Antonio Inoki vs Tatsumi Fujinami (08/08): It was a gruelling 60 minutes of struggling to gain the upperhand. Inoki probably controlled more than Fujinami (60-40) but, Fujinami had youth on his side. Just an amazing display of endurance and athleticism and a perfect story showing the fighting spirit, strong style and NJPW leading up in essence to this very match. It's not really an ending but the continuation. The clips really helped get this across especially after the match. The definitive strong style match, the definitive epic, a must-see.
Re-watch: 54 minute version..I swore that I had the full version but, we don't miss too much. 60 grueling minutes of wrestling action is right! I really don't think this was planned out at all! In a good way Both guys just fought over holds, working in strikes and suplexes when they could find an opportunity. This was amazing and organic. But, this was Inoki strong style and that is Pro Wrestling as the strongest of all martial arts. This is the perfect example of that (disregarding mix style matches). This was student proving that he was the true IWGP champion and the equal to the legend and hero that's Antonio Inoki. All that being said, I'm not fond of long matches anymore. So, I would probably have this as my #3 NJPW 1988 classic behind Fujinami vs Choshu and Inoki vs Choshu. But a must see classic nonetheless! Glad that I took time to watch this again.
Thanks for reading!
Stay safe folks
We are closing in on the epic battle between Tatsumi Fujinami and Antonio Inoki on August 8th. Let's see what else is going on in New Japan at the time...
Buzz Sawyer/Manny Fernandez vs Riki Choshu/Masa Saito (7/22) Short clip of just the finish. Everyone looked pretty cool and like skull crushers.
Next, the TV program shows us a recap of the events leading to the Fujinami/Inoki encounter. Some I've covered in previous posts while some footage is new to me. Riki vs Vader looks particularly interesting. This match and others are available but, I didn't happen to pick that disc up at the time. Anyhow, we're now properly excited for the showdown.
Shiro Koshinaka vs Kuniaki Kobayashi (8/08): Both men wrestled like they wanted to steal the show from the headliners. Never a dull moment and I recant my statement from an earlier post- these guys are awesome opponents for one another. It reminded me of Misawa vs Kawada in '92 - move sets that emphasize action while not minimizing the importance of leverage based pinning predicaments near the end. Wow, that's specific! But, that's what's so great about late 80's and early 90's junior style. They would go for flashy moves but, would return to time tested cradles and bridging suplexes for the win. This reminds us that the wrestler is there to pin or submit his opponent first and foremost. Later, of course, the flash would be the finish and the match becomes a game of 'one upping each other.' Anyhow, this was a great match. Probably the best Jr. bout shown in '88 thus far AND probably the longest. It clocked in at about 9 minutes.
Bam Bam Bigelow vs Big Van Vader (8/08) Vader attacks Bigelow with the helmet smoke! Hell yes! The battle of the bulldozers is on! And it doesn't stop until the final bell is sounded. We get an expected 80's finish but, that does not diminish anything that occurs prior. Vader and Bam Bam were able to be athletic and really sell the idea that Big Van had met his equal in the Beast from the East. A very good match for sure! And its shown in full. Nice!
Next time, we see if Fujinami vs Inoki lives up to the '88 and historical hype. We'll see if it lives up to my memory as well!
Thanks for reading!
A little bit of a delay in posting this what with the pandemic being a bit of a distraction and all. Nevertheless, we push forward with NJPW 1988!
Buzz Sawyer & Manny Fernandez vs Super Strong Machine & Kuniaki Kobayashi (07/05): I'm going to go with this date although I'm not 100% sure. Who cares though? Its Manny & Buzz smashing skulls and Super Strong Machine, the most iconic NJ wrestler that most people haven't seen more than 3 matches of! Me included! Well, this is a finish only match but, I'm going to add it to my tally. Wrestling-wise Buzz & Manuel do some nice heelin' and double teamin' which made me really push for the Riki-gun team comeback. Very good stuff from what was shown. Helluva lot better than the Gaspar Bros. match!
Kengo Kimura vs Riki Choshu (07/09): This was just about complete, yay! A fast and exciting match. Way moreso than you thought Kengo vs Riki in '88 would be. Kengo is getting phased out from what I can tell but, man he's going for broke against Riki. As a reminder, this is a round robin match to face Fujinami in August so, there is a lot at stake. That what really makes this so very good..plus Inoki is on commentary. And damn you'd better believe he gets up in the mix post match. Ric Flair style too - shirtless & in dress slacks! This match and post match were just a blast.
Masa Saito vs Big Van Vader (07/22): I have the TV version which is pretty much the last few minutes but, I was able to locate the full version via handheld on Youtube. You're not missing a lost classic with the handheld...let me say that much. There's some nice slams and Vader took some sick bumps for a man his size. Good match and Vader tantrums afterwards No way I would say that to his face...he'd toss me like a fucking guardrail.
Riki Choshu vs Antonio Inoki (07/22): The clear main event and reason Vader vs Saito was clipped. Choshu is so amped to get at Antonio that he won't let the big chinned hero in the ring for introductions. He's like a junk yard dog walking the perimeter of the ring, blocking Inoki, getting into his head before the bout begins. And when the bell sounds, it is on! Inoki out-wrestles the rebel Riki and we see that for once, he is the underdog. This is a scramble, this is a fight, I love it. Loaded with intensity and explosiveness...its on the short list of great sub 10 minute matches. Hell, for its sense of urgency, intensity, story, and finish...it is a classic.
I've never heard anything about this bout but, man I was glad it was included on my DVD set. If you've been watching any of these matches or like that Riki Choshu Strong Style then, you'll want to see it.
Next time, we've got more Manny & Buzz, a return to Jr. action and more! Thank you for reading!
Stay safe and be smart out there wrestling fans!
Let's look at Part 5 of New Japan in 1988!
Kuniaki Kobayashi vs Shiro Koshinaka (06/26): Kobayashi is such a badass. He just rips up the title match declaration and hassles the official. This is a key match up with the Junior captains of the NJPW and Riki teams. That being said, this is the longest Jr. match shown on TV thus far and is very good stuff. Move-wise this is not as fast paced or innovative as some other bouts however, the simple suplexes and pinning combinations felt really important and dire. Its very scrappy and the crowd eats it up. Its hard not too just dig this match. Very good bout!
Tatsumi Fujinami vs Big Van Vader (06/26): NJ Vader was such a monster in damn near every way that matters. Fujinami is as capable and tough a wrestler as you can ask for and Vader just destroys him with power slams and splashes. Fujinami has technical victories over B.V.V. but, we may just chalk those up to luck or smarts. Vader is not going to leave anything up to luck or give The Dragon a chance to be clever this time. Perhaps unwisely, Tatsumi wants to prove that he's a real champion and slay the monster...This is a great title fight and probably the best Vader match thus far. I've seen this match a few times over the years but, it was fresh and exciting like it was my first go around. Take 15 minutes and check this out.
To end this post, we see a confrontation between Vader and Inoki along with Kengo Kimura, Riki Choshu, and Masa Saito that takes place on 07/15. It features a nice sequence or two of Inoki and Vader getting into it. Antonio shows he's ready for the big man to give it his best shot. Doing a little looking ahead, this sets the stage for a summer round robin to see who will face Fujinami at the 08/08 show (you may have a guess). Nevertheless, I want to see the matches, man! That's a pretty stacked line-up.
Next time, we'll see some matches from this round robin plus Buzz Sawyer and Manny Fernandez kick butt!
Thank for reading!
Back for part 4 of New Japan 1988! This is also my 150th blog entry so, I'm pretty excited. I'm doubly happy because late 80's Puro was one of the big focuses of Puro + More and I'm keeping things relatively true to my original intentions.
Well, that's all good but, you came here to read and learn about '88 New Japan! So, let's get down to it
Owen Hart vs Keiichi Yamada (06/10): Very nice leg attacks from Yamada but, Owen's not concerned with that. Too bad but, eh let's assume it didn't really 'hurt.' Nevertheless, Yamada adjusts his game plan to deal with the acrobatic Canadian...and we get a real Jr. wrestling treat. 7 minutes or so shown and it was very good stuff. You can see from this and the last NJ entry that Owen Hart was getting the spotlight in the Juniors division. I can't recall if they wanted him to be a new Dynamite Kid but, I know Bret's autobiography talks in some detail of NJPW's interest in Owen especially in '88. He eventually leaves to go to the WWF for a short time only to return a few years later in 1991 where he & Yamada (as Liger) have some great matches. I wonder what if Owen stayed in NJ for the Super Junior explosion of the 1990's. We may have missed out on a few classics in WWF but, how many more would we have seen if stayed? Owen vs Sasuke and vs Ultimo are a couple that would have been dream bouts.
Masa Saito & Big Van Vader vs The Gaspar Brothers (06/24): The Gaspars are Bob Orton Jr. and Dan Moffat/Jason the Terrible (from Stampede and not the guy who Quinones got to play Jason in the IWA, W*ING, etc). That being said this has a very sleazy indy vibe which is a lot of fun especially since Vader isn't selling shit for two guys dressed like Jason and Tiger Jeet Singh has twins. Its too short to rate but, funny goofy stuff.
Shiro Koshinaka vs Owen Hart (06/24): Belt is on the line (I think Owen won it from Yamada if I remember...no matter either way) and like most TV stuff this is Joined in Progress and we get 6+ minutes. That shortage of footage is the bummer but, what we get is gold. Good focus from Owen who is looking to weaken Koshinaka's back. Kosh of course has a comeback like Pulp Fiction Travolta but, can the Canuck counter it? This was great from what was shown...I mean it was better than great...it was awesome (but) I don't have the full match...the beginning could be the shits. But man, this JIP version was something to see. Owen and Shiro were doing state of the art stuff here.
Now...those boys at the TV production office must have had good reason to do a snip job on that banger of a match...let's see...
Tatsumi Fujinami vs Riki Choshu (06/24): Remember their last encounter where Fujinami blazed Choshu from the start but, his body broke down? Keep that in mind. Riki Choshu is like the Terminator (from the first film). He is an unstoppable killing machine. He's not going to allow Tatsumi a chance to make good on his assault style offense. He's going to push past whatever his foe throws at him in order to crush, kill, destroy. Fujinami, is like Kyle Reese though. He knows Riki better than anyone and knows if he can stay one step ahead then, he might be able to trick and trap his opponent. If not then, there is a Riki Lariat with his name on it. This was timeless stuff to me. A heavenly dream battle...great grappling, wonderfully engaging storytelling, and a real sense of rivalry. Once blood begins to flow then, you know this is something truly special. Best match of the project thus far without a doubt.
Whew! I was not expecting the one-two punch of Owen/Koshinaka & Fujinami/Choshu. I was fanning out for sure...I'm glad that we got that epic Strong Style clash in full. Although, they could have given the Junior bout a couple more minutes and cut out the Gaspar match but, I'm just thinking out loud
Excellent way to commemorate my 150th blog post. Can't wait for a 150 more! But one step at a time...Post 151 and NJPW 1988 part 5 coming soon!
Thanks for reading!! Go watch some wrestling
I took a small break from my New Japan 1988 project to cherry pick a few Golden Era Ring of Honor matches that I had been wanting to see.
The theme I guess would be Samoa Joe and Bryan Danielson but, KENTA is in two of the three matches. So its really Joe, Danielson plus KENTA matches that I wanted to see AND are free on ROH's Youtube channel. I've had these bookmarked for months and been waiting to see for more than a decade. There's no time like the present to check these out!
