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Matt Watches 1989 AJPW/1986 NJPW on a Treadmill


Matt D
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11/22/90: Yatsu vs George Takano: Yatsu's such a fun wrestler. Just swiping away with headbutts or tossing guys around meanly. He was a little more reckless on those than I remember, bumping himself on a German late and then just nailing Takano with the gnarliest Northern Lights I've ever seen. Just crushed him brainbuster style out of it as he barely got him over. They teased some finishes early with Takano jamming the bulldog and Yatsu getting his knees up on a splash. I'd call this fairly sprint like really. Ending was kind of cool as Takano kept going to the bulldog choke and Yatsu finally unable to escape. They matched up well. Yatsu always wanted to be a junior deep down and Takano WAS a junior deep down.

12/7/90: Greg Valentine vs Kitao (tournament semis): Other side of the bracket. Valentine spent the first few minutes really putting over Kitao's strength but then finally took over playing king of the mountain and grinding down with the elbows and clubbers. That was the best part of the match. He went for the leg but couldn't put on the figure four. Kitao probably sold the leg too much relative to what Valentine had actually been able to do with it but it was a good attempt. He's still so clumsy with bad instincts though. He'll go for something off the ropes, make everything come to a halt so that the positioning could be set up and then hit it. His standing vertical finisher had just a little extra delay to it which helped though. Good payday for Valentine here. He earned it.

12/7/90: Beef Wellington vs Sano: We, of course, mainly know Beef from Clash 19. Here he played up the strength advantage whereas Sano had speed and they were fairly even on technique. They both tossed each other out early but then things mainly settled down to Wellington holds and while he did some things to keep them interesting and switch them up, it made up the brunt of the match. Sano had a nice hope spot or two, the best being a back flip off the top right into a spin kick. We lost a chunk of the finishing stretch due to people standing up which is a shame as it seemed pretty good. Sano hit a big dragon suplex for the finish, though he lost the bridge and had to turn it into sort of a crufix but that's neat anyway.

By my math I only have 3 matches left in 1990. Then there are no matches in January and 2 matches in February. I think it makes the most sense to go on to the 10 (or so) matches for Wrestlefest in Toyko and then stop. That should just take me another couple of weeks. Then I go to AJPW.

 

Edited by Matt D
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12/7/90: Ishikawa/Kabuki/Fuyuki vs ... Rochester Roadblock/Brooklyn Brawler/Kenny the Striker: All hail the WWF working arrangement. Kenny the Striker ended up as one of the Italians Chaz had to face (alongside Sweet Daddy Falcone, I imagine) in GWF. He matched up ok with Fuyuki to start but then had a hard time navigating the turnbuckles later. The SWS fans may have been smarter than average too as they got on his case about it. Roadblock wasn't as big as he'd be later into the 90s but he still came out with the literal roadblock and had some good corner charges. Early on he tried to do a standing/walking flip senton and basically whiffed, undershooting and landing with his legs. The fans got on him too so he did it again and just crushed the poor bastard he landed on. Brawler was fun in this, bumping around like crazy for Kabuki, way more than was even warranted. He took a shoulder into the post for basically no reason but if I was wrestling Kabuki in 90 maybe I'd do the same thing. Fuyuki could still go fast but he was quickly getting bigger, to the point where I wanted him against Roadblock, but we didn't get much of that. This was back and forth but fairly formless and certainly inevitable. This is not a match you would have gotten in 89 AJPW, let me tell you. Oh, the funniest thing in this (which I just remembered) was Kenny being in control and going over to knock Ishikawa off the apron only to get clocked instead, which actually led to a quasi hot tag for the Japanese side as he just sprawled all over the ring. I'm not sure I've ever seen that exactly.

12/7/90: Takano Brothers vs Nagasaki/Yatsu: Meanwhile, this felt very much like an 89 AJPW match, with maybe a 91-2 finishing stretch of attrition. Yatsu and George match up really well. Again, Yatsu was slowing down a bit but there was still a Kurt Angle quality to him with how he could go and George was the natural fit. Shunji just had it. I know I've indicated that a lot but if he had stayed in AJPW, he'd have been a pillar. I feel really confident about that watching him into the end of 90. Here, Nagasaki and Yatsu took out the leg and kept control off and on that way. There were a lot of momentum shifts though and a lot of missed moves off the turnbuckle. Finish was exciting enough with both teams breaking things up until Yatsu could get and barely control a German on Shunji.

