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  1. Woooo boy. I've been looking forward to getting this set up. A lot of people focus in on Sayama's prime days: either as the Jr heavyweight ace in New Japan or his UWF stuff. That's perfectly fine: a grand majority of his career highlights exist within those years: but I always noticed that his later stuff when he returns to pro wrestling proper in 1994 to fight Liger and beyond are kinda ignored and left by the wayside. I've heard some people have overlooked his work in that regard for a multitude of reasons, mainly his varying quality and/or style. I don't agree with this mostly and I believe there are not only good matches after his first major break from wrestling, but downright fantastic showings. The goal of this is to discuss these and try to draw a general idea of how good he was during this specific era. What will this entail? Basically, I've reviewed a pretty massive amount of Tiger Mask's matches since 1994, including his RJPW, his Battlarts, Michinoku Pro and UFO work, etc etc. Have I reviewed everything possible? Obviously not. There are some noticeable gaps in that some of his later RJPW, Tokyo Pro Wrestling, early 2000's AJPW, or general hard to find stuff like IGF shit aren't here, namely because these shows were put on incredibly obscure networks and/or distributed terribly, so even the vaguest of Russian websites don't have them (and that's a seriously big achievement) If anyone has reliable links to these I would appreciate it a ton. I will be also including some material that I managed to piece together with local fancam footage, including some unaired RJPW shows and general stuff that didn't get on air. This includes stuff like his Misawa tag bout, as well as some NOAH crossovers with a Saito and Marufuji match. A lot of these reviews have already been uploaded on Cagematch but the obvious limitations (I.E being not able to review shorter matches, matches with people with no profile, word limits, etc) mean that I can't always make the reviews I would like to do. Here, I'm free to just go ham. I'll be ranking these matches on a grade of four standards: 1. Great 2. Good 3. Decent 4. Forgettable This is more of a formality so anyone who's skimming these can get a quick synopsis of what to watch and not to watch without having to read through paragraphs. Obviously this will be a long project even with what is already done: I will not swamp the site with reviews because I want to take my time with this, so expect this to go at a fairly slowish pace even if most of the work is already completed. If you want links for any of these matches, feel free to ask, because some of them are REALLY hard to search out. Vs. Liger (NJPW 01.05.1994: Wrestling Dontaku In Fukuoka Dome) A weird match for sure. Liger faces against the past generational Jr talent that arguably made Liger both in style and in flashiness, but not as his masked moniker, but rather his real life self. This was during Sayama's 10 year retirement to go into actual mixed martial arts, namely developing the very first days of MMA with active promotion of Vale Judo to Japan, which would have major ramifications in the future (namely his influences on the development of MMA forward but that's another deal altogether) Outside of that, he hadn't even in a actual wrestling ring for nearly to a decade and would come back here essentially to get his foot back into the business before taking on Inoki later on, through not without getting over Tiger Mask IV on the indies first and having some middling matches. Given Sayama's extreme ring rust, this plays as a 10 minute exhibition that focuses far less on big Jr style high flying sequences or solid pacing like NJPW's 90's scene was known for, but rather a more shooty variation involving Battle Liger rather than his regular version. Liger and co play a lot of footsies: Liger is also most definitely not a shoot-style guy either so there's a natural awkwardness in how he acts here, even his takedown attempts are rather slow and rather clunky, which I think actually plays into the whole motif pretty well, even if not intentional. Liger's not a shoot-style guy and can't really get a lead over his far more experienced opponent, leading to him having to kinda pull out anything to get some sort of control over the situation. Sayama has to hold back immensely here but he's also quite clumsy at points when trying to work all the same: falling over from tripping over Liger's legs or just general sloppiness. As a result, we get a really stilted affair where Liger can't do much but takedowns and some basic ground transitions, and his opponent CAN do a lot but has to let Liger get in offence as not to make this immensely slanted. That's not to say there's some great moments: Liger breaking out of a clinch to hit a rolling wheel kick that legitimately clocks Sayama is a great spot and rightfully gets a big pop, Sayama hits a great transition into a triangle armbar and there's some solid strikes thrown throughout: but most of it is just plodding around and the crowd knows this. When it gets to the 10 minute draw, they boo. A lot. Which is particularly crazy considering Japanese crowds are usually incredibly respectful and boo usually at what they are supposed to boo at: heels and heel actions. It seemed like the guys out here thought of a few spots beforehand (like the wheel kick and some of the submission attempts) but improvised the rest of the length. This can work, but not when one person is incredibly rusty, and the other has next to no experience in this particular field. All in all, a interesting experiment, but this was still quite bad and felt a LOT longer than 10 minutes. Absolutely skip this one. RANK: Forgettable Vs. Tiger Mask IV (30.06.1996: Rikidozan Memorial) Despite the shitty card in general (seriously, this is super underwhelming despite the star power involved: everyone else throws in their big guns while AJPW have Inoue and Momota do their thing) this is probably the best match on there as it focuses on a clear narrative: Tiger IV trying to prove himself in the face of the man who taught him. He's still fairly untested as of this date, only a year into his wrestling career, so far incapable of defining himself in the same Jr style that his master dominated. It's also Sayama's first official match back in the Tiger Mask moniker. The match starts great when First Tiger hits a series of wild jumping spinning kicks before nailing a low rolling kick to IV's leg, knocking him down to the outside with the crowd rightfully giving the man a round of applause afterwards. IV tries to steal his thunder by doing his signature flip sequence to escape a arm wrench, but once again gets trumped when he uses a one hand front flip forward to escape expertly. IV tries to work over his legs for a minute or so as to remove his critical advantage (a tactic that Sayama himself used in matches) but he's still able to outsmart him using his speed, as well as nailing him with a perfect Tiger Spin into Indian Deathlock. First Tiger is able to take control from a spinning back kick to the gut far better than IV does, using a Tiger DDT and Tombstone afterwards but misses a Diving Headbutt. He tries to take advantage using momentum, namely using a huge running cross chop and a shoulder charge, but First Tiger is able to nail him with his Space Flying Tiger Drop for a near fall. The narrative is clear in that IV has the youth and agility to hit his mentor's moves.....but he can't use them as effectively as the guy who pioneered them in the first place, causing mounting frustration. IV starts to move away from his mentor's signature moves to try to find his own groove as time goes on. They both have a good sequence with a headscissors transition from lock-up, as well as IV trying to use First Tiger's signature flipping kneebar transition against him when he catches one of his kicks, but