Samoa Joe vs Bryan Danielson (ROH Title, Midnight Express Reunion 2004): I've seen their 2003 match and heard that this was their best. It is considered a classic and in 2004 with the storyline of Joe post Punk encounter #1, I can see giving it that status. I'm not going to take that away in honesty because, I'm sure there are wrinkles that I've missed in 2020. That being said, I thought as a stand alone title fight this was very good (and perhaps great). I think the story was Dragon trying to force Joe to go long (like Punk had) but, also try to systematically dismantle the champ. That and Danielson post NJPW tour could hit with the hardest so, Joe didn't stand a chance. However, the Samoan Submission machine was in Terminator mode not only eating what Danielson was throwing but, dishing out some sickening blows himself and possession "the choke" or Coquina Clutch as TNA would brand it,
I've read comparisons to 90's AJPW and I can see that as there were few slams and suplexes compared to strikes and submissions. Where this differs is the organization department. Most notably Joe's need to fit in the Ole kicks 2/3rds of the way in. This is the point where my excitement went off track. Each guy was desperate to close the fight and now Joe finds it necessary to do his showboat/insult move? He should have just faked it out and just chest kicked Danielson or something more visceral. And that's the thing... the match was at a gut level violent...like Tsuruta vs Tenryu then, Joe (and I don't really blame him in '04) inserts an Indy fan service move. A bit of wind went out of my sails.
My other quibble is Danielson's attack psychology. The awful 2004 announcers (whom I muted on the 2nd watch) even acknowledge the change in gameplan. This is so heavy handed on their part frankly...they're explaining rather than letting the wrestler do so with their actions. Anyhow, I would have preferred a Liger-like focus from Bryan on Joe's leg or neck early on then settle into the middle of the match only to call-back to that to set up the ending portion...even if it would not lead to the finish. Instead, it doesn't seem like he can commit to a single plan of focus and neither can Joe from a selling standpoint. So, the story of the challenger doesn't come across as strongly as it should have,
Those things would have made this an all time classic in my eyes...I think this was the time where Gabe S. was really pushing the long matches = great match ideology for ROH. The above flaws would have been less bothersome if this was 5 -10 minutes shorter. Not that it NEEDED to be but, they story would have been tighter and the earlier portion would have look less like time-filler. Nevertheless, I watched the damn thing twice in two days and enjoyed it both times so, I gotta recommend watching this.
Samoa Joe vs KENTA vs Bryan Danielson (In Your Face 2006): This is another match that I'd been wanting to see for a decade plus. I'd seen clips from the ROH Live Wire from another DVD and thought this looked awesome but, perhaps too good to be true. I was wrong. This was precisely the match I'd hoped it would be. A high intensity, ultra stiff action packed 3 way match during their peak.Honestly, 2006 was the peak of their peak and this was special. A classic match that doesn't go too long or get too cute. Perhaps an all time classic if I'm going to be honest with myself. The shorter match length (20+ minutes I think) kept everything mean and showing how much Joe & Bryan had improved in just over a year...and ROH for that matter.
Naomichi Marufuji & KENTA vs Samoa Joe & Bryan Danielson (Best In the World 2006): I watched this bout right after the above and if you have the luxury, I suggest you do the same. It plays off of (and in real time sets-up) the heat between Joe & KENTA beautifully. Not only that but, we have 4 of the best wrestlers in 2006 facing off and this is probably the closest to a AJPW Big 4 match as ROH did. Some have given this **** but, that's the bare minimum in my view. This match deviated from the balls to the wall fest that many were hoping for and instead provided all kinds of build ups and cool-downs that only master wrestlers can do. And I'm not talking about kickouts but, they achieved this by scaling up the intensity and urgency through body language, speeds, how hard they through their strikes, when they chose to tag, etc. It was a thing of beauty and like all true classics, I could have watched this all night. Even when a error was made, it was forgiven and forgotten as a miss rather than a mistake. If you are a fan of these guys and this style, check this out. You may not think as highly of it as me but, you will have fun.
That goes for all of the above! Three remarkable matches available for free on ROH's 'tube page. I'd like to get the DVDs of the ones featuring the NOAH guys since I'm old school but, if not I'm stoked that I saw them.
Thanks for reading! We'll get back to NJPW 1988 next week for sure!
We're back and on to Part 3 of New Japan in 1988! I've got a crappy cold right now so, let's see if I can get it together enough to write this entry without a hundred typos.
Tatsumi Fujinami vs Big Van Vader (04/27): My compilation has this listed as their 05/08 match but, it follows the multi-man elimination match from 04/27 (see previous entry) and a couple other points of research show this as their April match. That outta the way, this was all kinds of exciting. Fujinami knows he's got to take it to the Mastadon right from the start if he has any chance. Inoki got killed on the 01/04 shows because he was treating B.V. Vader as a normal "big man." Fujinami's plan is working until he gets gorilla press dropped onto a guardrail...throat first! From here Vader chokes and torment The Dragon...Fujinami is really fighting to survive. His "plan" is shot to shit and any comeback seems to enrage Vader. Be on the look out for the cross body block that damn near kills both guys. We get a "finish" but, its only the beginning!
Next we get a little video package explaining the UWF 2.0 split. We even see clips of Maeda vs Yamazaki. With that I'm going to insert a match that I found on Youtube that happens earlier in the year...
Nobuhiko Takada vs Hiroshi Hase (02/05): This is the precursor to their March classic (see part 1 of series). This is a very good to great match - and I would have to say Hase's selling of the story is what makes this special. His comeback/revenge submissions are really choice! Look up Hase '88 and you should find this match no problem
OK now back to May 1988!
The TV footy jumps us way into Fujinami vs Vader (05/08) and this is all fire! Both guys are pissed and we get 6-7 of the final minutes. Sweet! Its 80's footage so, I'll take what I can get!
Koshinaka vs Hase (05/27): They show this like its a JIP match but, we really only get the final 2 minutes of the match but, we get a clean exciting finish. Nice! Not enough shown to really rate.
Owen Hart vs H. Hase (05/27): JIP with Owen stuck in the Scorpion lock but, soon enough he finds his way out. Hase is a destroyer in '88 and isn't giving the Canadian a chance. 5 minutes shown, very good stuff.
Tatsumi Fujinami vs Riki Choshu (05/27): We get this in full thankfully! Fujinami is picking Choshu apart to the point where he's bleeding early on. If you know Choshu, he's one big move away from his comeback. What's interesting is that Fujinami injures his ankle (a twist from an earlier move? Or is this the story!?) and Rik is on it like a pirahna. The Dragon will not quit in true fighting spirit...when he gets his Dragon Sleeper on, you know he's not letting go! Great dramatic match that is only one battle in the war.
Check these matches out and thanks for reading! I'm gonna go get a cough drop and go to bed...
Back for the second installment of my adventure in 1988 New Japan land! We are now in uncharted territory...ooohh spooky...Well, not too spooky although Vader's entrance head apparatus is some kinda Geiger stuff.
The big change is that the 2nd UWF split has gone down so, Maeda, Takada, Yamazaki, and Fujiwara have left again. So, the emphasis of the promotion from what I gather is Riki Choshu's army vs New Japan's army. And then Vader being an absolute monster who cannot be stopped even by Inoki!
Let's see what's going on...
Riki Choshu & H. Hase vs Antonio Inoki & S. Koshinaka (04/11): Oh man, even the ring intros are heated! Then, TV picks back up and Team Riki are looking to demolish Koshinaka. Great tag wrestling from them. Inoki is playing the spoiler of their fun but isn't necessarily out for blood. I would have liked a minute or two at the end but, this was a good match and a proper start to my new batch of matches.
Then the DVD set shows fallout after it appears Fujinami and Inoki lose to Vader & Masa Saito. Some shouting and a couple stiff slaps and we've got some set-up to the August showdown between Icon & Ace of NJPW.
Keiichi Yamada & S. Koshinaka vs Kuniaki Kobayashi & H. Hase (04/22): Tons of excitement here as these two athletic teams go at it! Hase and Koshinaka potato'ing each other was a highlight. However, Kobayashi's stumbling piledriver on the floor was righteous...I just wish it led to something greater...oh man...It looked so good! Yamada is the one really selling this match and if everyone else wanted to then, this would have been a great match. But, I can understand...this was a blast nonetheless. Very good bout with a nice finish.
So, the above bout sets-up a 5-on-5 elimination match between the rank and file of NJ Army vs Riki Army
Akira Nogami, Tatsutoshi Goto, K. Yamada, K. Hoshino & S. Koshinaka vs Hiroshi Hase, K. Kobayashi, Kensuke Sasaki, N. Honaga & H. Saito (04/27): These are all TV matches I've figued out so, there is some JIP and unfortuately, we get some here. I say that because, we start out with Hase already bleeding. That is BIG as he's at the top of the food chain in this match. So, it looks like NJ already has a leg up however, they quickly get two of their guys eliminated. We get a commercial break and New Japan has got Hase in there looking to get revenge. Mind you, eliminations can happen by pin, submission, or getting tossed to the floor. We're saying you can even get tossed through the middle rope and be out! So, believe me the action picks up fast and we get some big surprises. Its a 2 on 1 situation at the end and man! It is a nail-biter! The tension was so high as any mistake could lead to a elimination. Great match and in full, it could be a near classic. About 14 minutes shown.
Things are picking up and I'm having fun with 1988. More to come next time with Vader vs Fujinami and more.
Thanks for reading!!!
This has been a project I've been waiting to do for quite sometime. My busy season with work is all done and we've finally finished moving into our house. Sure, there are tons of boxes and bags full of stuff that we need to unpack, sort, and put away. That can wait though!
I want to get back to wrestling and specifically 1980's puroresu! New Japan 1988 is my first stop. I'm somewhat acquainted with this year from my Nobuhiko Takada comps and the 8/8/88 Inoki vs Fujinami bout. I'm going to start the year with reviews from my "vault" but, I will scratch the surface a bit more as I progress.
(01/11): Keiichi Yamada vs. Masakatsu Funaki- This one was full of sound mat wrestling and some punishing holds. The best part was seeing shooter supreme doing pro-style moves! Its totally fresh and interesting to see this mat master to hit these moves. Funaki is darn good at it too! A fun match and bit of late 80's juniors gem. A match made me declare Damn! Liger's my favorite wrestler! *** 3/4
(01/25) Nobuhiko Takada vs Kazuo Yamazaki - Yes! finally the strong style match I knew they could do! Awesome work by Yamazaki and Takada lets go of his ego and plays the vulnerable young ace to Yamazaki's perenial yet gutsy underdog. This is the Yamazaki match to watch...well every Yamazaki is worthwhile but even moreso here because like 9/11/85 he's allowed to compete. The joint locks and holds are sold like killer moves as all worked shoots really rely on. This plays really well off the May & Sept. '87 tag matches. ****+probably higher.
(02/04) Takada vs Shiro Koshinaka - This started out pretty good but they were getting too complex with their spots & they weren't hitting them how they wanted. It started picking back up but there was a glitch in the DVD on my player so I turned it off. I was not into it what can I say. It's worth a re-watch.
(02/04) Hiroshi Hase vs. Keiichi Yamada- A fun, smart, well wrestled match. Each man picked his opponent apart as best they could. Of course Yamada had his moves from the top rope but, Hase surprised me with some of his maneuvers. He was pretty brutal as he was still a protoge of Riki Chosu. This of course wasn't the classic one would hope for but, it was pretty good stuff. I just wish it could have gone on longer as it was just starting to pick up when it ended. That's really the only knock on this match but, this tendency to go-home around 10 minutes is an 80's Jrs. thing. ***1/2
(03/11): Nobuhiko Takada vs Hiro Hase - I was expecting a mat wrestling clinic but um...we didn't get that. That's OK though since both guys brought their A game and Takada wasn't stalling here and Hase was his great self albeit a bit in a heel/Choshu mode which was very cool because Takada seemed quite vulnerable. Expectations aside, this was an awesome match with great performances by both men and a match that goes on their highlight reel. These last couple of matches have really saved Takada for me because he was really getting in a rut in the summer of '87... and shows Takada really wanting to go out of NJPW with a bang. Another piece of evidence that the UWF guys or Takada at least was best against NJPW guys. It allowed him to fluff off their "fake" offence, allowed them to really put over the holds as near-finishes since they weren't experienced "shooters", it provided unorthodox sequences and rope running scenarios and the made so much out of the "fake" offence when it did connect. In essence, showing that the puro moves were in fact just as deadly as a head kick or armbar. In other words no one's style was discredited as they were simply different points on the same continuum which is a big part of what makes Inoki Strong Style so great when done right ****1/2+
(03/14) Takada/Yamazaki vs Yamada/Funaki - You know the more I see Yamada without the Liger gimmick the more I wish they hadn't given it to him. He is fucking amazing in every match on this set. The same with Yamazaki. He really pulls himself out of the UWF mold at times and he's damn capable & quite underrated. It's a shame that he stuck around UWFi to get jobbed out. Forget that though. I ignore that now that I've seen these matches. He plays a great babyface who's capable but just not always "good" enough to get that big win. Here the story broadens as the German suplex is his trusty match ender and separates him from the others or at least defines him a bit. He doesn't have the aura of Maeda, Fujiwara or Takada but, he's a contender. Anyhow, this was another damn good tag match with a young Masakatsu Funaki which is funny because we all know how legitimately great he would become & how brutal he could get (7/89 UWF match for that).