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12/7/90: Tenryu vs Kitao (Tournament Finals): This match is very clear, very clean, very crisp. Very easy to see what was happening here narratively. Kitao early advantage > Tenryu comeback > Finishing stretch. Tenryu really wanted to make Kitao, and there were things you could make. To his credit, when he rushed forward early with a sort of Kawada kick and driving knee and asserted himself with his size and strength, it was believable. If this guy charged in without abandon and had a few well-placed, aimed shots, it's going to knock you loopy. He beat the crap out of Tenryu to follow, really leveraging the strength. The transition was wonky as he hit a clothesline in the ropes and went flying over. Tenryu didn't really do anything except for take it and stay in the ring, but Tenryu getting offense back by taking a hard shot and holding his ground is pretty much the definition of the guy, so it worked, even if it was a weird banana peel transition. then Tenryu didn't hold back on offense. At one point they rang the bell weirdly when Tenryu had Kitao down but it was just to start the count. Some of Kitao's stuff was gnarly, including catching Tenryu in midair and suplexing him. Finish was Kitao going for the standing vertical (his finish) and Tenryu just crushing him in a small package driver counter which probably was just supposed to be a small package.

2/22/91: Tenryu/Ishikawa vs Kabuki/Kitao: This was Tenryu's group against Tenryu's group, again for some trophies. So many trophies. Individual exchanges were good here. Kabuki getting headbutted by Tenryu is the image that stuck with me the most. Ishikawa and Kabuki scrambling too. Ishikawa hit a plancha on Kabuki even. The fans seemed to be turning on Kitao a bit (and he did seem lost at times) but still buzzed for Tenryu vs Kitao. Cool spot in here where he caught Tenryu off the top and turned him into his northern lights/samoan drop type move. Tenryu wasn't afraid to bump here. He took a nasty spill over the guard rail after a Kabuki whip too. Finish had Ishikawa taking him out but in doing so letting Tenryu get a big lariat on Kabuki to set up the power bomb. It was nicely put together. Match was kind of all over the place in general though.

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2/22/91: G. Takano vs Sano: We get 7 of maybe 27? Some in the beginning, some in the middle, some at the end. Much like the tag, this was an inner-faction battle. I don't have a great sense of Sano, not really. But he sure looked good here. He had some great leverage takeovers in the early bit (Gangrel suplex takeover for one), some great strikes and a dive in the middle, and went back and forth well at the end. Takano always comes off as competent and feels like he belongs, but he never wows me. I suppose that's fitting because I complained a lot about him going overboard trying to wow as Cobra. This made me wish they were pushing Sano, not Takano, especially because...

3/30/91: G. Takano vs Randy Savage: This was good. It wasn't to the height of the 90 Tenryu match but there was no Sherri for one. The heat also didn't boil over probably as Savage was transitioning away from being a heel and also as he gave up a lot of the match. Takano had a clear advantage with kicks and takedowns but Savage kept coming back with base trickery (running around the ring and drawing him in), eyerakes, and a lot of great sledges. This was very back and forth with Savage playing the vulnerable heel, high energy but unable to keep Takano down. Takano went to the well twice for the top rope splash, paid for it the second time, and ate the elbow. I have another 12 matches or something to go from this show but I wanted to start here.

