spot got over huge when it hit though. More building to spots in general than the non-stop violence of the Abby match. Sakaguchi worked well from underneath. The big spot towards the end was Andre trying to suplex Sakaguchi back into the ring and it not quite working but still looking cool. It ended up sort of a dangling turning slam thing, like a powerslam out of Orton's rope-assisted DDT position?

Bonus match: 6/14/84: Andre/Superstar vs Fujinami/Sakaguchi: Sub-10 minute handheld here. Fun match though. Fujinami and Superstar had a good headlock sequence. Lots of stuff by Superstar here. He'd hit a high cross body (well mid cross body) and followed it up with a huge slam and later hit a jumping knee. You don't think much of that on paper but it made him seemed like a real versatile wrestling machine. Not a ton of Sakaguchi here but the fans were eager to see him lock up with Andre. There was a fun bit where Fujinami ran around as Andre swung at him which was not in the 85 Andre vs Fujinami stuff (and that makes sense), but the crowd loved it. They had a bit where Andre had Superstar undo the corner pad and Sakaguchi's back ended up in it but not too much came of it. Maybe it helps justify the clean pin? Before that happened however, Andre took a Bret corner bump. I should try to gif that.

Bonus match: 1/11/85: Sakaguchi vs Abby: Didn't like this as much as the 84 match. It had more of an ebb and flow with Abby taking over and choking and Sakaguchi coming back and then Abby cutting him off with the throat chops and Sakaguchi coming back again. Sakaguchi had good fire but it wasn't as much as an outright war.

Bonus match: 1/18/85: Sakaguchi vs Bundy: Much more of a Bundy showcase. Bundy looked great here, beating him around the ring, lots of clubbering and a couple of chinholds that really didn't wear out their welcome but there was a surprising amount of variety and personality to the beating. Bundy is a really great trash talker and he's not remembered for that. Sakaguchi would come back more with knees and kicks this time around but the crowd didn't seem super interested in anything but the jumping knee. Ultimately, this felt more liked a glorified squash than either the Andre or the Abby match. As far as I can tell, this was Bundy's first TV match in NJPW so it made sense for Sakaguchi to get him over this way, as they were building him for Inoki.

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Posted (edited)

I know, I know. One, I'm far afield from what I should be doing. Two, if I'm going to do this, I should be watching the stuff for @DEAN's polls, but I'm down the rabbit hole now.

How far afield am I? I'm in the 70s.

Bonus match: 9/16/77: Sakaguchi vs Hansen: we get the last five minutes of this and it's actually kind of awesome. Sakaguchi can definitely scrap with guys like Hansen and Abby. That's true in 84 and it's true in 77. The end of this is really cool. Sakaguchi undoes the corner protection, nails Hansen twice, then hits a Russian leg sweep for two. Hansen pushes away the arm for the second attempt and hits a lariat but doesn't get all of it. An elbow drop gets him two. Then he goes for another lariat but Sakaguchi uses the jumping knee to shut it down! He hits another but Hansen goes out and it ends on the floor with Hansen getting in at the last second. I'll risk losing a burner account to gif this.

Spoiler

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Bonus match: 10/2/77: Sakaguchi vs Hansen: We have all of this one and it goes maybe 12. It's more conventional than you'd expect from a Hansen match as he's not fully formed 80s Hansen yet. So it means that Sakaguchi has a lot of arm control as Hansen tries to work out and gets put back in. Sakaguchi has fairly varied and effective arm-based offense. What's nice about it is that it marries that with Hansen's physicality and mayhem, specifically at the beginning and end, here with Hansen vying for an advantage to start by getting the ref to check Sakaguchi first so he could choke him. It means everything's fiery as Sakaguchi gets some early revenge until things settle down on the arm. I wish Hansen had sold a bit more in the stretch. Here Sakaguchi survives two lariats (but Hansen misses an elbow drop and wastes the opportunity to sell the armwork to justify things) and falls out of the ring on the jumping knee.