(04/11 handheld) Keiichi Yamada & Masa Funaki vs. Anotonio Inoki - This is kind of like a 2 on 1 elimination match but, turns into a regular 2 on 1...I guess because the junior want to beat Inoki and the big-chinned one can beat 2 guys at once. Its a quick fun match taped from a fan's camcorder in a gymnasium. If you're a fan of these guys then you'll get a kick out of this one. Its not worth searching out for at like 10 miuntes but, it's a nice inclusion on a compilation.
So, I hope that got you pumped to check some of this stuff out! There are definitely some must see match ups. I'll pick back up with Choshu & Hase vs Inoki & Koshinaka TV match from 04/11/88 next time and we'll go from there.
Thanks for sticking with me during the hiatus and thanks for reading!
It is that time of year where everyone compiles all of the best and worst stuff of the year. In this case, I'm talking about wrestling and I am no different from every other wrestle dork on the inter-web. I take a slightly different approach than most because more often than not, I don't keep up with current wrestling. So, I can't provide a match of the year (MOTY) or anything like that...even though I saw a couple of ROH matches that I thought were great. I'm pretty sure those aren't ending up on folks lists though
Anyhow, I'm doing my Best Match Watched list for 2019 which are the best matches of any year that I've watched in the past 365 days. This probably won't be the longest list since I started the blog since we were moving this year and had to sell our house BUT I've got some matches that I haven't blogged about that I think are worthy contenders so, I might surprise myself. So, to start let's go back to the half way point of the year and recap from my June post:
-Hans Schmidt vs Yukon Eric - Chicago Wrestling (circa 1958): Simple, brutal wrestling - the ropes break, part of the ring breaks. Classic shit.
-Wahoo McDaniel vs Greg Valentine - JCP (1977): Near classic hard-hitting bout and angle.
-Rick Martel vs Nick Bockwinkel - AWA (1984): The in-ring work, the story, this is a classic.
-AKIRA vs Kenny Omega - NJPW Best of the Super Jrs. (2010): Another 'not a classic but great match.'
-Prince Devitt vs Gedo - NJPW Best of the Super Jrs. (2010): Simple match layout but, the swearing/intensity of this match was lights out awesome.
-Finlay vs TAJIRI - Smash - Final Show (2012): A near-classic emotional and physically punishing bout. Fans of either guys need to watch this!
-Daniel Bryan vs CM Punk - Money in the Bank (2012): Great
-Michael Elgin vs Roderick Strong - ROH Summer Heat Tour (Cincinnati 2014): Classic ROH title fight.
-Jeff Cobb vs Ricochet - PWG Battle of Los Angeles (2016): Great match! 12-14 minute barn burner
-Zack Sabre Jr. vs Tomohiro Ishii - Wrestle Kingdom 13 (2019): Inoki Strong Style lives! Great match at least but, a near-classic to me.
Not a bad list so far...let's see what the 2nd half of 2019 has for us...Starting with Starrcade matches...
Jack & Jerry Brisco vs Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood (1983): A great action-packed match. Maybe people don't think that can happen in 1983 here we have it! There were tons of double team moves from both sides. Angelo Mosca is the ref and played his role perfectly. This felt like a real battle in the unreal realm of pro-wrestling!
Roddy Piper vs Greg Valentine (1983): A madhouse type of match where they're just wailing away on each other with abandon. So many visually remarkable moments involving the chain...man they just did it right. A brutal and bloody affair. A classic match.
Tully Blanchard vs Magnum TA (1985): This was violent from the very start... Visceral barbaric wrestling...this did not disappoint. An all-time classic without a doubt. If this is your thing, go see this match.
Road Warriors vs Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard (1987): This is perhaps the best Warriors match I've seen. I loved this match- it was all about selling and timing and it comes off beautifully! Near classic match.
Ric Flair vs Lex Luger (1988): This is a classic match with a simple story and layout. They never go too complicated in the moves department and therefore never mess anything up. Then, you're riding on charisma and selling in order to get the match over with the fans. Here they truly excel. Flair is a given but, Luger at this time seemed to have even God on his side. Never was I a Lex fan until I saw him from this era. And, man! Did he have "it" for a few years? The physique and the power are on full display and it really seems like Ric is facing his replacement for the 90's in this match.
Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara vs Masa Chono & Shinya Hashimoto (WAR 10/01/93): Ten minutes of solid ass-kicking. Hash (IWGP champ) gets on the mic before the bell and talks some trash that kicks off this intense sprint-fight. As much as I love a smooth wrestling match (like above), I love a rough non-cooperative slobber knocker just the same. All four guys use their simple offense and great selling to put on a near-classic match. Don't believe me? Watch for Tenryu's chops on Chono...that should get you going...
Tanaka, Kuroda & Koji Nakagawa vs Kanemura, Hido & Hosaka (FMW - Exploding Barbwire match - 09/01/96): Fourteen plus minutes of brutal, dramatic deathmatch wrestling. The fighting was top notch and the barbwire and bomb spots were extremely meaningful in terms of the drama. Seriously, this was one of the best FMW matches and the best deathmatches that I've seen. Classic match and a must-see for Masato Tanaka fans.
Hayabusa vs TAKA Michinoku (FMW 11/16/96): Dives, counters, springboard moves, and big signature offense - it wasn't a classic but, dang! It was a great match. Right up there with the Joshi match.
Megumi Kudo vs Shinobu Kandori (FMW 12/11/96): Kandori submission attempts and Kudome heart and head drops make this a good match just on paper. Here they throw in all kinds of teases & fake-outs. It made for a really exciting Joshi match (which I haven't seen in ages). Plus their timing and chemistry were fantastic. I would have to say this fits right alongside AJW stuff from '96 and probably better than many of the overlong bouts that Toyota had that year.
Strong BJW vs Get Wild (Omori & Manabu Soya) (AJPW 11/29/2011): This is my jam! BJW are tag champs and damn! do they look it here. Omori and Soya can only hope to slow down the juggernaut team. Of course, the AJ team finds a way but, you know Sekimoto and Okabayashi are not going down without a fight! If you're into Choshu/Hashimoto/WAR/Kensuke type stuff then, you must watch this 20-minute RWTL match. It is so simple from a move/sequence perspective yet, the physicality is remarkable. That's what really keeps you hooked and what moves the story along. Matches like this feel like a battle in the true sense of the term. There are ebbs and flows, bits of luck, acts of courage and desperation - This was a classic match to me.
Bennett & Taven vs Ciampa & Hanson (ROH Winter Warriors Dayton 2015): This all kinds of chaos! I love this type of stuff A simple story of the bearded babyfaces getting revenge on the shit-talking, good looking heels, and babe. The energy was there, the pacing was there, and everything just clicked. Great match and a fantastic segment if you count the match before.
Alberto El Patron vs Roderick Strong (ROH Winter Warriors Dayton 2015): This was a fantastic physical match between two veteran wrestlers. Alberto was going after Roddy's injured arm; hoping to secure the cross armbreaker. Roderick was trying to break down El Patron's body as only he can. The fans were psyched to see this match up and so was I. Alberto, Regal, and Danielson were two guys I would watch in the WWE so, it was great to see the former Dos Caras Jr. in a ring where he could show US fans what he's about. It was a shame they couldn't bring him in for more shows but, I'm glad we got this one. A great match, maybe a near-classic that was everything it needed to be.
From ROH - Conquest Tour 2015 - Hopkins MN
Roderick Strong vs Silas Young - This is a good match just on paper. You know they're going to hit hard and keep the pace up so, I was confident this bout would get things back on track. And I was not disappointed. This bout felt like a genuine struggle which is much appreciated in 2019. They had answers for each other's tricks & traps and I think that helped make this a great match. In fact, I wouldn't sneeze at anyone who would rate this **** 1/4. Great finish and MOTN thus far.
Briscoes vs War Machine - The tag team equivalent of the above match. Physical and surprisingly quick match. Now its not like the Young Bucks were facing off against Jay & Mark but, War Machine hustled like a couple of Young Vaders. Another great match where **** 1/4 would totally be acceptable.
Now for some that weren't covered on the blog:
Jun Akiyama vs Katsuyori Shibata (Wrestle -1 (not Mutoh) 08/04/05): A very stiff BattlARTS type of match. It was great although its no surprise that Shibata, who based his career on these types of bouts, is now retired. If you're a fan of either, really go watch this now...
Sabu vs Rob Van Dam (ECW Guilty as Charged 2000): A controversial choice since most folks on the PWO match discussion archive thought this was just "good" at best. It was perhaps their best single match with one another to me. In that regard, this match was superior to many similar move centric hardcore matches a few years later in ROH and certainly beyond. They did not go for overkill & empty their tanks and that IS why this is a great match. It felt like an athletic competition (in the ECW world) and not moves for moves sake.
Now for some I'd only written in my notebook but are ABSOLUTELY worth talking about now:
Miracle Violence Connection (Williams and Gordy) vs Misawa & Kawada (AJPW 12/06/91 RWTL Final Match): Holy crap is Gordy intense! The MVC gameplan is to divide and conquer. The Japanese team knows this and make frequent tags and hit the Americans high & low. The trick is to endure Miracle Violence's onslaught though...and what an onslaught it is! Near classic encounter with those little unexpected moments that make this era of AJPW so great.
Kurt Angle vs Yuji Nagata (TNA/NJPW Wrestle Kingdom II): Saw this around when it happened and thought it was great but not classic stuff. I re-watched this a couple of months ago and damn was I wrong! This was a freaking intense wrestling match. If you're down for guys working submissions and escapes and selling through facial expressions - this is a match for you. I will go on to say this was an extension of Inoki Strong Style and belongs in that upper echelon. I know more about Nagata now than 11 years ago and understand the nuances of this bout so, I really can appreciate this as puro as a combat sport. Classic match
Samoa Joe vs Kurt Angle (TNA Lockdown 2008): I remember the hype for this match and the clips from Impact and the DVD ads and I thought this looked amazing. I was right...took me more than a decade to see it but, it was worth the wait. Like the above Nagata match, this was puro as combat sport. Perhaps even more so as this was during Angle's MMA training/Frank Trigg period, we have a hexagonal cage, and this was around UFC's break-through period of mainstream acceptance with their Ultimate Fighter show also on SPIKE. Anyhow, these two agreed to go stiff where it reminded me of Joe vs Kobashi for a moment or two. Seriously that lariat! Are you kidding me? Add that in with excellent build and pacing and we end up with a true classic and perhaps an all-time must-see classic encounter when you take into consideration their history and the build-up to this battle. This is certainly top tier for TNA and "puro" in America type matches as well as Inoki Strong Style in the 2000's.
Samoa Joe vs Austin Aries (TNA Slammiversary X - 2012): Well, hot damn! These guys still have it 8 years after their Final Battle classic. In fact, the similarities are uncanny...is this the same match just 8 years later? No...can't be...regardless they still brought the intensity and I cannot find any fault here. I loved this match and thought it was a classic especially for TNA fans.
Magnus (Nick Aldis) vs KAI (TNA/Wrestle-1 Global Impact 2014): This is for the TNA World title and I certainly had my reservations going into this. Thankfully, we get 15 minutes of simple snug wrestling. It felt very similar to WCW vs NJPW stuff in Japan. This was excellently paced, well worked with some stiffer than expected moves, and an emphatic finish. I truly can't find a fault with this match, great stuff.