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3/30/91: Yatsu/Ishinriki vs Barbarian/Snuka: So great to hear the 1991 Snuka theme. It's so good. Snuka is one of my least favorite guys in Japan after a certain point. That sort of mimics him in the states after a certain point too, of course. He comes in, hits his chop and does his karate pose, does the leap frog/back leapfrog sequence, hits his pose, maybe does a second rope fistdrop or something. Stays on the apron the rest of the match (because otherwise, it's poorly worked chinlock city as opposed to nicely worked chinlock city). Barbarian and Ishinriki worked most of this so we only got a little of the hard hitting Barbarian vs Yatsu stuff I wanted, but when we did that it was cool. Let's talk about Ishinriki. He was a sumo wrestler who they recruited. This may have been his first match actually! He was lacking some presence when it comes to his expressions and being in the moment, but he's basically a sumo guy who works like a junior and he's kind of awesome as a raw talent, more for what he did than for what he was at this point. What did he do? Well he started off by kind of eating up Barbarian who was more than happy to stooge around the ring, eating armdrags to start, then falling forward and backwards for flying forearms (draping himself into the ropes). He wasn't at all afraid to run right into Barbarian's foot. He hit a HUGE springboard plancha, way overshooting and almost crashing into the rail and then followed it up with one of the coolest driving tope (headbutt style) off the aprons you'll see. To his credit, Snuka took all that. He also caught Snuka in a huge bearhug belly to belly. Barbarian was definitely lower on the hierarchy than Snuka in this one which was kind of weird. But it was all a very fun debut for Ishinriki. At first glance he was such a better pick up than Kitao. (EDIT: Maybe slightly unfair to Snuka who did take both dives, sort of, the belly to belly, and a belly to back from Yatsu)

3/30/91: Texas Tornado vs Mr. Perfect (c): Hey, this was on the show, so I watched it. It was pretty good too actually, better than I was expecting. Hennig was very aggressive, attacking before the bell. Tornado hit the tornado punch on the floor. The fans didn't completely buy him, I think. I'm not convinced he ever learned how to work in Japan. Best moment of the match was Von Erich missing a corner charge and Hennig rushing out to just smash the post with a chair. Very nasty stuff. Maybe the coolest thing I've ever seen Curt do in his Mr. Perfect run, actually. Kerry got the stomach claw on midway through but kept failing to get the cranium claw on, and that move is pretty well built up in Japan too, so it was a smart thing to build the match around. Dumb finish with a ref bump followed by Perfect ambushing and hitting the Perfectplex only to get DQed. Kerry cleared the ring post match but the fans didn't buy into the end at all.

3/30/91: Earthquake vs Kitao: This is NOT the infamous match. It's actually a pretty good match instead. Quake was so present here in all the ways that Ishinriki, in his first match, wasn't. He just had a way of moving around the ring that was wry and engaged and in control. I loved every time he stopped a whip by hanging onto the ropes or sidestepped something Kitao was about to do. It's that same feeling you get when you see Samoa Joe do the spot where he just walks away from a top rope move but Quake could do it at any moment for any thing. He's a great babyface and not given enough credit for that. The fans loved him, especially against Kitao and they were both hitting pretty hard. Quake's elbow drop is such a thing of beauty. Kitao getting him into a belly to back was a huge, huge moment, the moral win right before he got quashed with the vertical splash. Anyway, this was good and it's a shame that Kitao was so up his own butt that he couldn't manage being up Tenta's as well.

GIFS!

Spoiler

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Edited by Matt D
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Gotta love that Ishinriki decided to go with SWS despite his big brother being All Japan's bus driver.

Are you going to cover the next night's show? It's not at the Tokyo Dome but it's arguably a better stopping point. By the time of the next tour, Tenryu has taken over as president and they're looking to get Ashura back.

Edited by KinchStalker
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10 minutes ago, KinchStalker said:

Gotta love that Ishinriki decided to go with SWS despite his big brother being All Japan's bus driver.

Are you going to cover the next night's show? It's not at the Tokyo Dome but it's arguably a better stopping point. By the time of the next tour, Tenryu has taken over as president and they're looking to get Ashura back.

I will do as you advise, of course. The guy most hurt by me not getting back to AJPW for another week or two is you anyway. I'm not going to say no to Hogan vs Yatsu and Savage vs Tenryu 2 and a random Fujiwara match certainly.

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4 minutes ago, Ryan said:

Are you going to be an Ultra Marathon Champion by the time you get done with this project?

I don't know if I have terrible technique or a terrible diet (I do have that) or if it's just too awkward to put a phone on the rim of the treadmill and watch wrestling while running but I pretty much cap out at 3 miles in 32-33 minutes. I can't break a ten minute mile regularly. I will say that my sister, who just did Ragnar or some such and was always the athlete in the family while I was the brain wants to come down and do a 5K at some point and I could probably manage that well enough.