he's able to reverse out of it into his own leg work, namely his own figure four, once again establishing the difference in experience between them. First Tiger and IV hit the same Tiger Wall Flip respectfully, namely IV using it as a springboard into a Diving Headbutt. Both men get sent outside but IV chooses to keep hitting wild dives to keep First Tiger out, which in turn also prevents him from getting in, and they end up going to a count out. They decide to restart for three extra minutes and almost at once go for big kicks and wrestling on the mat for the win, but IV reaches the ropes before any hold can be established. IV tries to go for a leg sweep but gets telegraphed and has to give up his back, which results in First Tiger trying to choke him out. He drops it to go for a moonsault (that's nowhere near his location at all lol) but misses, allowing IV to keep trying for the figure four. First Tiger counters a third attempt with a heel kick as the bell once again sounds, resulting in a definitive draw. While some sections are slow, I really liked how this was built: IV tries to show his mentor up but struggles and has to go reckless in order to hold out, throwing a fair chunk of leg work while also throwing out offence to see what sticks, with his most effective weapon being his ability to hurl himself around and take huge risks. When he realises the figure four is effective, he relentlessly goes to it, which results in some of the later counters as his opponent has the experience to adapt, while IV is stuck having to try to keep going back to the same offence to wear him out. Sayama puts on probably his best performance in terms of flips and dives, hitting basically all of his old spots perfectly: he's silky smooth in the ring but also puts over IV as someone who might not be as well-rounded as him, but definitely a threat to be weary of, and one he can't definitively put down. His nuanced selling (even if he's a bit prone to ignoring moves to hit his own) is impressive and not at all something that shows up at once. The format of this match is built around that as a whole (I.E Sayama hitting big fancy signature moves) but it works as the main clutch of the match as both try to outpace the other. The double draw might annoy some but I think it works here: IV definitely wasn't winning but he's shown to have enough guts to hold out against someone who trumps him in almost everything. The result is a solidly paced match that helped to give IV some early legitimacy despite mostly playing a secondary role, which is far from a easy task. RANK: Good Vs. Gran Hamada (UWF-I 17.08.1996: Mid Summer in Jingu) This is from a compilation tape that skips about 5 minutes or so from the original recording, mostly with multiple small cuts to the middle portion while leaving the start and finish intact. It's also technically First Tiger's big return to the UWF after him quitting more than a decade before, and it's him facing off against a old rival from his past days. This starts off hot with Hamada getting nailed with a low/high kick combo before teasing the Tiger Feint, but actually going for a dive to the outside, which Hamada dodges and hits his own, which is successful. We get our first cut as it goes to them in the ring as Hamada works on the legs, with Tiger escaping with a handspring to his feet before a second cut in which Mask overpowers Hamada with a headlock before landing his backdrop counter and backbreaker before a third cut is made. Hamada takes the advantage with a lariat and a fantastic second rope Tornado DDT after Mask tries to attack him in the corner. He follows that with a equally as good top rope Frankensteiner which gets a near fall. Cut #5 leads to Mask landing his signature kick combos and a Tiger DDT. Cut #6 leads into a backdrop by Hamada seemingly when he tries to capitalise further. He tries hit a brainbuster but is countered mid move, leading into more big kicks. He tries for the Tiger Suplex but Hamada struggles for a extended amount of time, leading him to try for a Chickenwing before being able to wiggle out one eventually, which gets a near fall. He tries for a standing moonsault (knees first to Hamada's shoulder oof) which also gets a near fall. Mask tries to angle for a Americana but the time limit is reached, resulting in a draw. This was obviously never going to be as good as their original encounter, but for what is left on the cutting room floor, this was fairly solid. Hamada can still go and Sayama is the same, leading to some impressive high-flying spots and raw speed in places. This isn't really much of a UWF or even a post-rule change, post Choshu UWF style match but still a decent feature. Way better than their 2003 match anyway (we'll get to that.) This is just pretty cropped in general and it's hard to get any real narrative when it's consistently jumping around. Fine enough as a tune-up. RANK: Decent Vs. The Cobra (UWF-I 11.09.1996: Sudden Death) Cobra returns from a semi-retirement (well, more because he was a SWS guy that couldn't really get anywhere beyond the indie shows, some of which are so indie that even Cagematch doesn't list them) to face off against First Tiger in a series of matches, the first happening here and then the sequel being taped later on a random UWF touring event. I like Takano: he was never really incredible or anything but a solid Jr heavyweight in his prime. Here, he's wrestling in the UWF, but he's mostly wrestling his usual style with little adjustment. He spends most of the beginning getting knocked around by his opponent's big kicks, through we also get Cobra no selling a Tiger DDT for some reason. Cobra does use some fairly basic holds, like he can work a Key Lock and a armlock or whatever, but comparing him to any of Sayama's actual opponents from a decade ago is night and day. He's reliable enough to bump for all of First Tiger's signature spots and whatnot but he's not really engaging as a foil for him whatsoever, he has zero threat or menace to speak of, no real point where the crowd thinks Mask is ever in any true danger. He does add some nice transitions here and there, like when Cobra tries to escape from a back mount, Tiger Mask grabs onto his arm and attempts to roll him into a cross armbreaker until he rakes his face with his boot. When Mask tries to hold on to his back to keep control of him on the ground, Cobra manages to slip around until he uses his legs to pin down one of his arms and take him down to the mat instead. Simple but fairly cool little spots on the mat that showcase Cobra's more unconventional methods in comparison to the stoic Sayama. They eventually go to more high speed stuff, with Cobra botching a handspring senton to the outside by stumbling over after the handspring. Looked cool otherwise. They also manage to get a full Mexican Surfboard applied, through Mask counters by twisting his body forward in the hold into a Key Lock attempt. When Mask is in control things look a lot smoother as his offence is varied and agile, mixing in mat work with lots of speed. There's a funny spot where Mask slaps on a headscissors and Cobra tries to do the fancy handstand to get out of it, but Mask just ends up moving his legs so he gets DDT'd lol. There's some latter match exchanges and Mask lands his usual signature spots (including his kicks, Tombstone Piledriver, etc etc) until Cobra dodges a Diving Headbutt and dropkicks him out of the arena, hitting a dodgy plancha afterwards. Mask recovers, hits a second combo of the same moves to the outside (the headbutt looks terrible but I don't blame him at all for that, it's a shitty bump either way) and wins via count out. This isn't much of a serious match, being more of a throwback to older Jr heavyweight days with some technical work thrown alongside spots. Cobra plays more of a comedic foil here and gets some good reactions from the crowd but as stated, he isn't presented as legitimate challenge