Rush & Dragon Lee vs Briscoe Brothers (ROH TV Summer 2019): This was a PPV level match for free. Jay and Mark still have that crazy streak so this was all action - blood, chair assisted moves, double teams. Plus both teams have a personality which is something I think ROH does lack at this time. (I like Taven but, don't get what they're doing with him btw).A few more minutes and this would have been a classic but, this was a great match nonetheless. Look for this one somehow!
SO LET'S ORGANIZE THIS! What is the cream of the crop?
I think I'm going to go with an emotional pick and choose Samoa Joe vs Kurt Angle (TNA Lockdown 2008) as the Best Match Watched. The other top 5 matches are classic matches with timeless moments etched into my brain and it took me a long time to rule them out as the top of the top. The Joe vs Angle match plays off my nostalgia from 2008 and watching TNA Impact every week. In that regard, I can legitimately say they are two of my favorites of the 2000's and to see them truly have the all-out war that they only showed hints of in 2006 was an unbelievable pay-off to me. The Nagata match with Kurt was a precursor to the Lockdown match and although that was a classic in its own right, it helped bolster the drama of the Joe match. I don't know if this was intentional or what but, it totally worked on me.
I think Tully vs Magnum is a known all-time classic and I don't know what one more person agreeing with that sentiment is going to do for its prestige. You know what I mean? It is required viewing without me saying so
I think Piper vs Valentine is a precursor to that match and for that reason should be on your must-watch list. I don't think it gets the love it deserves perhaps because people think of the WWF versions of the guys and think it can't be as intense as people say. I would leave it from the top spot just because its finish cannot match the Tully vs Magnum finish...not much can though!
The Schmidt vs Yukon and Martel vs Bockwinkel bouts are ones that I had never really heard of but, certainly deserve more recognition. I understand folks not wanting to go back to 1958 but, I really recommend watching pre-1970s wrestling at least a couple times every year. It gets harder and harder since we get further and further away from it...trust me. The AWA title match with Rick & Nick was one of those things I found online that I just wanted to explore as I'm always trying to find more good "wrestling" from them. I've seen damn near 80% of their ESPN show but, always want to see more of the era before they went out of business. Martel and Bock are two in particular that I was looking for and to see this title match was great...little did I know it would be a masterpiece.
All that being said, I go back to my emotional bias for the Joe vs Angle Lockdown fight being the reason I say it’s the Best Match I watched in 2019. I also think it’s probably an arguable match to consider a classic and an objective "better match" than those mentioned above. Thing is I'm not going to argue against that...The point is that the Lockdown match was ticked off every box for me...I was invested in the outcome, I was surprised and entertained, my 11-year-long expectations were exceeded, and I'm a fan of both wrestlers. So, I'm much happier giving some love for a match that many might overlook because of when it was and who it was wrestled for (TNA) than telling you something you already know like with the I Quit or Dog Collar match. OK explanation over Let's do the rest of the year award type things next post. Thanks for reading!
This is the second part in my light exploration into the final months of FMW 1996. This is a very junior heavy section with my review covering a commercial tape focusing on November & Decemeber.
W*ing Kanemura vs TAKA Michinoku (12/10): 11 minute good match and a fantastic example of prime era TAKA. The dude was throwing dropkicks from every angle and off everything. And of course its FMW so, you get chairs!
The Gladiator vs W*ing Kanemura (12/11, BAHU #43): Oh man this is an odd match but, has gotten some praise over the years. The oddness comes from Gladiator getting his leg stuck in the ropes during a botched dive. That would totally suck BUT he & W*ing play it off so well that you very nearly believe it was on purpose. It does go on a minute too long and it does become obvious there's no way they wanted this portion to last THIS long. Still! Awesome/Gladiator sells the heck out of it (legit leg injury prior so, its some of his better/best selling) and Kanemura focuses on the busted wheel trying to put the dominant gaijin away. So, it makes sense! Of course we get "awesome" offense from Gladiator and the never say die W*ing. The end result is a very good match and the finishing parts are so strong that you almost forget about the rope/leg stuff. Fast forward the rope bits and you'll have a blast.
Megumi Kudo vs Shinobu Kandori (12/11): Best match of the tape thus far. Kandori submission attempts and Kudome heart and head drops makes this a good match just on paper. Here they throw in all kinds of teases & fake-outs. It made for a really exciting Joshi match (which I haven't seen in ages). Plus their timing and chemistry were fantastic. I would have to say this fits right alongside AJW stuff from '96 and probably better than many of the overlong bouts that Toyota had that year.
Hayabusa vs TAKA Michinoku (11/16, BAHU #31): The first Hayabusa match of the tape and its a doozy! He and TAKA have an NJPW Jr. style action match that shows the little promotions can stack up against the big boys. Dives, counters, springboard moves, and big signature offense - it wasn't a classic but, dang! It was a great match. Right up there with the Joshi match.
Great Sasuke vs Hayabusa (12/11): If the TAKA match was the warm-up then, this should be amazing! It certainly starts off that way but, the match becomes "my turn-your turn" in taking offense with no true sense of struggle. The bout was a lot of big moves while I would have preferred them trading kicks, running the ropes, or scrambling on the mat. It was a good match and maybe you'll get more out of it than me.
This was a pretty good tape. All the matches above BAHU has put in his top 100 matches of FMW history. Clearly the Kudome/Kandori and TAKA/Hayabusa bouts were the best but, the Gladiator/W*ing bout is worth watching too...especially if you find a file or video for the whole commercial tape like I did. Those 3 are totally worth the time if you're curious or needing an FMW/ECW style fix this fall
Thanks for reading!
One day I will get around to seeing all of the great FMW matches, I swear! The following entry is my attempt to cover FMW 1996 as best I can by searching for vids on the 'tube. From my experience, FMW videos tend to get taken down with some regularity or let's say there aren't a plethora of videos available like old AJPW or even W*ING.
So what I found and what I wanted to watch from '96 focuses on the later part of the year, August to December. The first collection of stuff is from the Commercial tape Funk Masters of Wrestling which is August & September. This is a really good tape. I just want to say that from the start. This video captures that late 90's harcore wrestling style that FMW and ECW championed.
BAHU is the master of FMW and I'm going to put his top 100 FMW rankings next to the applicable matches for reference. Our opinions differ on a couple matches but, I think that's good. You're getting 2 opinions on a match then with that you can decide for yourself if you want to see the bout. Sound good? I'll just review that bouts that I found worthwhile.
(I'm also going to abbreviate names where I can)
W*ing Kanemura, Bad Boy Hido & Hideki Hosaka vs Masato Tanaka, Nanjyo Hayato & Tetsuhiro Kuroda (Barbwire Street fight): JIP & clipped. This is edited but, this is a sweet way to start off the tape. Double & triple team moves, ladder stuff, and of course guys are tasting the wire. I can't say this is a great match but, its a blast to watch!
Tanaka, Kuroda & Koji Nakagawa vs Kanemura, Hido & Hosaka (Exploding Barbwire match 09/01)(BAHU RATING: #42): Fourteen plus minutes of brutal, dramatic deathmatch wrestling. The fighting was top notch and the barbwire and bomb spots were extremely meaningful in terms of the drama. Seriously, this was one of the best FMW matches and best deathmatches that I've seen. Classic match and a must-see for Masato Tanaka fans.
Terry Funk, Gladiator & Horace Boulder vs Tanaka, Kuroda & Nakagawa: JIP. This was a very good 6 man tornado tag match that had some nice double teams, saves, and all of that other good stuff you want in an FMW bout. Tanaka takes some real sickening bumps...one is probably the most dangerous Awesome bombs I've seen. This match, although partial, really encapsulates everything weird and exciting about the garbage wrestling scene of the late 90s. (Also see: Super Leather, Headhunters, & Oya vs Hayabusa, Tanaka, Kuroda, & Nakagawa's Barbwire bat & Money on a Pole elimination tornado tag match from this tape as well. FMW had successfully perfected the W*ING/IWA Japan style at this point.)
Terry Funk & Gladiator vs Hayabusa & Tanaka (BAHU RATING: #48): The story of Funk in FMW at this point (from what I can gather) is he's reformed the J-Tex Corp with Victor Quinones. Gladiator and other gaijin wrestlers (along with Oya) have joined the Funkster to take over and control Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling. Hayabusa and Tanaka aren't going to go along with that and have to fight for their promotion. This was the 2nd best match of the tape and was shown in full. There were lots of saves and exciting comebacks. It was scratching a greatness but, I only felt it was a very good match. It just seemed to lack enough of Tanaka's explosive offense for my taste...that's not to say he doesn't explode here! Still, we get all kinds of excitement post-match so, you really should check this out.
This was a very good tape especially with the classic 6 man deathmatch that all FMW/ECW fans need to see. I'll pick up with the Nov & Dec commercial tape next time.
Thanks for reading!
ROH Conquest Tour 2015 - Hopkins MN
Avari Davari vs Bobby Fish - OK match with some decent psychology and selling. There was bad weather so, I think this match was a little longer than it needed to be for anyone who was running late.
Romantic Touch vs Will Ferrara vs Beer City Bruiser vs Cheeseburger - Let's say you hadn't seen ROH since 2009 and then years later, this happened to be the first match you saw. I would not blame you for completely thinking they had ruined Ring of Honor. You've got a comedy character, a big fat guy, and a scrawny guy with a ROH dojo graduate. I skipped this one.
Michael Elgin vs Caprice Coleman - The first real match of the night. It would have been much better in the #2 slot but, perhaps they realized that not everyone had shown up and the above 4 man match was to kill more time. This was a fun 3/4th speed match with some nice moves.
Adam Page vs ACH - Former teammates square off. Neither guy is an absolute favorite but, both dudes have the potential to deliver a good match. So, I was pleasantly surprised with a very good to a perhaps great match. They kept the flashy flipping to a minimum and threw a load of mean chops, elbows, and lariats. One of ACH's clotheslines looked like he'd been studying AJPW tapes. Folks in attendance booed the finish but, I think it was more out of having fun rather than actual disappointment or anger. Match of the evening thus far.
Arik Cannon vs Danny Duggan - The local attraction match that kept the action going. Probably the best I've seen Cannon look and Duggan looks promising especially for ROH at this time.
ODB vs Truth Martini - A clear pee break match...I like ODB and am OK with Truth Martini (I never really cared for managers in ROH in general) so, this was fun. The most interesting part is that Corino (on commentary) says the hardest he was ever hit was by Jazz in ECW...and Corino has wrestled Kawada and Hashimoto! Sweet tidbit!
Roderick Strong vs Silas Young - This is a good match just on paper. You know they're going to hit hard and keep the pace up so, I was confident this bout would get things back on track. And I was not disappointed. This bout felt like a genuine struggle which is much appreciated in 2019. They had answers for each other's tricks & traps and I think that helped make this a great match. In fact, I wouldn't sneeze at anyone who would rate this **** 1/4. Great finish and MOTN thus far.
Briscoes vs War Machine - The tag team equivalent of the above match. Physical and surprisingly quick match. Now its not like the Young Bucks were facing off against Jay & Mark but, War Machine hustled like a couple of Young Vaders. Another great match where **** 1/4 would totally be acceptable.
Jay Lethal vs Kyle O'Reilly - A long TV title match that hearkens back to the 2000's ROH style. Unfortunately, it ends right when it starts getting phenomenal. In the olden days, they would have kept going and this would have been a classic title match. Ah well, ROH has a PPV schedule and they work toward those so, I can't bitch too much. What we get is really great and certainly hyped the fans in attendance. Fun segement after the match too...we ALMOST get an impromptu World Title match (again ROH may have done this back in the day and it certainly would have made this part of the show a classic ala PWG Giant Sized Annual #4 Danielson vs Generico). Still, the main event portion made up for the slow start of the show and paid some things off from earlier even if not ideally.
