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Matt Watches 1989 AJPW on a Treadmill


Matt D
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This is to keep myself honest as much as anything else. My wife wants to get in better shape. We've tried a bike and elliptical over the years and the decision was made that a Treadmill might work better, so we got a really nice one used, somehow got it back to the house and set it up, and now I'm going to do the thing to. As of now, I have 20-30 minutes every other day that I'm on the thing and needed something steady to watch (she's watching Hannibal right now). I had kind of hoped to do 82 Portland but the source was down when I started and it's really, really hard to collate anyway.

I've always enjoyed what I've seen of early 90s (90-91-92) AJPW more than mid or late 90s AJPW but I have only seen bits and pieces. So I decided to go forward with 89 AJPW which is probably almost completely new to me. I could have picked 87 AJPW, which made narrative since because the Revolution stuff kicks off then but that seemed too daunting. Plus, as much as I don't like the excess of later AJPW, the formlessness (poor or no transitions) and lack of finishes of earlier 80s AJPW tags gets annoying.

The plan is that I watch everything I can get my hands on, which is a lot. Everything, whether it's a 5 minute JIP or a 35 minute epic. I have very little context, so feel free to help. I am absolutely not going onto 93 no matter what, even if I somehow manage to finish 89-92. In that case, I would either go back to 87 or go on to NJPW of a comparable time period which is also something I have big holes with. 

There's only one thing I'm absolutely not going to watch, and that's any match with Dynamite Kid, because I loathe broken down 89 Dynamite Kid and his penchant to eat up opponents for 75% of the match. I'm not watching a single British Bulldogs match in this process and I will watch literally anything else. 

I'm going to post more 3 sentence impressions than full reviews because I don't have time for a major project really, just a minor one to keep me honest. It's early days for me so I'm just trying not to fall off the thing so I may miss things and certainly am not taking notes.

So far:

1/2/89 - Tenryu/Kawada vs Tenta/Takano: I'm most familiar with Takano from SWS, I think. All those weird shows with WWF talent. He's bigger than I remember, which might be because I'm used to seeing him with WWF guys. He and Tenta make a really cool monster team. Tenta had a good chunk of his act down: the space between his moves, just how much to give. He might have given just a little too much to some of Kawada's spin wheel kicks, or a little too soon in the process but that's minor. Really good finish with Tenta almost catching Tenryu but not quite managing it (in the kayfabe sense). 

1/2/89: Malenkos vs Kabuki/Fuchi: Very good wrestling. Joe looked like a total master with Dean having an explosiveness and flash he'd lose in his later career. It just wasn't the match I wanted. Malenkos had a lot of cool, innovative stuff but they took 2/3rds of this when I wanted Kabuki to beat the hell out of Dean and Fuchi to stretch him. Ah well.

1/9/89: Tenryu vs Mike Miller: I really don't have a great sense of 89 Tenryu yet. I'll get there. Miller looked really good here as a bullying heel. No specific thing stood out, but he was good at staying on Tenryu, who worked from underneath with some mean comeback strikes. Stylistically, I'd call this a good ten minute TV match (going back to some of he talks we were having earlier).

1/9/89: Jumbo/Yatsu vs Brian Adams/Spivey: Oof, Adams was not good here. I think he has some utility in 90 and is actively effective in 93, but he was nothing but a look here. Jumbo and Yatsu treated him like a force, including needing to use the double jumping knee to down him, but he couldn't really get guys up relative to his look. The strength just didn't seem there and focused, and his one attempt at a huge high spot, a twisting body press off the top was really bad, both in getting up and the impact. He didn't know how to work big and when he tried, he failed. Spivey, on the other hand, looked really sharp and had solid presence. 

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There are a few things that I know I'd love I hold in reserve in case something absolutely horrible happens and I need  something. We're talking major tragedy sort of events.

Reading The Big Sleep 

Playing Dragon Quest VI

And yeah, watching the first 2/3rds of 94 WCW. 

All things I have in wait in case I need them. Even in 2020, I'm not pulling that cord yet. 

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4 minutes ago, Matt D said:

There are a few things that I know I'd love I hold in reserve in case something absolutely horrible happens and I need  something. We're talking major tragedy sort of events.