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That's fine for the average person. Some just aren't good at distance due to any number of reasons. I never had good breathing or technique when I could run a mile back in school in any kind of shape. I blame society. 

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3/30/91: Ishikawa/Kabuki vs Dibiase/Haku: Coolest thing here was Kabuki beating the absolute crap out of Dibiase. Really nasty shots that you can't believe didn't hurt a ton in the sort of "Why do Terry Funk's punches look so good?" sort of way. Also, a great scrapping moment between Haku and Kabuki with a bunch of Haku headbutts and Kabuki trying to survive them. Ishikawa was more likely to put on holds. You know when you're a kid and you put on the figure four the wrong way? Where you get them in Sharpshooter position and then drop down and put your foot over the top. He did that. But it sort of worked more like a heel hook, I guess? Kind of weird we didn't get Haku and Barbarian teaming and Dibiase and Hennig teaming? I don't know. This didn't have any super fiery moments from Dibiase like the Tenryu singles and Haku was subdued (right up until the point he wasn't). Finish was nice as Haku broke up the Scorpion, kicked Ishikawa in the face and he fell right into a Dibiase belly to back. 

3/30/91: Duggan vs Nagasaki: We just get a minute here which is kind of a shame. I didn't understand exactly who Nagasaki was when I saw the January 86 Duggan match. Now I do. Granted, Duggan had a few years in WWF and more of a gut but he still threw himself into everything, which in this case was Nagasaki's foot for the pin.

3/30/91: Slaughter vs Warrior: Guys, this was actually really cool. Ok, let me be more precise: the first few minutes of this were really cool. Outside of maybe the finishing stretch of WM6, the first few minutes of this was the best thing I've ever seen Warrior associated with. Warrior goes all Brody and rushes through the crowd confusing everyone to start. Slaughter tries to ambush him as he goes over the rail towards the ring when he's done. Warrior stops it and just beats Slaughter all around the ring with Sarge taking absolutely wild bumps. It's great, chaotic stuff, akin to the Desert Storm matches which are some of the best of Hogan's entire WWF run, but with Warrior's batshit energy. Eventually it settles down to Sarge putting on the camel clutch for a few minutes, but he really does work it on top. This is sub ten minutes and probably a top 5 Warrior match ever.  Wild stuff.

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3/30/91: Demolition (Smash/Crush) vs S.Takano/Nakano: There was a bit of clash of the quasi-Titans between Crush and Takano to start, where Crush took all of Takano's stuff admirably. No kicks on the corner which was disappointing though. He had a leap back off the turnbuckles that was pretty impressive though. When they started to take over on Nakano, they never looked back. It was just a mauling at that point. Lots of clubbering. Lots of smashing. Lots of crushing. Some vague hope but not a whole lot. The finishing stretch had Takano having enough but ultimately getting tossed. They did a back body drop into a clumsy power bomb on Nakano and then the decapitation for the win. It definitely put them over in front of the crowd because you rarely see something so one sided with names in there.

3/30/91: Rockers vs Hart Foundation: Look, they put the match on the card, so I watched it. Harts were de facto heels here (bullying but no cheating with a ton of heat on Michaels after some fun tag team specialist shine. Michaels went up so, so high for the back body drop from Neidhart. I hope some Japanese photographer got that shot in the lights. A lot of hope spots for Michaels, primarily on banana peel bits. Harts were very good at being dominant while not fighting dirty. The hot tag could have been hotter after all that. Just kind of weird ring positioning on it. That made the comeback not as exciting as it could have been (though Jannetty, as little as he was in this looked good in general). Good confident promo from Bret after the match.

