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Found 817 results

  1. William Bologna

    Tatsumi Fujinami

    Fujinami is a wrestler I've long thought I'd like without ever seeing much of his work. As a longtime All Japan mark and all-around wrestling philistine, I've never had much occasion to dive into the work of a man who is, according to the inarguable dictates of science, the 20th greatest wrestler of all time. Of all time! But I have an NJPW World account and some time to kill between their last letdown of an event and upcoming, dog-ass awful tag team tournament, so why not watch every Fujinami match on the service? They didn't make it easy (I hesitate to blame Gedo personally, but who else is there?). Normally a wrestler has two entries in the tag list; one in Japanese, and one in our Roman script. For some reason, there are four Fujinamis in the archive, and each one has a different number of matches. Dammit, Gedo! I choose the first of these, with the largest number of matches (44). It seems to be mostly in chronological order. WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship bout Carlos Estrada vs Tatsumi Fujinami I guess this is the title that wound up in the J-Crown before the WWF demanded it back. Here's what I like about Carlos/Jose Estrada (and kudos to the MSG ring announcer for that rolled R on his last name): The dude starts heeling immediately. He lofts the belt like a dick and then proceeds to bitch and moan the whole time the ref is checking him. Here is a man who will take a shortcut, you say to yourself. Meanwhile, Fujinami's in the other corner wearing the traditional young lion gear and looking all wholesome and full of fighting spirit. Estrada brings a lot of hip tosses and some pretty sweet full-body-windup punches, and Fujinami gets his fighting spirit comebacks here and there. In response to a couple totally rad dropkicks, Estrada puts on the full heel handshake act. The beg-off, the hands behind the back, the offered handshake, the full drop to the knees one hand behind the back offered handshake. Will this virtuous young man fall for the wiles of the crafty veteran? What if I told you there were no wiles, and Estrada just wanted to shake hands? And the fans boo him for just shaking hands and not cheating? Seriously, this guy's an amazing heel. Eventually Estrada goes for and misses some kind off flip of the top rope. Fujinami hits him with what must be one of the first recorded dragon suplexes, and - making an argument that wrestling in 1978 is better than it is in 2017 - pins him with it. Fujinami reacts with wild, hair-out-of-place enthusiasm - he can't believe he did it! His joy is infectious, as the American crowd seems to be just as excited as he is (at least the collection of sideburns and turtlenecks picked up by the camera is). Estrada sells like he's dead, because he's a pro and he just got nailed with a damn dragon suplex in 1978. An in-ring in-Japanese interview follows, in which they seem to talk a lot about the suplex and about Fujinami doing his best. This must have been fascinating for the audience. This was great. Early Fujinami was like Hirai Kawato, and that's pretty much the best thing you can be.
  2. The first installment was really good stuff that quite honestly surprised me. My memory of Tiger Mask was all of the flips and spots with Dynamite Kid so, seeing him in different settings was refreshing. But, we start off with 2 Tiger vs Dynamite matches so, let's see how they hold up. vs. Dynamite Kid (01/01/82): The Brit focuses on taking out TM's leg after he apparently took an odd bump. Quick thinking! On top of that he drives the masked head of Sayama into the mat with some devastating moves. Very good match, ***1/2 area. vs. Dynamite Kid (01/28/82): The rematch of sorts. Kid really wants to get his mitts on the feline fan favorite. Lotsa clubbing blows, tosses to the floor, and chokes for good measure. Tiger wants to prove he's no fluke and out wrestles the lad with armbars, leg locks, and headscissors. Of course, Dynamite gets his chance and delivers a cervical vertebra crushing piledriver that looks to have TM beat. An extra exciting finishing segment caps off a great match. vs. Bret Hart (05/02/82): An interesting match as Bret is the most vanilla wrestler Tiger has faced thus far. But, in that regard, it makes everything TM does that more meaningful. Bret is so much larger and is working heel so, its a little bit different from what you might hope for. But, it worked because he really looked like his size and rough neck style was the answer for Tiger Mask. Good match vs. Baby Face (02/09/82): Now we get to see a more out an out cheating heel in Baby Face. Those fish hooks were great! A very mat based match with explosive rope running will get me every time. Here is no different! If this would have been longer, I would say it was a really great bout. But, as it is, I've gotta say its a peg down at Very Good. There's no shame in that though. I had a blast! vs. Blackman (03/12/82): Joined in Progress but, no matter...this is great! Excellent chemistry and I have to believe they have fought each other previously. I thought that this was going to be glorified squash filler or maybe clipped since Blackman is unknown to me and such an anachronistic gimmick. (Was it part of the TM Manga?) Glad I was wrong though! He really looked like TM's equal in terms of speed and agility. Only Gran Hamada is up there so, that's good company. Anyhow, check this one out! Its got an awesome organic finish that really seals the deal on a great bout. Tiger Mask/Kantaro Hoshino vs. Blackman/Karloff Lagarde (03/19/82): If you're interested in a high energy tag match where everyone is in constant motion, look no further! This is like the '83 version of a mid 2010's PWG tag match - double teams, comedy spots, and just go-go throughout. Just a bunch of fireworks (just in time for the Fourth of July too!). A heat segment and a more emphatic victory probably would have put this into great match territory. It's exciting stuff nonetheless! This set has really been full of surprises. I suppose that I really forgot that meat and potatoes grappling was the backbone of puro even for the burgeoning Junior division. I'm not well versed in 80's lucha as I've only dipped my toe in here and there but, I think the same focus on grappling was true there as well. Or maybe I've just been away from the early 80's wrestling tapes too long!? I forgot how much I really dig the style here. I also think there's a myth that only TM and Dynamite were capable of amazing things OR that Tiger's like a proto late stage Manami Toyota - all action but, little thought. Thus far, I've seen just the opposite. Just pleasantly surprised already. Thanks for reading! Please stay safe folks!
  3. G. Badger