Reading The Big Sleep 

Playing Dragon Quest VI

And yeah, watching the first 2/3rds of 94 WCW. 

All things I have in wait in case I need them. Even in 2020, I'm not pulling that 

I cannot fathom you have held on for this long, but good on you! You've got the French catch for now, and by the looks of things that's pretty much as much as anyone would need! Any '89 AJPW on top of that is just a bonus! Good luck on the treadmill! I hope you never need to pull that cord until like retirement boredom, or something?

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1 hour ago, Matt D said:

There are a few things that I know I'd love I hold in reserve in case something absolutely horrible happens and I need  something. We're talking major tragedy sort of events.

Reading The Big Sleep 

Playing Dragon Quest VI

And yeah, watching the first 2/3rds of 94 WCW. 

All things I have in wait in case I need them. Even in 2020, I'm not pulling that cord yet. 

I have similar things in my "the world is 2 seconds to midnight, the great filter is here, might as well have a pint until it blows up, or blows over" list.

 

Dragon Quest games in general, Xenosaga 1-3 on PS2.  Brandon Sanderson's newer books post Mistborn Trilogy.  WCW from before i was a super fan.  AJPW for historic reasons.  WWE from post Mania X7 until like the Mania where it was HBK/Cena.

Current TNA is also on the list just coz on paper it seems like they were tellin good stories...

 

However, I look forward to enjoying this as much as I enjoy Dolfan's mania rewatch 🙂

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Microwave popcorn is a relative rarity in Japan, but I found some in a kind of off-brand Costco called A-Price. Decided not to buy any just yet, though. Now I kind of wish I had. I think popcorn might go well with this thread (and as @Morganti points out, Dolfan's Mania thread).

 

I like eating while I'm reading more than I like eating while I'm watching matches.

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20 hours ago, Matt D said:

 

1/2/89 - Tenryu/Kawada vs Tenta/Takano: I'm most familiar with Takano from SWS, I think. All those weird shows with WWF talent. He's bigger than I remember, which might be because I'm used to seeing him with WWF guys. He and Tenta make a really cool monster team. Tenta had a good chunk of his act down: the space between his moves, just how much to give. He might have given just a little too much to some of Kawada's spin wheel kicks, or a little too soon in the process but that's minor. Really good finish with Tenta almost catching Tenryu but not quite managing it (in the kayfabe sense). 

 

Shunji Takano is also the brother of George "The Cobra" Takano.  According to Wikipedia, they ran a promotion together (Pro Wrestling Crusaders) from '92 through '94.

I agree that Tenta was already a pretty damned good big man worker in '89. I'd go so far as to say that he was a great big man by '94, giving the supremely enjoyable tags with Vader against Albright and Yamazaki as my primary evidence.

Also according to Wikipedia, Shunji and Tenta were a team in the '88 Tag League.

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17 hours ago, Morganti said:

I have similar things in my "the world is 2 seconds to midnight, the great filter is here, might as well have a pint until it blows up, or blows over" list.

 

Dragon Quest games in general, Xenosaga 1-3 on PS2.  Brandon Sanderson's newer books post Mistborn Trilogy.  WCW from before i was a super fan.  AJPW for historic reasons.  WWE from post Mania X7 until like the Mania where it was HBK/Cena.

Current TNA is also on the list just coz on paper it seems like they were tellin good stories...

 

However, I look forward to enjoying this as much as I enjoy Dolfan's mania rewatch 🙂

Brandon Sanderson when Joe Abercrombie is RIGHT THERE?

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6 hours ago, Eivion said:

The talk of Tenta makes me curious as to why he headed for WWF instead of staying in AJPW. Being a trueborn I figured he could have had a decent spot for himself in the 90s.

It was at least partly because of his dad. John's dad loved pro wrestling, but couldn't watch his son's matches from Japan. He came back to Canada to wrestle in Vancouver All Star wrestling, which was still technically part of the NWA and still had national TV in Canada at that time. That's where I met him, and that's where he got the call to go to the WWF. John was always happy when he dad came out to the matches in Cloverdale. He told me his dad never saw any of his amateur wrestling or sumo bouts, but loved to watch him wrestle pro style.