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3/30/91: Hogan/Tenryu vs Legion of Doom: It's always great to hear LOD come out to Iron Man in Japan. Last time Tenryu fought them was when they beat he and Jumbo which led towards him splitting with Jumbo back in 87. That's kind of where I started this whole journey in some ways. There was a real sense that Hogan saw Tenryu as an equal, like he would Inoki. The match started with the Roadies press slamming both guys and then Hogan coming back with two clotheslines and Tenyru with two enziguris to knock them out of the ring. Fun stuff. They'd take over on Tenryu and Hawk and Hogan would get bloody on the outside (they fought over the guardrail too). Hogan gave all of this a weird sense of wildness where he'd just come in and cause trouble whenever he wanted. Or he'd just grab a chair and start whacking people. It went back and forth for the most part, with almost everything looking good but Hogan's toe kicks. All of the chops landed. Both Roadies hit their power slams. Hogan shouted out Axe Bomber! before hitting it. They more or less had it so the big pins (after the Tenryu Power bomb, the Hogan Legdrop, the Doomsday Device) were broken up by the partner, until things spilled out to the floor and the Roadies got back in for the countout. Post match they killed all the young boys and it became a chaotic scene. Fun stuff.

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8 minutes ago, odessasteps said:

Did they mention them holding the six man belts with tenryu? ?

It's funny. It's been two and a half years and I still don't know Japanese.

Hogan didn't mention it in his promo, but he did say "You know something, the talk is on the streets all over Japan, the Road Warriors vs Hulk Hogan and Tenryu. We're going to give them the fight of their lives. Let's take it to them" as Iron Man was playing in the background.

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3/30/91: Naoki Sano vs Masakatsu Funaki: I love that this was on the same card as Duggan vs Nagasaki or Slaughter vs Warrior or Rockers vs Harts. It was 100% shoot style. Funaki was the heir to UWF, with Fujiwara out there coaching him in his old faded jacket. Sano is very talented to be able to both do what he does in other SWS matches and do this as well, even if Funaki was very much the aggressor. Funaki clearly had the advantage on the mat and got the Jujigatame on multiple times, with Sano primarily saved by great ring positioning. He was able to hang well enough and counter, but couldn't get much in the way of advantages. I'd say they were about equal on striking and Sano's only advantage was on throws (He hit that double arm trap Gangrel Suplex again, for instance). Funaki wore him down though and slipped behind for a nasty shoot-y, arm trap German and he was able to turn that trapped arm into the Jujigatame for the quick win. Fujiwara was ELATED for him after the match and carried him out on his shoulders. Part of me feels like the crowd was into this more than anything else for the night.

4/1/91: Bret Hart vs George Takano: This is one of Bret's better matches vs a Japanese guy, I think. He played de facto heel here, an early aggressor after getting shown up on the first couple of exchanges. He took it out on the floor and really bullied Takano about. Strong working from underneath by Takano, some of the best selling I've seen out of him. At times he was able to outwrestle Bret, or even out strength him, like when he did push ups to escape a crab. Bret cut him off later in the match with the inverted atomic drop (the second in the match, which felt weird but worked). Pretty good finishing stretch with Takano coming back with a flurry of stuff, including a killer spin kick that really delivered. This just had more impact and the two of them being on the same page. It helped that they weren't wrestling to a draw too. This felt better than Takano vs Savage and better than, let's say Bret vs Tiger Mask/Misawa from a year earlier.

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4/1/91: Fujiwara vs Fumihiro Niikura: By this point Niikura looked like he should have been opposite Momota in AJPW comedy matches. This was funny, but not for anything Fujiwara actually did until the end, just for how outclassed this poor guy was. Fujiwara just walked up and headbutted him a couple of times to start. There was a real sense of playing with his food. At one point, Niikura hit a flurry of punches to the gut in the corner, and Fujiwara just absorbed them and crumbled with a look on his face of detached malice and slight regret for what he was going to have to do to this poor fool. Only slight. Where Niikura's shots bounced off Fujiwara, Fujiwara's seemed to crater Niikura. The funny but was when Niikura got a leglock late and Fujiwara just casually lounged until he reversed it. My favorite bit though was relatively early when Niikura got in a cobra hold and Fujiwara, like a chess master, took two moves to get out of it. If nothing else, Niikura should be credited for keeping Fujiwara interested for seven or eight minutes, I guess.