Overall, this was a very good B-show with 3-4 great matches. It does start kinda rough but, I really think that's a logistics issue rather than crappy booking or wrestling. Hey, you can always skip them. So, if you just watch ACH vs Page, Roddy vs Silas, the Tag match, and the Main Event - you will have a blast!
In the grim darkness of the the near past there is only WAR! Yes, I'm back to Tenryu's playground to check out more wrestling that I may have missed or just forgotten.
Takeshi Ishikawa vs Great Kabuki (09/15/92): Oh man, so I was hoping this would be a very good match but, eh it was just sluggish. There was no build to a climax just a lot of sleeper work and bleeding. It was OK but, I was disappointed.
Let's get this back on track! Same show...
Ultimo Dragon vs Negro Casas (09/15): This was 15 minutes of perfectly executed lucharesu. This was a real joy to watch. It wasn't super dramatic with a deep story (now maybe I'm wrong since they had a program going in Mexico at the time) but, sometimes wrestling doesn't have to be more than a contest between two competitors. Add the fact that Ultimo and Casas wrestled fast and smart - and you've got a great match!
Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara vs Masa Chono & Shinya Hashimoto (10/01/93): Ten minutes of solid ass-kicking. Hash (IWGP champ) gets on the mic before the bell and talks some trash which kicks off this intense sprint-fight. As much as I love a smooth wrestling match (like above), I love a rough non-cooperative slobber knocker just the same. All four guys use their simple offense and great selling to put on a near classic match. Don't believe me? Watch for Tenryu's chops on Chono...that should get you going...
Tatsuo Nakano vs Genichiro Tenryu (05/26/96): Don't think Nakano was safe with Tenryu & don't think Tenryu was safe with Nakano. Five minutes of trying to hurt each other wrestling at its finest. If you need a quick Tenryu fix - this is your match
I think we can all pretty much admit AJPW took a stylistic nosedive after the NOAH exodus. Sure Kawada, Tenryu, and Kojima occasionally had some great matches but, by in large, folks just didn't care to go out of their way to purchase this stuff. Therefore, the internet community didn't have much to go on as far as recommendations. My interest in AJPW post NOAH actually starts when some of the guys went back in 2013 I believe. Akiyama, Shiozaki, Kotaro Suzuki and others decided NOAH was a stagnant pond and head back (at least Akiyama and Kanemaru) to their true home.
So, I watched a few matches from that period and saw a couple reviews and whatnot that it caught my interest to explore a little more. I was surprised to find that AJPW was actually pretty darn good...great at times! Mutoh eventually was fading from the scene in ring and stylistically. So, matches that featured athleticism and struggle were being championed over angles and sports entertainment style wrestling.
So, I cherry picked a few DVDs from about 2011-2015. I'm a cheap skate so I only got single disc shows so, I'm probably missing out on some big time match ups BUT I was taking a risk. I figure it'd be better to trust my gut with the match-ups than, hope the 2 disc big shows would deliver.
Anyhow, for whatever reason I jumped in during the Fall of 2011 and boy was I pleasantly surprised!
Let's check out the matches!
SUWAMA, Masakatsu Funaki & Takao Omori vs Seiya Sanada, Taiyo Kea & Manabu Soya (09/25/11 AJPW): This is exactly the exciting, hard hitting match that I hoped it would be. It never treads into parody of former AJPW or NOAH territory with unneeded strike battles or meaningless machismo. The characters play their part during the 20 minutes of action. Highly recommended, very good match.
Koji Kanemoto vs KAI - Jr. Tournament Finals (09/25/11 AJPW): Holy crap! This was awesome They really beat the crap out of each other. KAI is a guy that I've seen a couple times and liked. I'd not yet say, "Hey gotta search out me some KAI footy!" but, he is one to watch. Koji worked on the leg here, setting up for his Ankle Hold. KAI did very well in selling the leg damage (even though he did do some flying moves). I felt he sold it enough within the narrative: He's young and he's going to work with the moves that got him to the finals.
Koji was punk as fuck and the A+ worker that he can be- especially as the tough vet. The match featured loads of stiff strikes, variety and smarts. Both guys were battered by the end. It was a true contest for something important and a classic match in the Jr. tradition. I've never heard anyone mention this match so, I'm glad I got the DVD on this.
Stong BJW & Takao Omori vs Manabu Soya, Sanada & Taiyo Kea (10/17): 17 minute match. Things weren't clicking 100% but, that made this bout feel more organic and "real." Strong BJW vs Soya/Sanada is the rivalry at the time and the focus was kept on that here. Kea vs Omori is a struggle that's been going on since the late 90's so, there was something at stake here as well. The action was good with many tags, irish whip moves, and strike exchanges. The finishing segment was fantastic and capped off a very good match.
Jun Akiyama & Ricky Marvin vs SUWAMA & KAI (10/17): 19 minute match. I really dug the mind games Akiyama was playing on SUWAMA...not only effecting this match but setting the stage for their 10/23 Triple Crown fight. KAI and Marvin's interactions were rough around the edges and not in the way of the above match. I'll chalk this up to KAI (who I usually like) but, didn't really bring much to the match. He just kept things moving along. It was a very good match with nice action and told a good story. I just remember liking it a heck of a lot more on the first watch a year or two ago. SO, you might disagree with me here...heck If I watch it a 3rd time, I might disagree with myself!
Jun Akiyama vs SUWAMA (10/23): Sorry, I don't have my notes handy for this match but, I remember that is was kinda disappointing. I was hoping for a classic but, recall it being just a very good match (like *** 3/4). I want to say the pacing was slow and probably went 5 minutes longer than it needed to. I'm pretty confident in that recollection.
Kaz Hiyashi & KENSO vs Minoru Tanaka & Koji Kanemoto - RWTL (11/26/11 AJPW): KENSO is another guy that I've come to watch for. He's kinda a heel and uses his belt to choke guys. I like this kind of guy in the 2010's. He's got some moves but, is much more of a character than a world class athlete. I'm kinda tired of guys that are young athletes but, rely upon a gimmick rather than their abilities. They work a parody gimmick but, have no idea how their work matches up to their character. So, they do a bunch moves that their character would/should not do. KENSO is a guy where he's got a charisma about him without being a cartoon character with a 100 moves.
Anyways, this match was one long finishing run at 11 minutes. Very exciting rush match. Minoru & Koji are cocky jerks taunting KENSO until he has to smack the taste outta their mouths. At this run time, I highly recommend watching this. Its just very good stuff.
Takao Omori & Manabu Soya vs Seiya Sanada & KAI - RWTL (11/26/11 AJPW): Here's that KAI fella again! Omori & Soya have teamed up here as Wild Hearts. The thing is Sanada & Soya were tag partners just a few months ago. Not sure who wanted the split but, they square off right at the bell. Seiya goes for speed and shocks Soya. KAI's in there and they go for the double team. These two young guns look dynamic as all get out!
Oh shit! They are fighting in the stands now. Old man Omori's out there choking Sanada with a child's parasol! Hahahaha! Back on inside the ring and KAI's trying Soya but, come on dude! Manabu is a freaking caveman...and not the Fred Flintstone type either.
Omori gets in there and wisely slows things down with KAI. The K man eventually finds an opening to get Seiya, the fire plug, going. Omori's had enough and puts big Soy sauce in there. Hey, deadlift suplex a motherfucker, Soya! This is a real back and forth match. Omori's trying to Axe Guillotine Driver KAI off the top now. Great! erase his head from existence!
Just tons of double team destruction but, surprisingly never goes into bonkers territory. Both teams were very impressive. This was a great match.
Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi vs SUWAMA & Takumi Soya (11/26/11 AJPW): Strong BJW have the tag belts but, this is a non title fight. It's a RWTL match-up. So here we go- Takumi smartly WRESTLES Okabayashi...fuck...do NOT get into a power battle with him. Daisuke wants SUWAMA. 'WAMA is a beast eating chops for lunch. Takumi gets back in (at some point) and wrestling smartly but, gets sucked into trading hits and early one his chest is a cherry tomato. BJW is stretching him out like a fat lady in a pair of stirrup pants. Quick tags and repeated hard slams only rub it in. Soya is in trouble. Slam, cover, 2 count, kickout, tag, repeat. SUWAMA's waiting...
This match was built brilliantly and paid off in a perfect manner. It starts out being like a ***3/4 match then, a great match like a firm ****+ but, damn this just kept getting better and better. So, I'd call this a classic match. I can't give a number or anything like that but, whew! This did it for me! Awesome closer to an awesome night of wrestling.
KENSO & Kaz Hiyashi vs KAI & Seiya Sanada (12/03): I wanted to mention that if you get the DVD of this show, it has a really nice recap segement of the highlights and finishes of many (all?) of the RWTL matches that have taken place up to this time. I know as wrestling dorks, we want to see the full matches BUT it is really nice and fun to see some of these things clipped down to the highlights. They make Akebono matches look watchable. Anyhow, I like everyone here but, wouldn't say I would stick around for an 18 minute match of theirs...but, I was wrong. They managed to keep everything fun and exciting. The action was very good and it really was time well spent. KENSO even busted open KAI's chest, giving meaning to the nomenclature- knife edge chops. Very good match
Strong BJW vs Get Wild (Omori & Manabu Soya): This is my jam! BJW are tag champs and damn! do they look it here. Omori and Soya can only hope to slow down the juggernaut team. Of course, the AJ team finds a way but, you know Sekimoto and Okabayashi are not going down without a fight! If you're into Choshu/Hashimoto/WAR/Kensuke type stuff then, you must watch this 20 minute RWTL match. It is so simple from a move/sequence perspective yet, the physicality is remarkable. That's what really keeps you hooked and what moves the story along. Matches like this feel like a battle in the true sense of the term. There are ebbs and flows, bits of luck, acts of courage and desperation - This was a classic match to me.
Some of these reviews appeared really early on in the blog but, I wanted to consolidate everything for convenience and reference sake. The first post or so was more than a year and a half ago and I know when I'm doing research on wrestling recommendations, it really helps to have everything right in one spot.
Anyhow, I was damn impressed by the above matches. Three matches I would call classics (in that ****1/2 star range). Don't be mistaken there is some so-so matches that I had to sit through, some I had to skip but, I've spared you the write-ups on those. Manabu Soya is one guy that I think is slept on especially as a tag team wrestler. If you dig Strong BJW then, you need to see them go up against Soya and Omori.
As winter approaches, I want to try and start on 2012 AJPW which I think I have much more of. So, that is a little project goal. We'll see though
Thanks for reading!
ROH Winters Warriors - Dayton
I really enjoyed ROH's Atlanta Winter Warriors 2015 show awhile back. (https://forums.prowrestlingonly.com/blogs/entry/567-the-2010s-roh-winter-warriors-tour-2015-atlanta/ )There's good talk about the Dayton show so, I decided to check it out. Let's see if its any good.
Will Ferrara vs Romantic Touch - Good laughs to start and pretty good action for the opener. Fun
Chris Dickenson vs Michael Elgin - Some people have really liked this match saying it was great or **** or whatnot but, I'm not going to agree with that. It was the 2nd match on the card and with Elgin being a former World Champ, there's no way he should have given his opponent this much offense. I think it's the case of Elgin bringing in a buddy to showcase him but, this looked like a title match rather than a try-out. It came across a very bush league. Still, it was fun but, I disagree with the way it was worked.
Tommaso Ciampa vs Michael Bennett (w/ Maria and Taven): This was a very good singles match with Maria & Taven throwing all kinds of trouble Ciampa's way. Of course Ciampa is a loon and forces them to run to the back but, Hanson is blocking their way. This leads to...
Bennett & Taven vs Ciampa & Hanson: And man, is this all kinds ofchaos! I love this type of stuff A simple story of the bearded babyfaces getting revenge on the shit talking, good looking heels and babe. The energy was there, the pacing was there, and everything just clicked. Great match and a fantastic segment if you count the match before. This was the right way to steal a show.
Cheeseburger & Big Mac vs Jay Lethal & Diesel: Not Kevin Nash but, another guy who was in ROH at the time. I don't really care either, sorry. Anyhow, fun match that was well worked and kept the good times rolling.
