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Spotlight: Tiger Mask - Part 4

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G. Badger

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How are you folks doing? Staying cool and safe hopefully. What a heck of a summer, right? Sorry for taking so long to get the next installment of the blog out. The heat has really zapped my energy by the end of the day & I'm in no mood to turn my TV on to watch old wrestling DVDs. But, I have to press on don't I? Hot weather and pandemic anxieties be damned! :D

In all seriousness, that is pretty much the case for my snail like pace. My goal for the better part of the year was to get a post every week but, its been a rough summer. For the last 2 weeks of work, we have been trying to catch up from what I'll call a total order system collapse. I'm not an expert but, everything ground to a halt as far as taking and shipping orders at work. I was able to get a lot done once we were up and running again but, it was a mighty job of catch-up we had to play. Top that off with the heat and the madness of living in the US during the COVID-19 pandemic...yeah I was lucky enough to enjoy bits of Impact, ROH and Smackdown last week. Making time to actively watch and critique wrestling wasn't happening. Nevertheless, when I saw my opportunity this weekend, I took it.

Let's get on with the Spotlight on Tiger Mask!

vs Ultraman (06/18/82): Ultraman has a neat outfit similar to Hijo del Santo. The character is based off a live action TV show akin to Power Rangers but, is from the 60's originally. I'm guessing NJ saw how popular the Tiger Mask cross-over was that they wanted to try their hand at a long time character like Ultraman. Welp...you know how that worked out...This was an OK match that could have been more if it weren't for some stumbles and bumbles. We get the debut of the Space Flying Tiger Drop (cartwheel plancha) but, this really could have been a clipped match.

Tiger Mask/Tatsumi Fujinami vs Ultraman/El Polaco (06/25/82): Hey, hey! I'm always happy to see a full tag match on this set. One of the reasons I bought this was to see more Fujinami along with other lesser seen talent. This was pretty much just that as the Japanese team squashed the Luchadores. I'm surprised they continued the Ultraman stuff as he kinda got buried here. Nonetheless, we have...

vs Ultraman (07/06/82): Despite the first two matches, this was pretty good. Only one little bumble when they try to add too many moves onto a sequence. Seriously, this is the TM vs Ultraman bout to watch. It doesn't get to crazy and has a definitive ending. Good match.

vs Dynamite Kid (07/23/82): NJPW probably wanted to get the failed Ultraman feud out of everyone's memory so, they go for a safe bet and start up the bulk of Tiger vs Dynamite storyline for the summer of '82. This chapter closes with the legendary WWF MSG match. But, I'm getting ahead of myself! We're at the beginning here. On the previous occasions, Dynamite has been unable to get the better of the super hero. He's tried traditional rough housing, mat wrestling, and even quick attacks. Nothing has worked though. Here he goes full speed ahead showing that he can keep up with Tiger. There's not a great structure to the match but, the theme is that they are peers. I thought it worked well. Bret Hart's involvement at the end was fun and set up the Space Flying Tiger. Now here  we have one of the big faux pas in the series. DK apparently no sells the dive and tombstones Tiger on the floor. To play devil's advocate, the crash & burn of the landing is obscured by the hard camera angle. The floor shot might have shown that Dynamite stepped aside and let Bret take the brunt of the dive. People talk about holy grail wrestling footage...I'd like to see the floor cam angle of that dive! Nonetheless, it was a great match and in terms of intensity and athleticism, this is hard to beat in 1982. Plus, we get an uncommon type of finish.

vs Bret Hart (07/30/82): A few days later we see Bret w/ Dynamite at his side. The Canadian hero-to-be tries his hand at pinning the masked man. Let me tell you, this is the superior Bret vs Tiger match. In fact, it may very well be better than the above DK bout. We see a nice face/heel dynamic, Bret looked more confident and worked a smart match where Tiger used is fancy moves as hope spots/comebacks and NOT just to show off. Bret wasn't looking to work as equals he was looking to use his size, smarts, and ability to dominate TM. The story here and in most Bret/DK matches vs Tiger is to shows that they may be better, faster, stronger than TM but, they were hot heads and couldn't resist taking shortcuts. These  shortcuts would then backfire. Tiger knew his opponents better and that knowledge is a weapon more dangerous than any spin kick or dive. If he could endure then, Tiger Mask could find a way to win. The finish played really well to this narrative and we get a great overall match. A different style than many of the others but, you could see that Tiger as a character and worker could adapt. Plus, it was a glimpse at what a great storyteller Bret would be. Again, great match!

Tiger Mask/Tatsumi Fujinami/Kengo Kimura vs Dynamite Kid/Bret Hart/Greg Valentine (07/31/82): Oh man, this was shown in full & is a 2/3 falls match! Tiger isn't even in that much so, I'm surprised this was shown in full. I'm not complaining though. The North American team focused on beating up Kengo. He was really great at selling this beat down. I mean I've rarely seen anyone try to scramble or dive to make a tag like Kengo did in this match. One criticism I've seen is that Valentine looked like he didn't belong here or that he was bringing some corny WWF stuff to the match. I disagree. He was bringing Heavyweight action to a Junior Heavy match. In fact, I wish this was fought a little slower like Greg than the Red Bull & vodka crazy pace they were running. Still, the story was there with Kengo being the man in peril, the wrestling was on point, and the finish was bananas in the best way. So much fun, a very good bout and a very nice way to end this post!

We got off to a rocky start with Ultraman but, settled in with Tiger Mask fighting some of Stampede's finest. That six man match was just bonus. Those three matches are really worth taking an hour and watching.

Thanks for reading! 

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