    Spotlight - Tiger Mask

    I finally broke down and bought the big DVD set of the Tiger Mask collection. From what it looks, its most of his taped matches from NJPW. I know there was a big of shift in popular opinion a few years back on the Tiger vs Dynamite matches. I still love those battles but, I wanted to revisit them. Also, I wanted to see more of Tiger Mask as other than those bouts, I'd only seen one other match vs Kobayashi. I knew there was more I needed to see for myself, whatever my final opinion would be. Let's take a look! 4/23/81 - Tiger Mask Debut: Tiger Mask vs. Dynamite Kid: Tiger's debut and its pretty good. Its a bit frenetic and all over the place story wise. Dynamite Kid has met his match. Its a little rough in spots so, I can't say it was a tremendous athletic showing but, a fun start. 6/04/81 - Tiger Mask & Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Chris Adams & Mike Masters - Highlights 8/02/81 - Tiger Mask vs. Scorpion - Highlights, Scorpion is a good base for Tiger's moves 9/18/81 - Tiger Mask & Tatsumi Fujinami vs. El Solar & El Solitario -Highlights 9/23/81 -Tiger Mask vs. El Solar: This started out really good but, Solar hurts his shoulder and this is mainly them trying to figure out how to make match. This surely could have been clipped instead of the Scorpion match...and I like Solar too! Only the beginning needs to be watched. 10/08/81 - Tiger Mask vs. Masked Hurricane (Bobby Lee): The best bout so far. This is a mask vs mask match. Guess who wins? There is an emphasis on wrestling rather than flashy moves and the quality benefits. The neat counters or reversals are there but, are few and more meaningful. Good match 10/30/81 - Tiger Mask & Kengo Kimura vs. El Signo & Negro Navarro - Highlights. A full match would have been great. 11/05/81 - Tiger Mask vs. Gran Hamada: Exactly what I was hoping for! Hamada was doing more of the spectacular while Tiger was hitting his kicks. Tiger has slowed from his debut and he and Hamada did a near perfect lucharesu match like we'd see a decade plus later in M-Pro. Near classic match to me! Like ****1/4 territory 12/01/81 - Tiger Mask & Tatsumi Fujinami vs. El Canek & Super Maquina: A full tag match, yes!!! Super Maquina has a similar outfit as Maquina Salvaje, a football player. What's odd is Super Maquina is Super Machine in English. But, this is too early for Junji Hirata to even be thinking of doing his famous gimmick. Oh the confusion of masks and older wrestling, its great! Nevertheless, he's a good worker. This is one of the few El Canek matches that I have seen. I gotta say I like him! The Mexican team pits their power against the Japanese team's speed & technique. And another match where "wrestling" is the focus and exciting spots are kept to a minimum for maximum effect . And the big highspot was for the finish of the match...very good stuff. Really a pleasure to watch and had me wanting to see more. 12/08/81 - Tiger Mask vs. El Canek: So this is the follow up to the above tag match. Its a pretty big deal that El Canek is facing TM. Or the other way around, I guess. The first move was kinda wonky so, they re-did it. Eh, I don't like when they do this but, the rest of bout erased that faux pas. Plus the little spot was pretty cool to see done right. Lotsa good power moves & stretching from Canek. Tiger had some clever answers for those but, also pressed the Mexican with his kicks. Exciting "80's finish" but, you know what? If its done right like this, I really don't mind. Very good match..perhaps a tad below the tag match. This start had me worried a little bit but, really ended well. The Hamada match, man, so glad I saw this. I may like it more than my "rating" indicates. Plus the tag & El Canek singles bout hit the nail right on the head. I was really worried that this would be all flippy nonsense especially based on what the highlighted matches showed. I really hope those are kept to a minimum as I go forward. Thanks for reading and stay safe! Be smart out there too!