Louis Lyndon & Flip Kendrick vs Jimmy Jacobs & BJ Whitmer: Well, this killed the show's momentum...this looked like some undercard stuff from 2003. I couldn't sit through this. SKIP If you get this show, seriously just skip it and it won't kill your buzz. This is the definition of a popcorn match... get you snacks and pee break in before the star studded main events.
Alberto El Patron vs Roderick Strong: This was a fantastic physical match between two veteran wrestlers. Alberto was going after Roddy's injured arm; hoping to secure the cross armbreaker. Roderick was trying to break down El Patron's body as only he can. The fans were psyched to see this match up and so was I. Alberto, Regal, and Danielson were two guys I would watch in the WWE so, it was great to see the former Dos Caras Jr. in a ring where he could show US fans what he's about. It was a shame they couldn't bring him in for more shows but, I'm glad we got this one. A great match, maybe a near classic that was everything it needed to be.
But, that wasn't the main event!
The Briscoes vs Matt Sydal & ACH: This was the action packed blast that I hoped for. It was just two top teams squaring off and going wild. Mark was a little off (under the weather in winter?) but, that did not detract from how exciting that was. This was a great match and a fantastic way to close the show. Dayton fans had to be psyched.
Overall, this was great show. There were 3 amazing matches that really make this a must see B-show. I know the DVD is discounted now along with the Atlanta show (link for that post) so, I would totally recommend getting these or doing the streaming service thing. If you're watching NXT then, you should see some familiar face and this should be a no-brainer to check out.
Thanks for reading!
I was never what you would call a WCW fan growing up. I liked seeing the matches on Saturday or Sunday but, I never went out of my way to watch Nitro until the Monday Night Wars stuff. It was WCW that grabbed my attention first with Goldberg and his streak. Plus my older cousin thought he was cool and therefore I did too
Quickly, I found out that I preferred WWF to WCW in most instances and then ECW came in the picture and I never looked back really.
So, with that being said, I never gave a thought to WCW's pay-per-views and although the titles were cooler than WWF's the cards usually sucked. So, here I am all of these years later willing to call bullshit on myself and check out the best of the best PPV that WCW had to offer - Starrcade. The saving grace of this project is that many of the matches on this list (this is the Starrcade Essential Collection set by WWE) are from Jim Crockett Promotions and/or in the early days of WCW. Half are from the 80's and 5 more are between 1990-1993.
Anyhow there's 25 matches and I'm going run down (or up?) the list to see just how essential these matches are. I might give impressions for some, others I might have a review, and even more I might have written something up in the match discussion archives.
Roddy Piper vs Hollywood Hogan (1996): Good match with good action that tells the Match of the Decade story well. Intense too which was a big surprise considering Hogan was in the ring...I mean honest-looking intensity and not that hammy crappola.
Sting vs Great Muta (1989): Iron Man tournament match which I saw a few months ago during my Great Muta You Might Have Missed post ( https://forums.prowrestlingonly.com/blogs/entry/685-great-muta-you-might-have-missed/). Shit that was almost a year ago!? Anyhow, an under 10 minute banger with Sting and Muta at the height of blending simple wrestling with a fast pace and a few flashy moves. I liked this quite a bit. I'll say a very good match.
Barry Windham & Brian Pillman vs Ricky Steamboat & Shane Douglas (1992): Awesome action packed title match. This Starrcade thing doesn't seem that bad! This also featured Pillman and Douglas ushering a crash-bang style that we would we would see in ECW and the Attitude era. Not that they invented it or anything but, its in contrast to Windham and Ricky's style here. Great match!
Goldberg vs Kevin Nash (1998): The match that ended THE STREAK and perhaps was an early sign of things to come. Goldberg and Nash actually wrestle a good match up until the hi-jinks and Hall electrocutes Goldberg.
Battlebowl (1991): I don't like Battle Royals. So, I'll make a couple suggestions. Fast forward to when Ricky Morton & Liger are wrestling each other. Then fast forward to when Luger and Vader are in ring #1 by themselves (yes there are two rings). Then fast forward to when it boils down to Steamboat and Sting vs Austin and Rude (Luger is in waiting so to speak). Then watch the rest of the match and you might call this good. This rated higher than the 1992 tag match? horse shit!
Dustin Rhodes vs Steve Austin (1993): Starts of pretty good and just sorta ends. I had high hopes for this but, uh yeah it's very much what I expect out of WCW. The last 3 matches don't seem very "essential" to me. I talk more about it in the 1993 match discussion yearbook. I really don't want to do that again here...if that gives you an idea.
Road Warriors vs Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard (1987): Oh crap the Road Warriors...this is not looking good..let's see. Oh man am I wrong! Maybe it's Arn and Tully but, this is perhaps the best Warriors match I've seen. We see a brains & brawn story unfold despite their early domination, Hawk & Animal don't seem invincible. There are some hi-jinks but, it is pandemonium so it works. I loved this match- it was all about selling and timing and it comes off beautifully! Near classic match...hells yeah!
Rey Misterio vs Jushin Liger (1996): Oh Rey vs Liger '96, this should be an easy great match! Nope! It's neat but, just felt clunky and the commentary team bury them. This is a great example of how WCW was out of step with where wrestling was headed. It was a fun exhibition match though.
Rock 'n Roll Express vs Midnight Express (1987): I wish they could have put another type of match on here with these teams. It was high risk and whatnot but, is really a novelty that doesn't really show what these guys do best. Nevertheless it was one of the best scaffold matches I've seen. I've seen like 4 so...maybe that's not a recommendation. Sorta goes into the realm of Battle Royal matches to me.
Ric Flair vs Lex Luger (1988): Here we have our first classic match of the set! I never would have thought it'd come from Luger. Simple but effective stuff! GO SEE THIS!! 1988 Everything else folder has more gushing if you need it.
Eddie Guerrero vs Shinjiro Otani (1995): I've seen this match twice and liked it better the 2nd time. Its what the Rey vs Liger match needed to be. Skip that one and watch Otani and Eddie go! Again, I beat a dead horse in the 1995 December yearbook if you want to see that Very good match. Not sure why this is "ahead" of Flair/Luger '88 at all though...gotta give something to Eddie I suppose.
Dusty Rhodes & Sting vs Road Warriors (1988): Hmm can't seem to find my notes on this one...I remember it being good with Sting doing his thing. It was not as good as the Tully/Arn match I can tell you that much. I think it was meant to get Sting over since I really don't remember Dusty or the Warriors doing much but a good match and letting Sting shine.
Sting vs Vader (1992): People have called this a classic match but, I disagree. Its great but, not a classic. There are a few too many flaws that screw with my suspension of disbelief to put it in that **** 1/2+ class. Selling and the finish being the two biggest complaints. Nevertheless, it is Sting vs Vader - Go watch it for yourself and then head over to the 1992 December archives and see where your opinion falls.
Jack & Jerry Brisco vs Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood (1983): A great action packed match. Maybe people don't think that can happen in 1983 here we have it! There were tons of double team moves from both sides. Angelo Mosca is the ref and played his role perfectly. This felt like a real battle in the unreal realm of pro-wrestling!
Dusty Rhodes vs Ric Flair (1985): An entertaining match that was kept even keel for some reason. This lacked the charisma and excitement I expected. It felt very average.
Eddie Guerrero vs Dean Malenko (1997): Again, I can't find any notes on this one. From memory it started off well but, I don't think it really set the world on fire. Probably very much like the Dusty/Flair match above. They had to give a nod to the feud I suppose so, here it is...
Road Warriors vs Steiner Brothers (1989): Everyone was selling and bumping. There were no miscues or blown spots. They did their power moves and throws. What more can you ask really!!? It was a dream match as your gonna get. I thought it was very good and should be in both teams highlight reels. Certainly so for the Steiners as I thought the quality and style was right around what they would be doing in NJPW in the 90's.
Ladder Match (2000): This is the 3 way ladder match that was really a harbinger of early 2000's indy 'let's try anything' wrestling. It sucks that Jamie Noble and Kaz Hiyashi (who I like) are in this thing. Its also on the first WWE Ladder Match DVD set so, I skipped this.
Sting vs Ric Flair (1989): I believe this is the Finals of the 1989 Iron Man tourney. Terry Funk and Jim Ross are on commentary (yes!). This was a great match featuring athletic, charismatic wrestling as you'd hope for. Both guys really put on an action filled match despite the previous bouts and you gotta give it to them for that alone. From what I've seen here and above 1989 looked sweet.
Roddy Piper vs Greg Valentine (1983): And if '89 looked sweet then '83 was sweeter. Oh man, we get the legendary Dog Collar match between Piper and Valentine and it does not disappoint. It was a madhouse type of match where they're just wailing away on each other with abandon. So many visually remarkable moments involving the chain...man they just did it right. A brutal and bloody affair. A classic match.
Road Warriors vs Midnight Express (1986): Another scaffold match. This was remarkably dangerous and Cornette takes a bump off the scaffold (dangling) that seriously injures him. Watch it on fast forward perhaps. Again, these really aren't my thing :/
Sting vs Hogan (1997): Sting's entrance gave me goosebumps. Make no mistake though this is late 90's WCW and they have to fucking slip in some interference in every big match just for the hell of it. Its like having a nice meal at a restaurant and right before you finish, the waiter comes over and drops a fly in it. Like "Why man? Why?" It was a good match even though they dropped a fly in it. For nostalgia sake, watch this big moment in wrestling. I never saw it before and I'm glad I did. Hogan may actually out wrestle Sting too!
Ric Flair vs Harley Race (1983): Steel cage NWA world title match. I watched this a couple times in a week about 7 years back and recall it being very good. It was nice and stiff but, a little to methodical if memory serves me correct. I think it was kinda long too...could be wrong. Maybe it just felt long?? I decided to pass but, this is a big time match up so, if you're curious check it out.
Tully Blanchard vs Magnum TA (1985): This I Quit match was the #1 reason that I spent the $5 at the used DVD/game store for this DVD set. This was violent from the very start...they looked like they wanted to maim each other. I believed it man. I mean Magnum was digging his fingers into Tully's arm trying to pull Tully's wound apart and he's the babyface!! They had to switch cameras that it was so nasty. Visceral barbaric wrestling...this did not disappoint. An all time classic without a doubt. If this is your thing, go see this match. If you gotta buy this DVD, do it. It's worth the dough.
Vader vs Ric Flair (1993): This was Vader's title against Flair's career. I bet you know who wins This was deemed the greatest Starrcade match of all time by someone(s) at WWE. That's arguable but, I understand why they put this over Tully and Magnum. Flair. And it is a great match. It is not without its detractors and I am one of them. I watched this twice in 2 days and my take away is this- it is too slow at the start. Vader wants to pick apart and torture Flair rather than just pin him. I get this but, it is at a turtle's pace. Flair should have had a couple pin attempts in there to show that he had fight rather than getting pummeled. It does get good once Flair makes his successful come-back. However, the pacing and finish are all off to me. The finish required Vader to sell the leg being hurt but, he didn't at all/forgot/etc. so, it seemed like an odd fluke win. Maybe that's what they were going for but, it was clumbsily executed on Vader's part (understandable). But that's a small quibble next to the drawn out first half of the match where Vader beat Flair like a rented mule. Some of the appeal had to be thinking that Flair was going to lose...but, in 2019 that magic has worn away.
So, I would say this set was hit or miss with more hits in the end.
Ranking the hits
Honorable Mention: Eddie Guerrero vs Shinjiro Otani (1995)
10) Sting vs Great Muta (1989)
9) Road Warriors vs Steiner Brothers (1989)
8) Barry Windham & Brian Pillman vs Ricky Steamboat & Shane Douglas (1992)
7) Sting vs Vader (1992)
6) Sting vs Ric Flair (1989)
5) Jack & Jerry Brisco vs Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood (1983)
4) Road Warriors vs Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard (1987)
3) Ric Flair vs Lex Luger (1988)
2) Roddy Piper vs Greg Valentine (1983)
1) Tully Blanchard vs Magnum TA (1985)
I'm very glad that I shelled out the 5 bucks for 10 awesome matches. I feel like Race vs Flair should also be an honorable mention as well. So 12 out of 25 matches that are totally worth checking out...not bad. I'm not sure what that says about WCW or maybe it says more about WWE, I suppose. I'd probably thing the latter is the culprit. They probably could have loaded this with great stuff from 83-89 and I would have been pleased as punch. Heck, Starrcade 83-93 would have been more than acceptable.