4/1/91: Kitahara vs Fuyuki: This is probably the earliest chronological match I've seen where Kitahara seemed like an actual, full fledged guy who could hang. In fact, if he had won this, I wouldn't have been wildly surprised. A little surprised. Not wildly surprised though. Fuyuki generally got the better of him in the first half, but he had to work at it. Kitahara had bulked up and had a way of using his weight to press down on holds. The problem was that Fuyuki was good at using his weight to press up out of holds and win running exchanges. Midway through Kitahara turned on the kicks and he never really looked back. Fuyuki didn't have an answer and it was pretty brutal stuff. Just big, impactful kicks from a fairly big guy onto another fairly big guy. Fuyuki took them all and was occasionally able to fire back or capitalize on a mistake but it was really about waiting Kitahara out until he could reverse something, which he did for the win. There was a real sense that Kitahara might get him next time though.

4/1/91: Earthquake vs Kitao: I was watching due to the time I had and this fit in. It was a hot mess. They started out ok with a feeling out process that matched the last match, but Earthquake got a huge mat return on him and rode him a bit like someone a hundred and fifty pounds lighter might and that was that. Kitao went out to the floor and tossed a table about and came back in hot. He spent the rest of the match basically threatening to eyepoke Earthquake and Quake was livid. I get that Andre angry is very very scary but given the camera angle here and the frothing fury coming off of Quake's beard, well, let's just say I wouldn't want to mess with any of them. There was also just the sheer sense of disbelief that out of everything Kitao might say or do or try, he, in front of this crowd, who knew a thing or two and already thought he was a bit of a joke, was threatening to poke his eyes out, ... by sticking his fingers out like he was a Stooge. And I guess he was? Then he kicks the ref and Quake just raises his hands which was pretty funny. Total disaster.

Edited by Matt D
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4/1/91: Funaki vs Sano: Funaki really had Sano's number here. We kind of knew that from the last match. Sano came out aggressive after some feeling out kicks but once he got him down, he had no idea what to do with him, not really. For the rest of the match he got shifted about and outwrestled. He might have gotten in a lucky kick here or there but Funaki was just too good at weaving and dodging and striking, and at shutting Sano's attempts at throws while hitting his own. Ultimately, Sano did get a German only for Funaki to shift right around for the Jujigatame. You felt for Sano here. They congratulated each other after the match though.

4/1/91: Savage vs Tenryu: This was very good. Very Savage-y on the finish, fairly elaborate. Savage tended to get advantages by drawing Tenryu this way or that and then cheapshotting him. I don't think it had the spectacle of the 1990 match with Sherri and the crowd and everything else but this was 100% the WMVII Savage, with multiple elbow drops being survived and a lot of bells and whistles unlike almost anything else in wrestling on the finish. Amusingly, Tenryu tried to do this sort of face first corner bump twice where he jumped into the corner. I don't know if he'd seen Bret do his signature corner bump or if Savage just called it or what, but he tried it twice. The first time it just sort of confused the crowd, but there was outright laughter the second. I honestly couldn't tell you if this was better than the last match between these two or not. They're both worth watching.

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Good news is that I didn't lose a day! I am thinking of starting to back these up on a blog JUST IN CASE.

Let's finish off SWS for now.

4/1/91: Minoru Suzuki vs Apollo Sugawara: Suzuki is very young. This match is total bullshit. At least Kitao was trying to threatening Tenta's eyes out. They wandered around putting hands up and throwing some cautious kicks and hugging a bit for eight minutes, Sugawara (who the crowd was initially behind) rolled out and said "To hell with this" and cut a promo as the crowd decided they were going to be behind Suzuki again. At one point I think he blew a kiss into the ring, which was pretty funny.