  4. It is June and we're half way through 2020. It's been a rip roaring good time, no? All of that aside I'd like to do my half year in review. Not that I've been watching 20 matches a week or anything but, I think I've accomplished some wrestling watching goals that have been years in the making. Those big 2 are the wXw 2011 tournament and 1988 NJPW. I'd like to break things down by decades or era going forward. Then, from there I can say what my pick is. It is a little bit of comparing apples to oranges when looking at wrestling from 1980-2020. Some of the freshness of my approach is making that type of comparison. It is not saying "well that's a good match for 1985" or "that was OK for a 2018 match." I really am of the mind that great wrestling and especially classic wrestling is timeless. The trends and tropes may shift over time but, a hard fought match telling a compelling story will always be exciting, memorable, and worthwhile. I think breaking the matches down by year will help me organize my thoughts and provide a better resource to a reader. You may only want to know about stuff from the 1990's or 2000's onward so, it gives you the chance to see how I compared it to contemporary and historic matches without reading my actual review. My hope is that a person might see I think Sami Callihan vs Big Van Walter is comparable in quality to Vader vs Fujinami. And that then piques their interest in one match or the other. To me that's the real value of match reviews - making comparisons between the familiar and unfamiliar in order to bridge the gap in styles, genres, eras etc. If you've read this blog then, you know my tastes are ecclectic. I don't talk much about Lucha or WoS British style but, that's only because others here have provided such superior insights that I really don't think I can add anything. I just watch and enjoy. I digress! Let's get onto the lists! Oh, these are only matches that I've watched this year so, any review where I pulled a review from the graveyard to share won't be covered here. Best Matches Watched - January - June: Pre 1970's: Mighty Atlas vs Angelo Poffo (Chicago 1956) Honorable Mention, Very good match with nice action and pacing. Simple story but, well worked. 1970s & 80s: Akira Nogami, Tatsutoshi Goto, K. Yamada, K. Hoshino & S. Koshinaka vs Hiroshi Hase, K. Kobayashi, Kensuke Sasaki, N. Honaga & H. Saito (04/27/88) Tatsumi Fujinami vs Big Van Vader (04/27/88) Tatsumi Fujinami vs Riki Choshu (05/27/88) Shiro Koshinaka vs Owen Hart (06/24/88) Tatsumi Fujinami vs Riki Choshu (06/24/88) Tatsumi Fujinami vs Big Van Vader (06/26/88) Riki Choshu vs Antonio Inoki (07/22/88) Shiro Koshinaka vs Kuniaki Kobayashi (8/08/88) Antonio Inoki vs Tatsumi Fujinami (08/08/88) 1990s & 2000s: KENTA & Marufuji vs Samoa Joe & Danielson (ROH Best in the World 2006) KENTA vs Samoa Joe vs Bryan Danielson (ROH In Your Face 2006) Low Ki (Senshi) vs Chris Sabin (TNA Bound for Glory 2006) Honorable Mention, An action packed match with 0 TNA bullshit to spoil it. Golden era X Division stuff. Daisuke Sekimoto vs Manabu Nakanishi (BJW 2007) Honorable Mention, A very good to great match that told a great story that that fans & myself could believe. Precursor to the BJW Strong Style revival stuff. 2010 to present: Sami Callihan vs Tommy End (wXw 16 Carat 2011) El Generico vs Kotaro Suzuki (same) El Generico & Emil Sitoci vs Adam Cole & Kyle O'Reilly Yoshihito Sasaki vs Sami Callihan Davey Richards vs Zack Sabre Jr. Daisuke Sekimoto vs El Generico Cole & O'Reilly vs Sabre Jr. & Scurll Sami Callihan vs Big Van Walter Mark Haskins vs Alex Shelley (ROH TV 02/20): Honorable Mention, excellent chain wrestling by Shelley and a good fit for Haskins hybrid style. Crowd actually was into this match which can be tough for live ROH crowds nowadays. Best Wrestler: Tatsumi Fujinami, Sami Callihan Biggest Surprise: Yoshihito Sasaki Looking forward to: Tackling the mountain of DVDs I've got - AJPW, BJW, NOAH, NJPW, ROH and more...RetroMania Wrestling video game... Still deciding on what my next project is going to be... Thanks for reading!
  5. The homecoming and debut of The Rainmaker gimmick for Okada. This is around 5 minutes total. His look is something else - his face especially in comparison to today. This is very cookie-cutter, with no heat, but I'll tell you what - the guy could hit a dropkick, including a big seated dropkick off the top rope. Rainmaker pose draws crickets and its an awful clothesline this time out anyway.
  6. Pretty damn good young lion match. This was the earliest Suzuki I‘ve seen, but he was already firmly into the shootstyle thing. Lots of cool slick matwork with Suzuki locking in some clinical looking armbars and doing some really cool stuff, like turning a Fujiwara armbar into a pin. The cool thing was that they didn‘t make it look easy, both guys had to fight even for something like a snapmare. Watching this made me wonder how either guy would have done on a different career path, e.g. Suzuki staying in NJPW and Iizuka doing shootstyle. The last couple minutes rule with Suzuki hitting big throws and a great looking corner dropkick while trying to fend off Iizukas Sambo leglocks, while both guys are laying in the smacks. Good shit.
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