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1/9/89: Footloose vs Malenkos: We just get the last five minutes of this one. It's a real shame too because this action's really good. I've seen a few Footloose matches but I really don't have a great sense of Fuyuki. It was fun watching him kick Malenkos in the face though. Dean shined here. Explosive run of their signature suplexes (Fisherman's, Nothern Lights) before the double team dropkick into a fallaway slam. Joe's bump over the top to help set up the finish was absolutely wild.

1/20/89 Masa Fuchi vs Joe Malenko for the title: This was the good stuff. They wrestled pretty evenly on the mat to start, with Fuchi so good at both working underneath and on top by constantly struggling, constantly reaching around to create an opportunity or cut off an opportunity for Malenko. Joe kept up for the most part. Fuchi was really masterful at reacting to what was happening (I wouldn't call it human chess with him three moves instead, but what it was instead was still very compelling). Ultimately, he carried the advantage and it was obvious Joe couldn't get the best of him, so instead, he switched to suplexes, and here he held the advantage. They built and protected both the German and the Northern Lights. If Fuchi had hit the German clean, it would have been over, even if in one or two moves, but Joe, desperately, got his feet up on the ropes and they both went tumbling back. Two moves later, with that previously avoided Northern Lights, and Joe had the title. 

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Fuchi/Malenko is great in its simplicity. Fuchi wrestles a style I really enjoy, tight matwork, stiff slaps, and some real jerk moves. I'm stoked to watch along with this when I can, I've seen some '89 All Japan but not nearly enough.

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1/23/89 Yatsu/Jumbo vs Tenryu/Kawada

This match has amazing storytelling surrounding Kawada. I don't want to say it's amazing storytelling by Kawada, though it is, but the environment and the other three wrestlers are so important (even if I'm not going to talk about them and how great and grumpy all of these guys are against each other), that it's just hard to pull it apart. It is centered upon Kawada though. It flows through him, as a plucky, defiant underdog. He swims upstream in the river that is the AJPW sense of hierarchy. He overreaches constantly. Early on, he refuses to break clean. He throws brazen slaps right in the face of his hierarchical betters, gets beaten down and comes back. As the match goes on, Jumbo and Yatsu really take over on him. I think they go almost too hard with this part, including a spike pile-driver that should have probably come later in the match. The crowd is very much behind him and his constant but futile resilience. When Kawada does roll into a tag, Tenryu lets him back in almost immediately, because he wants revenge. He's cut off very quickly and the beating continues. He's able to avert a pile-driver on the floor and is saved by Tenryu a few times. As the match goes on, it's obvious that it'll be very difficult to put Kawada away without dealing with Tenryu, so Jumbo basically tosses Kawada into him and launches a cheapshot as he forces the tag. The numbers game wins out and they have Tenryu in a precarious position with Yatsu repeatedly using his kneeling leglock. This, more so than Kawada's early pluck or never-say-die attitude during the beatdown was the moment that shined the most for me. Kawada comes in again and again to try to break the hold, but he's just got so little left and Yatsu is such a force. Eventually, though, in this heroic moment of the understudy saving his mentor, he manages it, just throwing everything at he has at Yatsu, and then, in the moment of glory, launches the least cooperative German Suplex you'll see. It's a huge moment of triumph, yet also one that feels solely unique in wrestling. Unfortunately, Tenryu is diminished and Jumbo is fresh and after a last burst of defiance by Kawada, including a huge rope break after a knee and a very believable roll-up, Jumbo crushes him with a belly to back and that's it. Seeing this now, having seen a good deal of Kawada's later work, it's so obvious how a match like this places into the being he would become. He worked so hard to just have a seat at the table here. How dare Misawa deny him his destiny later on, etc. Apparently these guys have a higher touted match in February too, so I have that to look forward to.

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Yeah, that's a pretty tried and true formula for AJPW tags. I've said it before, but nobody does hierarchy better than AJPW and while it has some drawbacks, it really comes through in tag matches, particularly ones like these in which it's 1A/4 v 1B/3. They beat the shit out of the guy lowest on the totem pole so the star has to come in and gets eventually worn out. That sort of intelligent attrition is awesome to watch. 