for Mask so there's no real tension at all. Fine enough as a light hearted undercard match in-between some serious hard hitting bouts: not essential unless you are really into super past prime Cobra bumping around a bit. RANK: Decent W/Mil Mascaras, Great Sasuke vs. Dos Caras, Dynamite Kid & Kuniaki Kobayashi (Michinoku Pro 10.10.1996: -These Days-) More or less a name value match but there's decent quality to be found here. Tiger Mask and Dynamite Kid have some exchanges (through "exchanges" is more so Mask doing all of the heavy lifting considering Kid's condition during this match, which isn't helped later when he doesn't bump well for a suplex and ends up getting legit DDT'd on his head in the process) and Sasuke blows out of the park with some big high flying stuff, throwing himself all over for this special occasion. Sayama and Dynamite had already met in the ring in a non-match setting for Michinoku Pro a few months earlier and needless to say, the guy looked a lot better then than he does now. Mascaras and Caras also have some nice work, with Mascaras actually selling offence for once against his own brother: it's nothing special from those two and exactly as you'd expect them to be for something like this, but they do push a little bit when facing each other as compared to what you might expect. Sasuke in turn gets his ass beat by the whole team for his troubles with a baseball slide and a suplex outside: he basically spends the majority of this flying around for the older guys. Sayama was solid with his usual spots but doesn't really add much else to things. Road to the finish has everyone land their signature offence before Mascaras wins with a powerbomb over Sasuke, because typical Mascaras wants to go over the top guy while no selling. As stated, this is basically just a "greatest hits" name value match where guys come out and do their usual spots, but it's quite well done in places and the crowd is very receptive to everything. Kobayashi wasn't exactly much to brag about through from my memory of this match. This is also more well known, sadly, for being Dynamite's last wrestling match, and his biography makes it well known that he had absolutely no desire (or ability, really) to even get in the ring at that point, let alone wrestle, something which is blatantly obvious by how little he does here. This would also result in him suffering from a seizure the next day, which would essentially start a very drastic snowball decline up to his death. Everyone else does a fairly good job in carrying him to a reasonable quality but even then I'd say this is rough viewing. I couldn't really recommend this very much, especially for late game Tiger Mask showings. RANK: Forgettable Vs. The Cobra II (UWF-I 20.11.1996: UWF ROAD) This is a shorter rematch between these two guys since their big stadium match before. This is mainly played completely straight as compared to their first fight, with Cobra being more of a tangible threat with his shooting capabilities. This is played a lot like more old-fashioned catch-shooting in particular as both men go for holds on the mat a lot, namely focusing on the arms or legs whenever they can and utilising a lot of hooks to get their advantage when on top. This actually feels like a UWF match as compared to their more wild showcase before. We get some crisp action on that front as they both exchange some solid counters between themselves, namely a lot of hold exchanges and very little submissions outside of some filler holds in the first half: usually both men just trying to stay in a dominant position while maintaining defence. First Tiger gets in his usual spots to pop the crowd during these long hold sessions to keep things fresh, namely his Tiger DDT, his Tiger Feint, etc. That being said, this is mainly pretty dry action that doesn't really get past third gear: everything done is competent and well done, just that there's not really any heat or actual story behind what they are doing or what they are working on in terms of holds. They just kinda shuffle around for a sub-10 format match before Tiger Mask teases a Tiger Suplex but manages to get Cobra to the ground with a Judo throw and gets in a Americana for the quick submission win. This is a good but noticeably dry bout as stated above: not much tension to this at all. Sayama puts in a good performance and Cobra can keep up fine but he's just not very well adapted for the UWF style despite some nice technical work in places, tending to repeat himself or just not really add any flavour to proceedings. He doesn't really try to well, use any proper submissions, preferring to just go for mat work and hooks. Sayama is a lot more competent in that field but he can only really add so much flavour to something as dry as this was. Again, this definitely wasn't a bad match, just one that kinda settles into a simmering pace that doesn't really excite the crowd a lot. The issues from last match (that is, Cobra being a pretty weak opponent that isn't going to be able to beat someone as dominant as Tiger Mask) carry over to here, even if I think this second match is a lot more conventional with the style. Check this out if you were disappointed with their first encounter. RANK: Decent Vs. Shoichi Funaki (UWF-I 23.11.1996: UWF ROAD) This is cut down to six minutes as apart of a UWF compilation tape: to my knowledge the full thing isn't publicly available so there you go. We also get some noticeable cuts in the middle half. Funaki is better known for his WWE work but he was also known as a solid hand before then with a underrated mean streak. First Tiger puts in a regular solid performance, mixing in more grounded work with his signature spots. Funaki for his credit clearly has some good experience working from the mat, even applying some lucha- inspired submissions in places as well as a Camel Clutch, tying his opponent up in places. Obviously he's threatened by his opponent's far greater striking and technical work so he refuses to break from a headlock and stomps the guy when he finally drops it, using the momentum to keep himself in control by focusing on his legs until First Tiger counters with a inverse Enzuigiri to the face. One thing I can say here is that Funaki is a great seller: he throws himself around for offence fairly convincingly and keeps in pace with First Tiger's regular spots perfectly. He sells the threat of his opponent and how outclassed he is by comparison. he is so good that you could go into this not knowing anything about Tiger Mask, yet you'd know that he's the superior guy here just by how both act. This isn't to say Sayama's spots are on point, because he was incredible here (he hits a picture perfect Tiger Flip from the turnbuckle corner into his signature savate kick) but Funaki is a good hand that makes these look a lot smoother. He tries for his Tiger Suplex but Funaki counters into a roll up before transitioning into a kneebar after Mask kicks out, needing a rope break. He tries for his own version but gets caught in a sleeper hold, causing the roles to be reversed, needing Funaki to then hit the ropes. Funaki gets nailed with a smooth back kick to head and a big German for a nearfall. Funaki does a Kawada sell in that despite kicking out, he's already done: his glazed, confused eyes say everything before the finish even happens. Mask lands a Tombstone and Tiger Suplex for the pin. Despite this being short, it's a really explosive sub-10 match with some nice bumping and general selling from Funaki, who makes Sayama look like a world ender here. There's some nice technical work mixed in with traditional wrestling spots, so it might not be a pure shoot style bout, but it's a fun one regardless. Definitely suggest checking this out if curious about Funaki as a performer, because he puts on a blinder here despite the runtime. RANK: Good This'll be the end of the reviews....for now. I'll have the next batch soonish.