Bonus match: 6/1/79: Sakaguchi vs Hansen: Andre's out to cause all kinds of trouble to start. This was still fairly conventional with chinlocks by both parties but there's always a sense of chaos bubbling underneath with Hansen. It may be a leg swept out or a foot up to swipe or Hansen tossing a stool into the ring, but it's always there. They kept the chinlocks moderately interesting, up and down, in and out, with Sakaguchi even hitting a Curt Hennig neck flip at one point! The back half was more wild and wooly, with Hansen clubbering control and Sakaguchi firing back in a nice hope spot only to get cut off with a knee. Things were a little more developed a couple of years later, so here the knee through the lariat was his big comeback spot. He'd have another one after Blassie (who was managing, by the way) involved himself with a big lifting foot out of the corner on a charge. Hansen was able to get the lariat though and finally pinned Sakaguchi even if it took him a couple of shots to do so.

What I did miss here completely was technical Sakaguchi which is what I was curious about as much as anything else. There's an 85 match with Fujinami but it's mislabeled at my source so I may be out of luck for now.

Edited by Matt D
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On 5/17/2022 at 1:35 PM, Matt D said:

What I did miss here completely was technical Sakaguchi which is what I was curious about as much as anything else. There's an 85 match with Fujinami but it's mislabeled at my source so I may be out of luck for now.

I haven't gotten to it yet but the 4/21(?)/78 Inoki/Sakaguchi match is apparently a real good one. I'm partial to the 12/9/71 JWA match against Dory.

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Yeah I thought about those but I didn't want another Inoki match and I wasn't up for Dory being Dory so I took a look at JOHNNY POWERS.

Anyone ever see a Johnny Powers match? He reminds me a little of when the AWA set came around and it was obvious a bunch of people had just never watched a Crusher Blackwell match. Ron Starr is another guy like that, just people who had long careers and worked a lot of places but were never quite in the places which became sticky enough to make comps or whatever else in the late 90s/early 00s. I don't think I'd ever seen Powers, who might be more important as a promoter than a wrestler even.

Bonus Match: 1/26/79: Sakaguchi vs Powers. This was for Power's NWF North American title and it was actually really good. Very heated, very exciting. Sakaguchi is probably better scrapping and firing back than anything else. Powers is almost as big as him which made this all a bit surreal. He's hard to explain. Poofy 70s hair. Constipated strutting. This weird fish face when he's selling. A lot of elbow smashes that make use of his height that don't look all that great and one off the turnbuckles that does. Big sweeping holds that make use of his height like headscissors or slow, rangey drop toe holds. Mean shots and hairpulling and using the ropes. It was all a little awkward just because how tall these guys were They could obviously wrestle but maybe they shouldn't have been wrestling each other. He had a jump-into-the-turnbuckles face first bump on corner whips that was a little out there too. There was a cool bit here where he started on the leg by using Sakaguchi's height to trap the foot over the top rope. That was the turning point of the match as he wrapped the leg around the post after that and went for the figure four. He had taken off the corner protector though (which served to open up Sakaguchi) and on the second figure four attempt, Sakaguchi pushed him into it and started firing back, leading to the slam and knee drop off the ropes for the win. I can't say it was all smooth but it was still good and spirited.