And Kawada is the only person in wrestling history who matches Hokuto's level of defiance. Probably exceeds it. It's his greatest strength and probably why they were so reluctant to pull the trigger on him beating Misawa. 

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11 hours ago, Jiji said:

Yeah, that's a pretty tried and true formula for AJPW tags. I've said it before, but nobody does hierarchy better than AJPW and while it has some drawbacks, it really comes through in tag matches, particularly ones like these in which it's 1A/4 v 1B/3. They beat the shit out of the guy lowest on the totem pole so the star has to come in and gets eventually worn out. That sort of intelligent attrition is awesome to watch. 

And Kawada is the only person in wrestling history who matches Hokuto's level of defiance. Probably exceeds it. It's his greatest strength and probably why they were so reluctant to pull the trigger on him beating Misawa. 

I'm curious to see how this works out as I watch from week to week (or at least month to month) and look at as much as I can. I'm looking for both diminishing returns and for additive continuity here. Trends, patterns, etc. 

With Kawada, his defiance grows and changes as he does, while still being unmistakably defiance, which seems pretty remarkable and isn't really the sort of thing we think about in a wrestler's career, especially over so short a relative period of time. 

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That Fuchi/Malenko match is a cool little bout. You won't see too many more bouts like that after '89. It was kind of a Fuchi special, but it felt like a match you could only see in the 80s. Fuchi went on to have a few more years of delivering bouts like that and then the TV slot change happened and this style of bout petered out. Malenko was kind of a unique worker as well. Not too many workers like him came along after '89. 

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1/25/89 Joe Malenko vs Mighty Inoue: This was JIP around 5 minutes, I think and we definitely miss those five minutes. Inoue has a really nice deathlock combo, where he shifts it from one form to another, though there's a sense after Malenko hits his first suplex (just a standing vertical) that he's just trying to contain him on the mat. With that in mind and the bits of struggle we do see, I think the first five minutes would have some of the more interesting matwork. It ends very abruptly just as things are escalating, which protects Joe in the loss, I guess, but he probably doesn't entirely need protection given that he was apparently just the most transitional of transitional champs. I could see come controversy in the finish but I don't think it leads anywhere. If this was 1998 WCW, it'd lead to a cool triple threat feud between Fuchi, Malenko, and Inoue where Inoue would have to defend the belt against both of them on the same PPV one after the other or something. 

1/25/89: Jumbo vs Spivey: Not great, no. The positives were that Jumbo was very giving for Spivey and especially the early bits where Jumbo couldn't figure out how to knock Spivey down except for with the jumping knee. They did that twice and it got over both Spivey and the Jumping Knee, which is just good pro wrestling. It's hard not to compare Spivey to Hansen as the big guy you can't knock down, but there's no comparison. Spivey was a little more athletic in that he could hit dropkicks which were striking, and he had plenty of "stuff," but he was also far more passive and had far less presence. It really wasn't compelling to see Jumbo try to control him so early with the chinlock or Spivey go to the bear hug so much. That might have worked in a twenty minute match but it wasn't so great in a ten minute match. I do think it's good for Jumbo to win with a roll up out of nowhere now and again as that rounds him out as a threat and an Ace. 

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i found the Jumbo/Yatsu vs. Tenryu/Kawada match a bit frustrating. Hierarchy is great and everything, but it's simply a reflection of the hierarchy that existed in real life and an aspect of Japanese culture that permeated numerous other stories. It's not something that was special to All Japan. Any wrestler in Kawada's position would have taken that beating regardless of the promotion. And to be honest, it wasn't much of a beating. This was a month after Kawada's iconic performance against Hansen and Gordy. Here we got more of the same, but it wasn't as good. In the end, it felt academic. Yatsu and Jumbo's reaction summed it up -- a couple of high fives, now it's time to clock off. What bothered me most was you had Tenryu vs. Jumbo, one of the greatest rivalries ever, and all of the focus went on Kawada. To me that's almost chicken shit. If I'm Jumbo, I'm telling Kawada to get the fuck out of the ring because it's Tenryu I want. Not a bad match, but a bit half baked considering what they could have done with it. 

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