  2. Thanks for sticking with me! We're finally to the end of Tiger Mask in NJPW. Or at least to the end of my DVD set! Let's take a look Tiger Mask/Kantaro Hoshino vs. Kuniaki Kobayashi/Isamu Teranishi (7/20/83): One clip in the match but that didn't hurt anything. All high speed action match. The finish was really nice too! Tiger Mask vs. El Halcon - WWF Jr. Title (7/29/83): Return to early form with the Falcon. This was a near great match (***3/4+) since it was just so clean and well executed. It was more lucha than anything done recently. I still felt the sense of competition. It was like two honorable competitors trying to use their techniques to gain victory as opposed to fighting with strikes. A joy to watch! ----- Tiger Mask/Osamu Kido vs. Kuniaki Kobayashi/Isamu Teranishi (8/1/83): jip but what was shown was really good stuff. Lots of trying to steal the mask. Isamu damn near pins Tiger with a German suplex. Great finish...kinda like a leg trap powerbomb! Fighting after the bell too, I love it! ----- Tiger Mask vs. Isamu Teranishi - NWA Jr. Title (8/4/83): The final match goes out with a bang! Teranishi is the Akira Taue to Sayama Tiger's Misawa. They went all out for this with stuff that easily could have been seen in 1993. On top of that Teranishi has the German suplex which damn near beat TM a couple of days earlier. This is the end of the road and anything could happen! ----- To close out the DVD, Sayama (I presume) gives commentary on some of his trademark moves. Too bad that I don't understand Japanese yet its still an excellent quick overview of the set In summary, this has been a fantastic experience. I've gotten so much enjoyment out of this project. I've been able to see a bunch of different wrestlers from the early 80's UK, Mexico, and Japan. I know some folks have differing opinions on Tiger Mask and some of these matches. That's cool but I beg to disagree. The most well-known matches vs Dynamite are still great. I believe only the final encounter is what I would consider a classic. The feud with Kobayashi is more my preference and maybe when comparing ratings, they aren't too different. However the Kobasyashi matches just feel so much more REAL than the D.K. bouts. I'm only comparing because those are the two defining feuds of Tiger Mask. Black Tiger should have been an equal but other than a couple matches, I never felt like he was in the same league. Not only story wise but also performance wise. I think if it was just Marc Rocco and not Black Tiger, we'd be talking about something different. The Gran Hamada matches were something that I heard a little bit about but man, go see 'em. I wish there were more. Hamada is a favorite of mine so these lived up to and exceeded expectations. Pete Roberts and Steve Wright...yeah no idea and was so happily surprised. In fact, I had read mediocre things about many if the non Dynamite -Kobayashi-Black Tiger bouts. I read that the Teranishi matches were crap. What!? In a way, I'm glad that's what I read because it felt like I was finding something special on my own. And that's why I had such a great time. If you can't tell, I highly recommend watching these matches and getting the DVD set if that's your thing. The mix of opponents, match types, and styles made this a blast! I usually list my favorite matches at the end of my projects but I urge you to go back through the posts and re-read. The above mentioned matches should give you an idea of the classic and great ones but there are so many others worth your time as well. Thanks for reading! Stay safe and be kind this holiday season
  3. If you've read the blog in the past or you've looked at enough entries, you know this is my busy time of the year for my job. So, I'm going to try in earnest to finish up the Tiger Mask set up before Xmas. I watched all of these yesterday and I have four more that I'm going to try for tonight. I don't like to rush things if you haven't seen yet But I don't want to stretch the set out into 2022. I am looking forward to doing my 2021 Best Match Watched list along with other superlatives at the end of December. I would really like to finish the 2018 ROH Global Wars tour before then as well. I don't want to drag that out. I'm probably not going to finish my AJPW 2012 shows but you never know! If I can get Tiger and ROH done and have energy after work then, I'd like to shoot for it. Anyhow, let's get to the wrestling! Mid 1983 NJPW! Tiger Mask vs. Kuniaki Kobayashi - NWA Jr. Title (6/2/83) - Oh my goodness! This is their best bout so far. This felt like a Misawa vs Kawada match as they have no only had many encounters to build the feud but they are physically and stylistically similar like you don't see very often. This is the match that Tiger Mask wanted to have. He can do lucha and British grappling. It really felt ahead of its time. The stiffness and aggression were amped up. This looked like a fight. I wrote a whole lot more but it may have spoiled the ending and I try to avoid that. It wasn't my favorite ending yet it was a clean finish. ----- Tiger Mask vs. Fishman - WWF Jr. Title (6/12/83, Mexico City, Toreo de Cuatro Caminos) - Good match with some good moves. First appearance of Tiger's Red bell bottoms. Great costumes and atmosphere. ----- Tiger Mask vs. Isamu Teranishi - NWA Jr. Title (7/7/83) - Teranishi is a guy I've seen ringside but had no idea who he was. I always thought he was bald based on Fire Pro R. Not the case! I've seen poor reviews of this feud but you know this was very good stuff. Teranishi looks like a meat & potatoes wrestler but he's got quickness and some tricks up his sleeve. Kobayashi is at ringside and this breaks down after the 3 count and Tiger gets his mask shredded. This match along with the post match elevated this to something great and provides more substance to the larger TM/Kobayashi feud. Hells yeah! ----- Tiger Mask vs. Kuniaki Kobayashi - WWF Jr. Title (7/14/83)- Oh boy, here we go again. This starts out like a shoot match and you can see Tiger's time with the judoka Kobayashi helped his vision for UWF. Much like the encounter above this exemplifies the best of Junior Strong Style. The action is exciting, the mat work is engaging and the stakes are high. This looks and feels like wrestling as competition. Here unlike other classic lucha and British style bouts, Tiger is able to fight a style of his own which combines stiff kicks, minor acrobatics and grappling perfectly. Perhaps it is because Kuniaki is also comfortable in this style that we truly get to see the zenith of TM. That's why I made they Kawada/Misawa comparison. These two bring the best out of each other. Classic match as long as you're OK with the "80s ending. " I may have preferred it to the clean finish in their first match above. Or maybe equal... This was an excellent clutch of matches to get me enthused about finishing the set. Thanks for reading! Be kind! And hope to write again with more Tiger Mask real soon
  4. Here we go again with more of our hero Tiger Mask! We're getting close to the end. Tiger Mask vs. Gran Hamada - (2/3/83): This featured great matwork, agility, timing, counters and reversals. Much of this was on the mat and that's where Tiger is best despite being known as a flying innovator. These two are just amazing together. A classic encounter. ----- Tiger Mask vs. Black Tiger - (2/7/83): JIP 8 minutes in, good match with state of the art offense. Black Tiger isn't Tiger's best opponent but he's always there to try and foil our hero's plans. Tiger Mask vs. Kuniaki Kobayashi - (2/8/83): 7 minute JIP, what was shown was awesome. Its a shame we didn't get to see their feeling out period and matwork. Spectacular stuff that was 10 years ahead of its time. Check out the Muta lock!! Yeah, Muta got nuthin' on this! ----- Tiger Mask/Kantaro Hoshino vs. Gran Hamada/Kuniaki Kobayashi (2/10/83): Another JIP, 4 minutes in but I think we get enough to not have it be obvious. This is pretty exciting stuff with action from bell to bell. Tiger Mask vs. Dynamite Kid - (4/21/83): The final encounter and the famous restart match. This may be the first "5 more minutes!" match. I think that's what made it a classic match. It was off the hook when both guys got disqualified. The fans were chanting for more time or a re-start...and they give it to 'em!! We haven't seen this level of intensity in awhile...I mean its over the Kuniaki matches when Dynamite Kid is bringing broken bottles in the ring to stab TM with! We haven't seen Dynamite in some time but they really dial it up for this ultimate fight. I have some problems with some move choices and their selling but I think all US fans that grew up with the Undertaker will feel this way. Classic match for everything that goes on here. I've got one more disc of my TM DVD set so probably 2 more posts. I'm still enjoying the heck outta this set. We've got more Kobayashi in singles and tags so, it should be good! Thanks for reading!