4/1/91: Yatsu vs Hogan(c): This wasn't much better. No, that's not fair. Look, it had some real strengths. Hogan is excellent at selling a hold, especially a hold by a guy like Yatsu. He got a teeny, tiny bit of color, and Yatsu headbutted him in the forehead targeting it. There was a kind of neat closing stretch where Yatsu hit a really labored bulldog, dodged the first Axe Bomber with a cool roll, BAAAAARELY got Hogan around for a power slam, and then walked into a kick and got hit by the Axe Bomber, which was a really lazy bit in something that was otherwise working. I guess the most interesting thing here was how clunky Hogan was. If they had gone and scrapped for five minutes with Yatsu's usual chip on his shoulder and Hogan standing tall, then went into that stretch, it would have been good, but this was Hogan-In-Japan and his matwork was really quite groanworthy. Everything took him so much effort, and not in a good way. The saving grace was that he was so big and so strong, especially relative to Yatsu that you could kind of buy and really couldn't look away from how he was just bullying holds into the place he wanted them because the technique was so, so lacking. At one point he had Yatsu's arm down and I had no idea what it was supposed to be. I'd call this a disappointment.

I'll write some closing thoughts on the half year plus of SWS that I saw here.

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I'm not too sure what to say about SWS. Some bullets.

  • By the time I hit March/April, it's a very interesting hybrid promotion with some big AJPW and NJPW names mixed with shootstyle guys mixed with WWF guys on the same cards. And that's just what we saw. We don't have Bushwhacker matches on tape, for instance.
  • I wish we had more on tape. It's not that many less matches than some of the months in 86 I watched NJPW but there are some misses I wish we had, stuff that you'd absolutely want to see but wouldn't expect to, like Sano vs Dandy and some things that not everyone would want to see, but I definitely would like Nagasaki vs Kabuki.
  • I liked seeing little variations. Tenryu could get a little more experimental in this setting and that meant things like the ten counts in the corner or some new moves or a little more choreography with Savage maybe. It meant little things like Kabuki sometimes wrestling wtihout the facepaint.
  • There's a bit of the proto WAR with stuff like the Brawler/Rochester Roadblock six man. Weird stuff like that. It's very cool to see the WWF guys in this setting now that I'm so much more familiar with the Japanese guys.
  • Sano stood out. George Takano didn't. Shunji Takano didn't miss a beat. I get the sense opportunities dry up and his weight continues to increase which is why he's in deathmatches a few years later but he still looked like the guy they should have gotten behind here instead of..
  • Kitao. It's not that he brought absolutely nothing to the table, but he brought very little at this level of competition. What an anchor dragging down the entire promotion, first in ring and then out. Sometimes the conventional wisdom is correct.
  • Both Dibiase vs Tenryu and, amazingly, Slaughter vs Warrior feel like standout gems that no one knew about. Savage vs Tenryu 2 doesn't get enough credit either. I'm really looking forward to getting back to the rest of 91 at some point. But that's very far away now.

Back to post-Tenryu AJPW then!

But first, bonus match! Mark told me it was the anniversary of Bock's first AWA title win and that got me wondering about who he faced in 76 and I saw Chris Taylor's name a few times. I wasn't too sure about him so I went to cagematch, saw he died at 29 in 79. Looked to see what matches of his existed (he's in the earliest Flair match on tape) and I found this Jumbo match. It's timecoded to the awesome dropkick btw.

Spoiler

 

Bonus Match: 12/3/76: Jumbo Tsuruta vs Chris Taylor: Taylor is a huge dude, maybe 6'5", 300 pounds sort of guy, but with a lot of muscle in there despite the beard. An athlete while also being huge. Kind of like an Otis maybe? He had faced Jumbo in the Olympics in Greco-Roman wrestling, which is very cool and he had these amazing fireman's carry takeovers that just fully used the heft and weight. Jumbo struggling to get a hold on him was very cool stuff. Clash of the Titans. Taylor wasn't afraid to really go over with his entire body when it was time to as well, even out of the ring. Jumbo won the first fall with an amazing top of the head missile dropkick and then got beaten down the second, losing to a big splash that I swear they called some sort of "Giant Sausage." Third fall had a comeback and spilled out to the floor where Taylor missed one and Jumbo just beat the count for the win. Post match they scrapped. Good stuff. I wish we had more from this guy. He would have been an amazing Backlund opponent for instance.