Bonus Match: 8/24/73: Inoki/Sakaguchi vs Powers/Patterson: This was in LA for Powers and Patterson's tag belts and filmed for Japanese consumption. Patterson was amazing here, just always on, always entertaining, always working, always stooging, always interacting with the crowd, always trying to crawl into the ring or work the apron or do something. He's up there with Terry Funk and Negro Casas and Buddy Rose as guys who were just always always always working and always present and always surging with energy. Powers was much of the same as in the last match, though he held back the elbows until the midway point. The first fall had some wrestling and some attempts at cheating (more on that in a second) but mostly Powers and Patterson feeding for the challengers including some miscommunication spots. Second fall had them take out Sakaguchi's leg and work it over and it was good, with a bunch of bombs' away but you really do get the sense that they were still working out some of the kinks on the southern tag, or just that Inoki and Sakaguchi didn't entirely want to play into that as Sakaguchi's reach meant that they kept getting too close to the tag and Inoki had to play dinosaur arm as they tried to pull Sakaguchi back into the ring. Then they got it and went back to Sakaguchi's leg after Inoki cleaned house and got the dramatic figure four that ended the fall in there. If they had just gotten the submission before the hot tag it would have all been so much better. Then the comeback could have been in the third fall even if it was going to end in a DQ anyway. The biggest problem with the match was old Joe Louis was the referee and when HE couldn't keep order at all because he was old and slow and beaten down and couldn't kneel down quickly to count pins, it messed up the heat. What was the point of having Joe Louis as a special referee if he so ineffectual? Maybe Patterson could have made it work but he decided it just made more sense to run around him and expose him for being ineffectual. It put more pressure on Inoki and Sakaguchi to come back, which did work and would have worked even better if they hadn't screwed up the hot tag and then the hot tag placement so much. Ah well. Still a lot of good here. Patterson was amazing, but we knew that.

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This cold has definitely been rough. It's been almost two weeks since I ran and I was feeling it today as I made an attempt. Still not 100% but I gave it a go.

6/15/86: Snuka vs Maeda: This is a HH and I was daunted by it for a bit but it's actually pretty good. Very simple. Very straightforward. A lot of simple arm holds. Very MSG undercard matwork actually. Maeda manages a really cool escape out of a top wristlock at one point. In general though, they keep it very simple for the first half then trade some kicks and a nice Snuka chop as they get going. Snuka tries to ground him but can't because you can't ground Maeda with a chinlock. He eats a suplex and then almost gets counted out but comes back in to do the trademark leapfrog chop spot and for some reason puts a flip into his missed splash after which Maeda just pins him. Honestly one of the best Snuka matches I've ever seen and I guess good on Maeda to work down to Snuka's level for the good of the match instead of doing whatever he did to Kerry.

6/18/86: Murdoch vs Maeda: Another handheld. Interesting June for Maeda with the Ueda match, the Fujinami match, and these two. If I wrote it out, the matwork would have been very similar to the Snuka match but the struggle and grit and gamesmanship was very different. Much more advanced and nuanced. Much harder worked. There was a bit midway where Murdoch looked like he'd be going back to the arm but instead zoomed over to the leg and it was well appreciated. Finish got me as I thought Murdoch was going to get counted out twice, the second time being after a spin kick when he was on the apron and Maeda was in the ring, but Maeda foolishly went after him and Murdoch snuck in after a slam for a countout win. Handshake after the match. I just looked it up and this was the IWGP League semi final which is why Murdoch went over. Can't have Inoki wrestle Maeda after all. Who would win? Inoki vs Murdoch is coming on 6/20. I'm glad we had this one though. Wait a second, I missed an Andre vs Inoki match from 6/17. Let me regroup for next time.

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6/17/86: Andre vs Inoki. Well, I guess Inoki isn't in the doghouse anymore. I loved Andre's offense here. First, when Inoki was hyped up to crash into him, he just caught him in a chinlock/choke thing. Just enveloped him. Then he had this cool headbutt out of a cravate. And a great Cobra clutch, and something else I'm forgetting. He had some really effective headscissors work, in as you wondered how Inoki could possibly escape, but it wasn't that. The finishing stretch of Inoki firing off on him with kicks was really good because it was all about the anticipation for the back brain kick and it absolutely delivered (including Andre's sell) once he hit it.

6/17/86: Cobra vs Takada: I was going to write about how I really disliked this and it was all dumb, senseless action, and how Cobra refused to sell even if Takada makes some effort but I JUST looked it up (honestly, kind of ready to be annoyed) and this workrate fest was rated 175 on the NJPW set. Absolute last. Good for you, stalwart DVDVR posters of more than a decade ago. So I'm writing these up tonight when everyone cares about Punk and no one will even see this, just because I was elated about that placement. Yeah, the DVDVR groupthink thought that Inoki vs Billy Crusher, whatever the hell that was, was better than this. And sight unseen, I bet it was.

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