  5. Here we go! 1983 Tiger Mask vs. Kuniaki Kobayashi - NWA Jr. Title (1/6/83): This is one of my early favorites of my puro dvd collection. I probably saw it in 2010 or so with my dad along with the Dynamite Kid ones. This is the match that gave me a clue that TM could be more than his feud with Dynamite. This was awesome then and its awesome now. Its ahead of its time with nearfalls, double count outs, etc. This was pretty darn stiff near the end and was very intense. This was a near classic match to me. ---- Tiger Mask/El Gran Hamada/Kantaro Hoshino vs. Los Misioneros De La Muerte (Negro Navarro/El Signo/El Texano) (1/14/83): This was clipped a little bit in the beginning but after that one it was shown in full. Man, this was all kinds of fun! Tiger Mask vs. Negro Navarro (1/20/83): JIP a little as far as I could tell. I wasn't expecting that! Really good stuff that was enjoyable to watch. Based on these two matches, I wish more of this mini feud made the DVD. ---- Tiger Mask/Kantaro Hoshino vs. Black Tiger/Jose Estrada (1/28/83): A fast paced tag match with Black Tiger Rocco thankfully returning to form. He looked best here. This was another fun match. This round of matches from Tiger were a breeze to watch. The variety of opponents he faces make this set stay fresh & interesting. I make sure to take breaks but every time I come back to it, it doesn't disappoint.
  6. We're back with more from the original Tiger Mask! vs Black Tiger (09/21/82): There were some neat moves here but it didn't flow very well as both seemed off their game. Highlight was Tiger double knee dropping the mat from the top rope. vs Marty Jones (10/08/82): This was much better but not as awesome as I had expected. This match was a very good technician vs technician bout. It was on its way to great things though. vs Kuniaki Kobayashi (10/26/82): KK & TM just despise one another. This felt more like a fight than the above matches. Very aggressive tone to every block, counter and dodge. This is very much Tiger in his element and we're rewarded with logical uses of his speed and agility (rather than doing spots for the crowd). Great match even with an old school ending. vs Kuniaki Kobayashi (11/04/82): A bigger, better version of the above match. I mean Tiger drop kicks Kuniaki before the bell rings. This felt like a grudge match for sure! But what's interesting is that Kobayashi isn't a heel but more of true equal to Tiger Mask...thing is he wants to take that mask...to get TM to stop playing dress up. At least that's what I gather from how the match is wrestled It reminded me of Otani or Kawada letting an emotion get in their way of victory. I'd call this a near classic match. I've seen folks go higher than that so you really want to check it out for yourself. Personally I think this is THE series of matches people should see instead of the Dynamite Kid ones...if you only are going to choose one. That's all for now! We get another match with Kobayashi as well as some lucha action next installment! Thanks for reading! Check out the Kobayashi matches and see ya soon
  7. Here we are at the half way point of 2021...wait what!? Really? Where the heck has the time gone? Maybe 2020 just seemed to be forever. Anyway, here's my top picks for 2021 so far: Tiger Mask vs Pete Roberts (09/10/82 NJPW) Masato Tanaka vs Mr. Gannosuke (01/06/98 FMW) Hayabusa vs Masato Tanaka (03/13/98 FMW) Hayabusa vs Mr. Gannosuke (04/30/98 FMW) Tetushiro Kuroda vs Masato Tanaka (06/19/98 FMW) Hisakatsu Oya vs Tetsuhiro Kuroda (12/12/98 FMW) Abdullah Kobayashi vs Daisuke Sekimoto (07/22/05 BJW) Roderick Strong & Jack Evans vs. Jimmy Rave & Shingo (FIP New Year's Classic 2007) Tyler Black vs Roderick Strong FIP Heatstroke '07 Night 1) Honorable Mention Tag Matches - Gotta show some love to the tag matches that just missed the cut: Tiger Mask & Tatsumi Fujinami vs Black Tiger & Pete Roberts (08/27/82 NJPW) Jado & Gedo vs Hayabusa & Masato Tanaka (05/05/98 FMW) Hayabusa &Tanaka vs W*ing Kanemura & Kodo Fuyuki (05/27/98 FMW) BxB Hulk and Yamato vs Roderick Strong and Jay Briscoe (FIP Third Year Anniversary) Thanks for reading and stay safe folks!