5/14/90: Baba/Jumbo vs Miracle Violence Connection: That's one way to deal with Tenryu leaving, teaming Jumbo and Baba in a super match like this. You both had the sense that Baba felt like he had to insert himself here higher on the card (maybe as he was seeing if the Misawa experiment would work) and that he was using this to help make Williams and Gordy. Gordy crashing into Baba and neither guy moving was almost mythic stuff. Williams, on the other hand, bumped like crazy all around the ring for Baba. There was another mythic sort of Gordy/Jumbo moment where they kept ducking clotheslines until Jumbo hit a massive one and the crowd exploded. It's nice to be back in All Japan where things can really get larger than life. This was very back and forth. If it ever got towards the Baba/Jumbo corner, they were able to reassert themselves and take back over (Baba had presence in stopping as submission on Jumbo just by standing there or throwing pissy kicks from the outside at one point). Meanwhile, Williams and Gordy were better at cutting off the ring. That meant Jumbo got to get at least one really big hot tag to Baba too. Finish was beautiful as Gordy just crushed Baba in the corner with a clothesline. Baba crumpled and looked like he wouldn't beat the count. Genius emotional stuff. He made it out, but then ate a power bomb of sorts and inexplicably kicked out, only to fall to a lariat a move later. This was about as AJPW-y a match as I could come back to, iconic stuff. Baba was a genius and he's welcomed me back with his gangly open arms.

Edited by Matt D
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5/14/90: Tiger Mask/Kawada vs Yatsu/Fuyuki: This is the mask where Tiger Mask gets unmasked by Kawada, mid match, and fights the rest of the match as Misawa. I imagine most people watching this were more excited by Footloose Explode~! though, at least until the mask comes off. After that, everything gets this wild, unhinged feel to it, which, as a match, gave it some structural issues, but no one cares about that. This was the start of something. We got a little bit of Kawada and Fuyuki early which was fun and heated, and then some real swiping in the back half. Kawada just felt different here. He and Fuyuki both had different gear so that might be part of it. But I think they just let him off the chain a bit more. He was able to believably dominate Yatsu and Fuyuki with kicks. Meanwhile, the two of them made a really good team, leaning in on Tiger Mask, headbutting him all over the place. Fuyuki had gained mass over the couple of the years and could bully with it. We're not going to get Fuyuki in this role, and we won't get a lot of Yatsu vs leveled up Kawada so it was good to see a taste of it all. I don't know if Misawa does anything particularly impressive after he loses the mask. The fans are shocked though, because they're so used to seeing a lot of the same and this is decidedly different. He throws a bunch of barely hitting front dropicks? There's some real wonkiness on the finish as you get the sense it should have ended with the frog splash but he had waited a while before hitting it and then he gets up as Yatsu is maybe late to break it up and then there's a roll up and a German and I don't know. I wouldn't call this an auspicious start but history also really doesn't care what I think about it, of course.

5/17/90: Jumbo/Kabuki vs Taue/Kawada: More leveled up Kawada and it's nice to see him against Kabuki here since that won't last either. I have no idea when Taue goes over to the other side but the stuff of him bullying Kabuki and him slugging very evenly with Jumbo were both good. At one point Jumbo gets the advantage on a forearm exchange and Taue does the sumo strikes all across the ring. The problem is that his stuff just doesn't hit quite strong enough yet, even with Jumbo beating him to a pulp outside of the ring or choking him before an Irish Whip to spur him on. He'll fall over when he throws a kick. His clothesline is low and not hard enough. That sort of thing. He's definitely getting there but he's behind. Also, just as a caveat, I'm still really getting used to the maximalist AJPW style after watching some other stuff, so bear with me as I get my legs underneath me again. A lot happens in these matches and the narrative is never the shortest line between two points.

Edited by Matt D
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Good question. I'm already eager to get back to NJPW 87 and more WWF-laden SWS, but there's a lot of fun looking stuff to come with AJPW too. If there's a clean break at the end of 1990, I might take it. Otherwise, I'll trust @KinchStalkeron when the best break point after that is. In general, I don't see myself getting too far past 1991, though. Maybe somewhere into 1992. But the bloat, for me, gets miserable years before it does for other people. I could see myself potentially following specific wrestlers (let's say Hansen who will probably push back against that as well as anyone? Maybe Kroffat?) forward, but I'm not sure.

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