Thanks for reading! At the very least watch the top 3 matches above! I'm so glad that I did.
Until next time...
This part transfers the attention to Kawada & his chance at the Triple Crown in October versus Jumbo. It also puts the Step-over Facelock over as a viable finisher, at least for some period of time. Team Jumbo is at their grumpiest here so the overall wrestling is sacrificed here for stronger psychology. It works beautifully in some matches & in others I pine for the excitement filled matches of 1990. There's probably too much Kikuchi & not enough Kobashi as the low-man on the totem pole for me.
Jumbo, Fuchi & Ogawa vs. Misawa, Kawada & Kikuchi (All Japan 7/26/91) I didn't really think too much of this match. It was a little jerky and there wasn't the awesome action & nearfalls of the other 6-man matches. The only person that really brought it was Kawada who went ape-shit on Jumbo even hitting a enzui lariat. ***1/2
Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi vs. Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue (All Japan 8/18/91) A much better match here. I felt the first match brought the focus of the compilation back to where it started. This one really rekindled the grudge with Jumbo clearly being a jerk here. He & Taue once again try to break Kobashi's face & Misawa hurts his shoulder, and wouldn't you know it! They go after that. This really sucked me into this match. Misawa was really selling his injury here & everyone is working at such a top level. I don't really know why people are hating on Taue, he's not Misawa, Kawada, or Kobashi but, everybody already knew that. ****1/2
Mitsuharu Misawa & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi vs. Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue (All Japan 8/29/91) Pretty good tag bout with Kikuchi really stepping up. Unfortunately there's no real damaging offense to Team Olympic so while it's exciting, I wasn't in doubt about the winners. ****
Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada vs. Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue (All Japan 9/4/91) Really great match with Kawada bringing the violence. The guys do some stuff they were using a year earlier like Taue's sumo slaps, well that's about it...Misawa's shoulder was really beat on here. Kawada could hold up in his absence though. He was hitting lariats to the front & back like a monster. His step kicks to Jumbo are especially vicious. In fact, Jumbo vs. Kawada are the best thing going here. It's not on the level of their 9/30 or 12/7/90 matches but is still awesome. And is the 3rd best tag match on here.
Jumbo, Taue & Ogawa vs. Misawa, Kawada & Kikuchi (All Japan 10/10/91) Another very, very good 6-man tag team match. They're really gearing up for the Kawada/Jumbo match and it's damn clear that Kawada & Misawa have arrived as real contenders. Taue & Jumbo don't take that much punishment here and I do agree that Taue has gotten worse. Not in the sense that he sucks to watch but, he doesn't have the varied offense as he did early on. He seems to be content doing the stomping game alot & only doing moves against Kikuchi like the Samoan drop. He does amp it up here though as I believe he chokslams Misawa on the floor. Kawada gets better with each match as I understand his character more & more. He is tired of the bullshit being run by Taue & Tsuruta- all of their double teaming, cheap shots, and the benefits that their status grants them.
Jumbo Tsuruta, Akira Taue & Masa Fuchi vs. Mitsuharu Misawa, Toshiaki Kawada & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi (AJ 10/15/91) Filthy, dirty cheats!! Jumbo's team are a bunch of fucking cheats! Misawa attacked Fuchi at the start but soon he was out of the action because they re-injured his nose. So this was a 2 on 3 match but, Kikuchi is one tough SOB and Kawada was really fighting as two men, especially later when you really need him too. He was hitting Jumbo with some of the stiffest elbows! They really had Jumbo & Co. on the ropes but the cheat, injuring body parts & taking turns at stomping & grinding them. I know why they do it too! They're beat! If Misawa was here they would've lost...the facelock would've been in play for sure. Great match especially in generating heat...I was marking out for Kawada to kill the entire other team & some great saves/nearfalls too. Also Kikuchi does his best Toyota impression a couple times... ****1/2
Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Toshiaki Kawada (Triple Crown AJ 10/24/91) This is Kawada's chance at Jumbo for the title and he tries to use his brain to bring down the giant. The early portion he controls the big man with the side headlock, eventually this peters out as Jumbo uses his patented knees on Dangerous K's abdomen. Kawada responds with knees of his own and uses abdominal stretches and even a proto-stretch plum for a moment. Slowly he slides into using the sleeper to finish the Big J off. Eventually Jumbo breaks free and flashbacks to Tenryu. Although, his knee butt is now officially antiquated. With the stiffness of all the other moves, this puppy looks silly. It'd be silly to compare this to 6/3/94 but Kawada doesn't take head-drops for nothing & he takes a couple head drops here...does he ever. Brutal Finishing segment to a really smart match. Not sure what to rate it though at least ****1/2 though...
Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada vs. Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue (AJ 11/29/91) A really great tag match that sums up the later portion of the year- Misawa's hurt, Jumbo & partner pick on it, Kawada has to kick maximum ass, and Taue's getting lazy. Here they go 30 minutes to show that the teams are equal but in all honesty it's clear that Misawa & Kawada are superior. If Misawa was not injured they'd have nothing holding them back or at least that's the story. He looks like shit in this one too so it's understandable but isn't out of comission like in 10/15/91. This at times looks like they can pin Taue or get Jumbo in the facelock. Maybe next year they'll get their revenge. Very, very good stuff.
These comments on the tag matches are in comparison to the 1990 matches. In the later '91 matches it seems like the same match over & over without much play off or growth in terms of having an answer in the form of a counter, sequence, or strategy like we saw a year earlier. Still this is a damn good match & will have to see where it fits in with the other tag matches on here but is probably 3rd or 4th best tag match...nothing can knock the '90 matches from the top 2 spots though. The real thing that I just remembered after writing the rest of this was at the beginning: Misawa's back! He went all out in the beginning with his flying & did a couple moves in the middle to near end that were showing, you need him here to have an awesome match. Kawada just hadn't come into his own here just yet.
There's more feuding that I'm going to skip over in order to get to what I consider to be the end of the feud despite it not having a proper conclusion.
Misawa & Kawada & Kobashi vs. Jumbo & Akira Taue & Fuchi (05/24/92 AJPW) ****3/4 Although this got a ***** by the Wrestling Observer, I can't agree. It misses the mark as there is a little bit of a let down on the performance side of things from Kawada- there are some weak striking moments and a couple airballs which killed the momentum. In all honesty if he lived up to Dangerous K potential then I would have given this *****. Towards the end he comes in to take on Jumbo and you think it's going to be vicious but it doesn't match the intensity of the previous few minutes of Misawa/Jumbo. If he had hit Tsuruta with blistering strikes then this bout would've erupted. Everyone else impressed me though and if Taue wasn't really injured, I'd be surprised. Just too bad Kawada wasn't performing at his full potential. Still a fast paced and exciting match and Jumbo's team act as vicious heels here which was unique. A must see match even if it's not Kawada's finest hour. It and all of these great 6-man matches of the early 90s are benchmarks in wrestling history.
This is one that'd I'd like to rewatch to see how it stands today.
Its a fantastic feud that perhaps overstayed its welcome but, could still deliver the drama and excitement up til the end.
I think this program has been lost to time in terms of essential Japanese wrestling. So, I hope that I've shed some new light on it and folks who are familiar with the current stuff take a step back and check out this classic work.
Thanks for reading!
Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs. Misawa, Kawada & Kobashi (All Japan 4/20/91) Whew ! Nearly 52 minutes of action! This was really just awesome stuff with Kawada really stepping into his character & Fuchi being the real-standout of his team. He was the real bone cruncher here & getting quite a few chants too. He deserved them too. Kobashi was getting beat on for a good portion & although this slowed the action down, it made the closing 5 minutes sheer joy. Awesome finish too. I can't wait to see Taue & Kawada go at it in tag.
Jumbo Tsuruta & Masa Fuchi vs. Mitsuharu Misawa & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi (All Japan 5/17/91) A nice little tag match where Misawa has an injured arm & Kikuchi is in the place of trying to protect his boss, Misawa. Very good in putting the Jr. over. Fuchi was quite good again too, Jumbo & Misawa did nothing special but, coming from behind Misawa used his facelock & made Fuchi quit. Another first time move appearance?
Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Kenta Kobashi (All Japan 5/24/91) Watched this one a couple times and I really don't know how it's a MOTY candidate or could be nominated for Top 20 but, it's certainly top 50. The start is clipped to where both guys are sweating pretty good. Kobashi's offense is the highlight and he nearly gets Jumbo but, really he wasn't going to win. Still, you really feel for Kobashi & his facial expressions never seemed to get mentioned but he's one of the best. Better organized than the Kawada carny match but not as brutal & believable that the underdog could pull it off. Still Top 50 stuff that should be seen. ****
Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Terry Gordy (All Japan 6/1/91) Now if you want a viable MOTYC for this point in 1991, this would be one of mine. So, far nothing except 4/20/91 has been a blow-away classic unlike the 1990 stuff but, there's been a lot more singles matches & more matches in general so, that's misleading. Anyhow this is the Triple Crown match of the year thus far & top singles match. It's more Gordy's style than Misawa's but, those aren't too different other than the pacing. The beginning & middle are fairly basic but each transition is pretty seamless & the ending gets great but, in a little different way than Misawa's King's Road style he was developing. Reading Ditch's AJPW, I agree that this was Misawa's match in the sense he was stepping out from underneath Jumbo's shadow, showing he could have great matches without him. The same kinda goes for the Hansen carny match. It show he didn't need the feud's heat, his ringwork & star power could get it for him. Gordy's a real pro too. Best singles match thus far in '91. ****1/2
Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada vs. Terry Gordy & Steve Williams (All Japan 7/24/91) Awesome fun stuff here with Miracle Violence Connection looking like the toughest tag team ever. They went after Misawa's face and then his leg which I'm sure both were legitimately injured. Tremendous selling from Misawa & is what made it very special. Kawada was a very good number two playing the part of being Robin to Misawa's Batman. Cool, cool stuff. **** or maybe **** 1/4
AJPW 1991 is slept on but, this is a great place to jump in. All of the big players facing off in tags and singles competition and a couple classic matches - you can't go wrong!
Thanks for reading! Part 5 is in the works!
This part is comprised more of single matches than tags & isn't as awesome as the first two but does an excellent job of showing just about every one of the main players going at it alone. There may be some spoilers ahead by the way.
Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Akira Taue (All Japan 1/26/91) Misawa is such a dick here. He slaps Taue during a rope break & when they go to lock up he hits him with a stiff elbow shot. Taue gets his revenge though throwing up some mean boots, dumping a couple Samoan drops & even throwing our little superhero on a row of chairs. Misawa only get pissed and gets his comeback mojo going by countering the DDT with a northern lights suplex (never seen him do that one!) and getting a nearfall with the Tiger Driver. This is the first time I believe he's done that on the tapes, also Taue does the first chokeslam on the tapes too. Still it's not enough for Taue! Then Misawa does the unspeakable, whether it was planned or improvised, he performs the first Tiger Driver '91!!! It's still the most dangerous finisher & establishes it's reputation soundly. Taue isn't kicking out or really even moving that afterwards. Me thinks Jumbo & Taue want payback...bad. Relatively short match but all action. ****1/4
Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs. Misawa, Kobashi & Kikuchi (All Japan 3/23/91) This one started out a little slow & without too much intensity. Kikuchi was really being introduced as an ally of Misawa and he got whooped on. Fuchi is also in a bit in this early section & while some of his offense is dated in it's impact, his submissions are top notch. Once Misawa got the tag, this thing blew up & you really can identify with Kobashi & Kikuchi as almost brothers. That & it makes one wonder why their so rough on Kikuchi & Kobashi when Misawa & Kawada are the ones the really want. This is a little bit of a sentiment switcher since the two K's are just a couple of young guys, there's no good reason to beat them so hard. The story here's pretty good but the beginning is a bit dull but the ending really saved this & kept the heat on. I can't wait to see these guys go at it again! ****1/4
Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Toshiaki Kawada (All Japan 4/6/91) Slow starting match but it picked up with Kawada showing his toughness and his hard hitting offense. Jumbo really had to go all out here to put Dangerous K down. Very nice Champion Carnival match. ****
Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Stan Hansen (All Japan 4/6/91) This one here is a lost classic or close to it. If you don't get this on a compilation, I'm sure most people would never see it. And that's the problem I have with all of these Best of the 90s AJPW lists. People should do a forgotten classic AJPW list or something like that...matches that are spectacular but don't get a fair look. This certainly is one of them. I've never seen this on any list & it really deserves to be mentioned. Incredibly stiff, there's a neat story with Hansen being tied to Misawa's progress...an indicator if he's ready to take on Jumbo man to man. I'll have to re-watch this but it was better than the Jumbo/Kawada match for sure.
Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Stan Hansen (All Japan 4/16/91) This is the type of match you want to see between two of the biggest wrestlers in Japan. They were just slamming into one another & Jumbo was working Stan's arm very well. Hansen once again show's that he's a hell of smart performer by using other attacks while his arm "heals." I didn't care for the finish but since they wrestled this in more of the 80's style it was excusable & special but not really up to par with most finishes in this time period. ****
Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Mitsuharu Misawa (All Japan 4/18/91) I didn't really think this match stacked up with their earlier matches & wasn't up to snuff with the Champ. Carnival matches. It really took awhile to get going and the strikes weren't as good as the previous matches. I wouldn't be surprised if someone was injured or something. Still the last five minutes were pretty damn good & I wonder if there's some parallel to the Dr. Death/Kobashi match in '93? ****
Thanks for checking this out! Go see some of the great matches!
I'll be back with more of my absolute favorite feud shortly
Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Mitsuharu Misawa (All Japan 9/1/90) ****1/2+ In this match-up Misawa tries to use his elbow strikes to go toe-to-toe with Jumbo. He finds out that he's no Tenryu and gets a beatdown. It's not that Jumbo isn't really messed up by this attack but it's not enough to transition into a serious pinning predicament. Still Misawa uses his quickness & flying but not in conjunction with much other than his strikes. So Jumbo does what he can to shift momentum and work Green Jeans over. I would've liked I little more variety other than a elbow battle to make this 5 stars like some say but, still it's awesome but not like their match in June. Re-Watch: This is a pretty great match but stylistically I preferred the June match. Misawa tried to be Tenryu to Jumbo, you know to try and slug it out. Misawa had much greater effect with his flying moves but wanted to get the big shot in. In the end he got caught and flat out beat. Still I would have liked a match with more variety in offense since Misawa slung 40 elbows or so in this one.
Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue vs. Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada (All Japan 9/30/90) Wow! An awesome time limit draw match that was one of those matches that were so well paced that you could have watched it all day. It wasn't a sprint so there wasn't a bunch of unbelievable sequences or crazy moves although by the end things were getting quite interesting. Kawada did blow a couple kicks and he took a double arm suplex like a Tiger Driver but everyone was worn out & hurt so mistakes like these were excusable because they were insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs. Misawa, Kawada & Kobashi (All Japan 10/19/90) It took me some time to get this one started as I was having some problems getting this to play just right. Once I got it going I'd seen the first 8 minutes a couple times. This match went nearly 30 minutes and I distinctly recall saying to myself, "This is the greatest match ever." That's pretty cool considering I thought I'd seen all of the great AJPW stuff. Greatness is only a state of mind. As an aside, Fuchi is a sadist but his striking offense is weak, Kawada hasn't quite found his Dangerous K persona & moves, Taue is impressive despite the conventional notion that he didn't get good until '95, Kobashi is already the baby-face you just can't pin, and Misawa is an upstart jerk. Jumbo is the old guard, he is the elder & Misawa doesn't give him the respect he's due. It's like a youngster taking on tradition. At this point I'm rooting for Jumbo but, I like seeing Taue & Kawada go at it, and feel sorry of Kobashi, & well Masa Fuchi's there grinning while breaking your bones. That's really neat that they're telling 3 different stories at the same time.
Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue vs. Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada (All Japan 12/7/90) Maybe I'm just a sucker for tag-matches but this was amazing. The timing was really brilliant stuff & showing Akira Taue's toughness was a great little story here too. I wasn't sure he could take all that Misawa & Kawada were dishing out. Although this was clipped a little bit on the front end since I think it was a TV episode (complete with commercials!), it didn't effect the greatness of the match. They're building off of past confrontations or adding neat twists. Kawada really comes into his own here too. I felt that in the couple months since the last match he's got his intensity dialed up. Great stuff!
Stan Hansen vs. Jumbo Tsuruta (All Japan 1/19/91) A solid Triple Crown match between two of the biggest, toughest guys around. Things got a little loose at the end with Hansen & Jumbo trying some sequences but, it came off in a way. Hansen went down to a Baba neckbreaker drop which was cool. I don't know how believable it was though ; ) ***3/4
These are some of my desert island matches. You've got to watch these!
This is one of my all time favorite feuds in puro. It probably won't get much attention nowadays but, that's time for ya! This isn't a definitive match list but, it covers most of the seminal puro program. These are my original reviews and star ratings when I was watching my DVDs as if the matches were weekly episodes. I've been in a wrestling rut lately so I hope this will get me out of it!
Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Tiger Mask II (All Japan 3/9/88) ****1/2+ What an amazing little match. Misawa mainly keeps Jumbo contained with a side headlock for the majority of the middle portion. This would be risky nowadays but back then, it works. Wrestling is still the focus and the psychological direction is strong. Misawa can't trade blows or throws but he can contain Tsuruta & possibly score a quick pin. Jumbo won't be so easily wrangled and breaks the hold a few times. First, he is respectful by using the ropes. Next he, frustrated, peppers Tiger's ribs with short elbows. Finally, the champ shows the youngster who's boss & slings Misawa onto his back. From there, the match is wide open with a foreshadow of the action to come for AJPW in the 1990s. Fantastic!
Tiger Mask and Toshiaki Kawada vs. Yoshiaki Yatsu and Ricky Fuyuki (All Japan 5/14/90) - Nothing really special move-wise but this is the match where Misawa decides that the gimmick & mask are holding him back.
Jumbo, Kabuki & Fuchi vs. Misawa, Kobashi & Taue (All Japan 5/26/90) ***3/4 A good 6-man match but the real focus is on Fuchi & Jumbo putting the upstart team in their place. Kabuki to some extent too but Fuchi & Tsuruta are not impressed with the team of Misawa, Kobashi, & Taue...all look like Muppet Babies. It's wild. What's even more wild is that Misawa has the gall to elbow Jumbo off the apron (unprovoked) and that Kobashi isn't killed in the ring. Taue strangely supplies most of the action and is quite adroit in his execution. It really proves what a great tag-teamer & wrestler he is. He really lets Misawa/Kobashi work the story aspects by keeping the match going. This was a smart move on his part as early on it really was losing direction other than Jumbo is pissed. Still, the finishing portions were quite good, enough to build the excitement for the win. Suffice to say big old Jumbo is not pleased with the results.
Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Mitsuharu Misawa (All Japan 6/8/90) ***** This is the epitome of a big match without doing anything "big." There were plenty of teases to finishers and all of that but, that's not where the match lay. It was a story of Misawa's speed & guile against Jumbo's brutish strength. Misawa's biggest attacks were his dives to the outside & his top rope moves. Tsuruta in contrast used his more pedestrian offense but with the weight & stiffness he is known for. Things such as stomps, axe handles, scoop slams were done with intensity that really few can rival. Just a fantastic athletic match that was really one of the best of all time.
Tsuruta, Kabuki & Inoue vs. Misawa, Kawada & Kobashi (All Japan 7/12/90) **** A very exciting match in a small venue that teased and played off the new rivalry between the old guard and the young guns. Kawada even kept his feud of sorts with Kabuki going and putting his kicks over with the fans by knocking Kabuki out (legitimately?) & Kobashi showed that he could definitely hang with the top guys. We already knew that but, hey it's 1990 and he's not quite throwing the lariats & chops yet. Honestly, he's really interesting because his body of work is split in two distinct periods yet, both are really good.
Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Stan Hansen (All Japan 7/27/90) ***3/4 A simpler old style match that saw Misawa control Hansen for three-quarters of the time. He had his arm tied up in locks and would strike it with knees & elbows. In fact Misawa was as much a Heel as I've ever seen from him. He worked the arm over against the post and even a chair! Anytime Stan broke free though he really hit the crap out of his opponent. There were 3 or 4 really stiff shots that Misawa caught including a back elbow & from a chair. What's also pretty remarkable is how well Hansen sells the injured arm & really is on the short list for best seller. He does it so that he won't use the injured arm for really the entire match. It's a basic program that Hansen & Misawa worked in the next few years but, it's really smart & pretty great when executed by two intelligent & talented performers.
Overall, this is an excellent start with 2 absolute classic matches & really fun six man outings. Pick a few, watch, and enjoy!
Thank you for reading! Part 2 coming soon!
Its been awhile so, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite matches. Not just my favorite Dory Funk Jr. matches...nope, these are some of my all time faves. I cannot promise a bunch of moves and stuff so, don't be mistaken. I like my action matches but, my friends, this is different.
vs Jack Brisco NWA World Title (01/24/74) This is possibly one of the top 5 greatest matches that I've seen. Excellent mat wrestling for an hour with each fall being a little bit different in style and in story. I can see people not liking this but, one has to appreciate wrestling and not necessarily a load of moves.
vs Horst Hoffman (12/15/75) This match is another one of those ones where you can't really rate it. It is simply a treat to watch two masters go at it. A true wrestling fan would want this match to never end. Sadly it does but it rather clever fashion. If there was more of a story to this, then I believe it would be quite phenomenal. Re-Watch: Just a slight re-watch of five minutes or so and man alive, this is a classic. Its got that same chemistry like Bockwinkel vs Robinson. These two are great and this match is a must see for a Dory Funk Jr. fan. You can just see it in his eyes. This is what a world champion looks like.
vs Jumbo Tsuruta (12/18/75) The teacher and the student go head to head possibly for the first time in Japan. If this ever shows up in a complete form it may be up there in the short list of top matches of the 70's. The action is there and the story is there to back it up. Dory knows after the bell rings just how good Jumbo is. You have to know your wrestling to "get" this one but, man is this good. Great? A classic? Take your pick.
vs Terry Funk - NWA International Title (04/30/81) This was a 50 minute technical wrestling match in the old style. There were plenty of long mat sections of grinding holds and attempted escapes. The only portion I thought was a bit long was the very beginning when Dory had Terry locked in a series of headlocks. The match went long so it didn't seem necessary to milk 6 minutes at the front. Also there was nothing too explosively exciting with this match like something Terry would do on his own or maybe Ric Flair or even the stuff going on in NJPW at the time. This was good old mat wrestling NWA style and if one can't appreciate the holds and the escapes then this was a good hour to do something else. They picked it up and brought it down a number of times and gave the fans their money worth. More dynamism would have been great though but I think Terry wanted to show that he could hang in there with his older brother. Also to note very few rope breaks were used on holds, which is why I mentioned all of the escapes. Those holds & escapes were the majority of the match. I also would have liked some of the stuff to be a bit smoother but that's ok. It adds to the realism. Great stuff!
vs. Bruiser Brody - NWA International Title (04/21/82) It's not necessary to dwell on a match like this since it is so basic. This is the primal kind of stuff that transcends styles, moves, eras. It is how wrestling should be done. If you really watch, this type of wrestling provides the base for those 1990s classics and most every classic since. Great match!
If you've never seen a Dory Funk Jr. match, I highly recommend checking at least one of these out!
Thanks for reading!