  8. This is the start of Disc #4 of 6 and man, I'm really happy that I got this set a year ago. Its taken me awhile to watch it but, I think that's for the best. This stuff has been a real blast to watch. OK let's get to the matches: vs Villano III (09/03/82): Joined in Progress, This was a fun match with some good moves from Tiger but nothing of much substance. Still a good match to start out with... vs Pete Roberts (09/10/82): Black Tiger Rocco tried to jump Tiger Mask before the match but he and Roberts handle B.T. and get onto their bout. Interesting since Roberts and Rocco/Black Tiger teamed up earlier in the year. Anyhow, that aside we get a slight skip ahead in the the tape (not much) and wow! We get two technical wizards having a good old fashion duel! Tons of holds, counter holds, escapes and reversals are in this match. This was technical marvel! Classic match...this is Tiger in his element. vs Chris Adams (09/17/82): The mix of styles here was rather pleasant. Adams could do Tiger's mat stuff but, also had good punches and of course the Superkick/Thrust kick. This busted Tiger Mask's mouth open. I think it loosened a tooth frankly. TM responds with kicks of his own and tries to fight his way out of hole. Not quite a heel/face match but, Adams was no Gentleman Very good match where Tiger has to go for broke! Tiger Mask & Kantaro Hoshino vs Villano III & Black Tiger (09/19/82): This is a much better showing of Villano III than the singles match above. He and B.T make a great team. I wonder if they were teaming regularly in Japan at this time. There was no problems here despite one guy being Mexican and the other being British wrestling two Japanese guys. That being said, this was a high energy match that is really easy to watch. Everything just seemed to flow together. Now, I would have like a little more drama to have been built by working to a hot tag but that's my opinion. There were some good pinfall break-ups but, they should have been a bit more conservative with them to really make the later ones more thrilling. That is do fewer of them so it gives greater meaning & purpose to them. That's my complaint but, overall another very good go-go match. This was much more of a showcase for Black Tiger & Villano III than Tiger or Hoshino. And there's no complaints there! 6 DVDs of one guy can be pretty repetitive but Tiger Mask is not that repetitive of a wrestler. I was really worried about that and is why I held off on buying this set for a long time. In all honesty, I think I got that feeling from watching the Dynamite matches. And I don't want to knock those (we got one more fight in '83) but, I prefer these other match-ups. Those TM DK bouts stand out stylistically from his other matches and those laid the ground work for much of wrestling that would follow. But I got the feeling Tiger Mask was a flippy-floppy wrestler who did some dives and that was ahead of its time BUT 40 years later...that's old hat. This set and shoot! even the above bouts put that misconception to bed. Its worth the time to watch some of these just to do the man some justice and say "yeah, he's more than just his Dynamite matches." But I think it's worth watching these to see great wrestling in a style that you don't see anymore...and frankly I don't think most folks lack the skills and patience to do it. Oh before I forget! -BONUS- Tiger Mask & Tatsumi Fujinami vs Pete Roberts & EL Solitario (09/04/81): A year earlier we find this match. Its NOT on my big Tiger Mask set but on Archives.org. Thanks to the person that posted this! Its 13 minutes of fantastic chain wrestling, rope running action. I'm really not sure why folks don't do this today. Its as athletic as the stuff nowadays and a whole lot more interesting to watch. This was a very good match and Roberts had two amazing chain sequences with Tiger & Fujinami. Thanks for reading! Stay safe everyone
  9. So I'm going to pick back up my project of watching Tiger Mask #1 in NJPW and I was having trouble finding where I left off. Little did I remember that I'd actually a few matches for part 5 already watched! I got into a giant ROH tangent and been doing those reviews along with FIP. Anyhow here's part #5! Tiger Mask vs Dynamite Kid (08/05/82) - I watched this twice and know I've seen it at least a few other times. It's a pretty good match still but, the set-up and pacing is where I have a problem. In fact its one that's a common problem nowadays...there's no real build or story. There's problems with the psychology that keep this from being great. It is a collection of neat sequences & the finish was sick...so this doesn't lack action or excitement just substance. w/ Tatsumi Fujinami vs Black Tiger & Pete Roberts (08/27/82) - Oh yeah! Rocco Black Tiger (R.I.P.) is just there to throw shade & mug Tiger every chance he gets. Even Roberts has words with Black Tiger at one point. That said, this is fantastic fast paced technical tag wrestling overall. These type of bouts is where TM Sayama shines brightest. Even more so with Rocco acting like a dirt bag villain amongst the technicians. Great match! Something I would skip over had I not got this DVD set. vs Dynamite Kid (08/30/82) - The steroids are really kicking in for the Kid now...holy crap! So this is the widely known MSG match and is a condensed version of what they're doing in Japan. So, their getting their stuff in without killing for time and it works. I wouldn't say it's as complete as their NJ stuff but, if you want to show someone classic puro without taking up too much time - it's a good start! I believe that there's only one more Tiger vs Dynamite match left. They are still very good matches and the Kid is probably the most consistent opponent our hero has. So, they might not have the best match thus far, he's a quality opponent and I know that they "wow" the audience and first tim viewers. I don't think many people can say they did love the Tiger vs Dynamite stuff the first time around. Thanks for reading! Looking forward to picking this project up again shortly.
  10. G. Badger

    Best Match Watched - 2020

    Welcome to my Best Match Watched of 2020 celebration! We've got big stars appearing and a number of musical performances lined up tonight! Let's get this party started! Oh wait, never mind all of that...let's just get onto the Big List of my favorite stuff of that I've watched this year. In chronological order: 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: Tiger Mask vs Gran Hamada (11/05/81) Tiger Mask vs Steve Wright (04/01/82) Tiger Mask vs Black Tiger (05/26/82) Tiger Mask vs Bret Hart (07/30/82) 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: American Dragon vs Low-Ki vs Christopher Daniels - Era of Honor Begins (2002) American Dragon vs Christopher Daniels - Round Robin Challenge (2002) Daniels vs Low-Ki - Round Robin Challenge (2002) American Dragon vs Low-Ki - Round Robin Challenge (2002) Jerry Lynn vs AJ Styles - Road to the Title (2002) American Dragon vs AJ Styles - All Star Extravaganza (2002) Low Ki vs American Dragon vs Steve Corino vs Samoa Joe Final Battle (2002) Low Ki & Homicide vs Samoa Joe & Jay Lethal (Punk: The Final Chapter 2005) Roderick Strong vs Jack Evans FIP Strong vs Evans (2005) 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 " KENTA, K. Kanemoto, Minoru Tanaka, Kanemaru & Genba vs Devitt, Taguchi, K. Suzuki, Nakajima & KAI - All Together (2011) Akiyama & K. Sasaki vs Omori & Takayama - All Together (2011) Fred Yehi vs Tracy Williams ROH Pure Title tournament (2020) 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. -THE BEST of the BEST!- Pre 1970's...well I only watched a few pre 1970's matches and well Mighty Atlas vs Angelo Poffo (Chicago 1956) was the best of the bunch. The rest of my picks are going to be a little more difficult so, I think I'll do a top 3 or top 5 for the others. Then...just maybe will I actually able to narrow it down. 1970s & 80s: Clearly I was all about NJPW in the 80's although I did dip my toe in AJPW a couple times later in the year. They had some good 6 man matches (British Bulldogs w. Kobashi), I didn't see anything that could touch NJPW. Tiger Mask vs Gran Hamada (11/05/81) Tiger Mask vs Steve Wright (04/01/82) Tatsumi Fujinami vs Riki Choshu (06/24/88) Riki Choshu vs Antonio Inoki (07/22/88) Antonio Inoki vs Tatsumi Fujinami (08/08/88) 1990s & 2000s: And now we enter the Ring of Honor K-hole I was lost in for awhile. Hey, I'm glad I took that journey. I was pretty ignorant of Year One ROH and got me excited to keep watching their current stuff. Plus is encouraged me to check out the sister company FIP which I've been digging. Also, I have made some purchases that have fill in some gaps in my DVD collection. I hope to be hitting up a couple of those for 2021. So, my list boils down to these: American Dragon vs Low-Ki - Round Robin Challenge (2002) Low Ki vs American Dragon vs Steve Corino vs Samoa Joe (2002) - Perhaps a controversial pick against the Era of Honor Begins but, I think this has the action along with the story lines Low Ki & Homicide vs Samoa Joe & Jay Lethal (Punk: The Final Chapter 2005) KENTA & Marufuji vs Samoa Joe & Danielson (ROH Best in the World 2006) KENTA vs Samoa Joe vs Bryan Danielson (ROH In Your Face 2006) 2010 to present: There's a good chunk from the wXw 2011 tournament here but, what can I say? It was a great show. Perhaps similar to the Ted Petty Invitational 2004. Sami Callihan vs Tommy End (wXw 16 Carat 2011) El Generico vs Kotaro Suzuki Yoshihito Sasaki vs Sami Callihan Davey Richards vs Zack Sabre Jr. Akiyama & K. Sasaki vs Omori & Takayama - All Together (2011) The runners up: Tiger Mask vs Steve Wright (04/01/82) - a long technical match with beautiful chain wrestling - counters, escapes, reversals, and counter reversals...distinct from his matches with Baby Face, Hamada, Blackman but, still was athletic and exciting as we've come to expect. KENTA & Marufuji vs Samoa Joe & Danielson (ROH Best in the World 2006) - Felt like a late 1990's AJPW Four Corners tag classic Yoshihito Sasaki vs Sami Callihan - I think this match best encapsulates the awesome hard hitting style that both guys showed all 3 days. I didn't rate it as a classic at the time but, both guys have stuck in my mind all year. Here's my top 3 and I'm just going by my gut: Tatsumi Fujinami vs Riki Choshu (06/24/88) - This was timeless stuff to me. A heavenly dream battle...great grappling, wonderfully engaging storytelling, and a real sense of rivalry. Low Ki & Homicide vs Samoa Joe & Jay Lethal (Punk: The Final Chapter 2005) - I got an out of body feeling when watching this match that was very similar to the first time I saw Kobashi vs Misawa's matches from 1997. Maybe it was the mild hype that lower my expectations but, this blew my mind. Davey Richards vs Zack Sabre Jr. (wXw 2011) - As hard as Sasaki & Sami were in the tourney, these two went beyond that. Davey really only does one thing but, when he's in there with the right person it can be awesome. It has grappling, strikes, nice counters & escapes all with an aggressive pace. Best Wrestler: Fujinami was killing it in '88. Tiger Mask given the right opponent was working magic. Sami, Yoshihito Sasaki, and El Generico were on fire during the wXw tourney in 2011. But I'm going to give it to American Dragon Bryan Danielson specifically for his work in 2002 in ROH. A natural baby face to Daniels' gimmick and Ki's natual demeanor, Dragon is relatable in addition to being a fantastic in ring worker. He has a grip of classic matches but, also elevates his tournament matches into something you want to see as well. Best Surprise: Yoshihito Sasaki was pretty much unknown to me other than a character in Fire Pro Returns but, he's a guy I want to be on the look out for in the future. Seeing as I got a 4 disc Best of BJW in 2006 set, the future might be pretty soon! But, I think the best surprise of this year was Full Impact Pro being pretty great wrestling. I watched their Unstoppable 2007 DVD a few years ago and for the first time a few years before that and it didn't "wow" me. I think my expectations were too high or something. As I watched it again, I saw stuff that I don't think I appreciated in the past. From that I've seen some really great stuff including Roderick Strong vs Jack Evans which is a lost "ROH" classic to me. I'm looking forward to getting back to FIP Fridays! Looking forward to: Tackling the mountain of DVDs I've got - AJPW, BJW, NOAH, NJPW, ROH and more including FIP. Duh right? But I'm also swinging back to FMW and specifically 1998 which may be their very best year. I've already watched a handful of matches (although I'm not including them on this year's list) and I am NOT disappointed. Thank you so much for reading this year! Its been a really crappy 365 days but, I hope I was able to give you a little bit of fun and inspiration. Let's hope for a better new year! Stay safe and keep watching wrestling!
  11. This is my favourite Fujiwara/Super Tiger match. They work it with Fujiwara having the upper hand on the mat and Tiger being the dominant striker but the gaps aren't huge and both can hang and fire back in both departments. Fujiwara is awesome here, busting out awesome takedowns, countering Tiger's strikes, reversing his holds on the mat etc. but he also has all time great punches and just rocks Tiger with them when they're standing. There's a really great moment when Fujiwara starts choking Super Tiger with a Sleeper and Sayama sells it with this disgusting cough. Finishing stretch is just unreal with Sayama killing Fujiwara with brutal kicks seemingly forever and his knee drop is also up there with the best there have ever been. Fujiwara is the master at blocking kicks and reversing everything so you can buy he could come back at any time but Sayama just keeps on kicking him in the head and destroying him and it's this super dramatic struggle and then one time when Fujiwara finally gets a comeback in he gets cocky and throws a headbutt that knocks HIM down. That spot played up so many things, from Fujiwara's arrogance to the damage of Sayama's offence neutralizing a spot that I don't think had ever been neutralized before. And he just keeps on killing him and pretty much invents the shoot style KO/TKO finish in the process. FIVE STARS.
  12. 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! 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!
  13. ...and we're back! Let's start with clips...ugh great... Tiger Mask/Antonio Inoki/Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Masked Superstar/Don Muraco/Steve Wright (03/30/82) - clips Tiger Mask/Kengo Kimura vs. Steve Wright/Blackman (03/31/82) - great clips of Tiger against Wright & Blackman vs. Steve Wright (04/01/82): This was just excellent. It was a long technical match with beautiful chain wrestling - counters, escapes, reversals, and counter reversals. It was what I consider an aggressive World of Sport style. Since this is a spotlight on Tiger, I want to mention how comfortable he is at this style as well as lucha libre. It was distinct from his matches with Baby Face, Hamada, Blackman but, still was athletic and exciting as we've come to expect. I think I'd have to say this was a classsic bout but, may not be everyone's cup of tea. You really have to want to see wrestling for wrestling's sake. vs. Black Tiger (04/21/82): Rollerball Rocco is the Black Tiger. He had a roughneck but, technical style that is what i imagined Bret vs Tiger would be. The first time, Tiger Mask did not have an answer for his foe. He we see Tiger's true rival (as established in the manga (imagine Vicious & Spike in Cowboy Bebop)) and told through the story of the match. Everytime we thought a TM flurry of kicks or dives would turn the tide, Black Tiger would shut him down. The superhero met his super villain...and Tiger snaps at the end. Almost betraying his vow to fight fair and for good (think like a technico) and turn back to the evil (rudo) ways of the syndicate he and Dark Tiger fight for. A very good match, a compelling story, if you know a little bit of the manga or the trope (again Cowboy Bebop uses it well and The Wild Bunch to a degree). I think what's even deeper is that NJ had the idea to bring in one of Saiyama's best opponents from the UK as his evil counterpart. I think it's the closest the TM and Black Tiger characters had matched real-life...or even tried to. They had a back story and a history. If you're unaware of these things then, its an OK match BUT with some depth, it makes this more substantial. Plus, it is only setting the stage for the future. vs. Les Thorton (05/25/82): This was a good technical match but, lacked any sort of chemistry or fire. Thorton did some good back work on Tiger but, it never went anywhere and then they wrapped the match up. Glad I watched this but, only to see how Tiger works with everyone. vs. Black Tiger (05/26/82): Man is that a hot crowd! They are eating every spectacular Tiger move up! Black Tiger doesn't give a damn. He's making the hero pay. Again, Black Tiger Rocco is staying one step ahead. I really like how BT kept going for the pin by using knuckle locks and leverage holds. This was a brilliant touch because it made the fight feel more real. It wasn't out of desparation to get the match over but, a way to show technical superiority over Tiger. Think of Bryan Danielson or Tatsumi Fujinami winning with a small package. Its not a cheap win like maybe a school boy roll up. Its a display of technical mastery and getting the "W." Even moreso like Danielson, BT Rocco is making Tiger expend all of this energy to kickout. These pin attempts are more like amateur wrestling attempts...making the opponent keep moving and fighting out so that, they'll be tired or hurt later and make a mistake. Honestly, its a simple thing but, so few wrestlers do it. If you're looking a this type of work as rest-holds or think every fucking hold has to set-up the finish then, we're going to disagree on this. I thought this was a near classic match. I've gone through a few of the match archives here on PWO to gauge my opinion against others. I (along with the Vader vs Sting matches) disagree with most folks on Tiger Mask. I'm only 2 discs into the set but, man, I'm really glad I bought this. I'm bummed that I was discouraged by the backlash or the style shift. It reminds me when my comic loving cousin & I said that "Jack Kirby sucked!" at 15 years old; thinking Jim Lee was the shit. Jack Kirby didn't suck but, our minds were so much about Jim Lee, J. Scott Campbell, the Kuberts and other modern artists, that we couldn't appreciate the simplicity, efficiency, and innovation of Kirby. I consider most folks here to have a pretty damn refined wrestling taste BUT, I think a lot of people had TM vs Dynamite as one of their first set of puro matches. It was probably amazing especially in comparison to what was happening in contemporary wrestling and perhaps other tape watching. like 'Whoa this was in the early 80s and they were doing shit 10 years before the NJ Jrs.!" Or AJPW or NOAH or whatever...maybe NJPW from the past couple years is your entry point. Regardless, I think everyone including myself was blown away by the spots, sequences, and bumps from the TM vs DK matches but, the actual matches were a blur because we were still catching our breaths from that amazing move! Then, when people went back, the moves had been surpassed and the trend was very much "how was the selling? did he get put in a leglock? Why didn't he sell the leg the rest of the match?" Under this scrutiny, early 1980s wrestling especially this lucha/World of Sport/Puro hybrid wasn't going to make the grade. I think people have cooled off on this as this is not emphasized in any wrestling promotion anymore for probably the last 10 years. If we were going to watch contemporary wrestling, all of the "is he selling that?" type of analysis had to make a stop. It was really putting a damper on our overall enjoyment of watching wrestling when ANY legwork wasn't sold like '88 RWTL Kawada. Man, I digress...I don't think anyone is going to go back and watch Tiger Mask matches anymore...I mean if they've already watched them. I'm not trying to change minds. Plus, there's so new much stuff out there. I'm an odd duck that I'm trying to pull myself away from the [FREE MATCH] videos and the other distractions and focus on watching what I want to watch. With so much newer stuff available online, I fear that the great wrestling of the past will no longer be pro-wrestling canon and be forgotten. How many great 1950's matches can you name? You may have a Thesz match but that's not the only one..but, no one talks about them so, we collectively are ignorant. Then, we must think if no one talks about them then wrestling then n the 50's must have sucked except a couple matches. We're about 40 years out from these Tiger Mask matches. That's like talking about Thesz vs Rikidozan in the 90's. See how time can get away from you? Ironically, these older bouts' availability online should make it easier to see but, if you've got the WWE network its very easy to get lost and lose years of your life there. Let alone if you've got a personal life! In summary, I feel like I really can trust my own judgement and knowledge at this point. I've been watching puroresu predominately for about 15 years so, I want this blog to still be a guide for folks looking to branch out or trust their own guts. This has been some sort of taste test I guess...if you're on board with what I've recommended in the past then, have no fear. If you think I'm off base here, ah well that's cool too. I thank you for reading and hopefully watching some of this wrestling. Its good to be curious Stay safe and be smart folks! This shit ain't getting better anytime soon...
  14. 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!
  15. 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!
  16. Way too fun. This was about the best match you can possibly get out of two dudes as limited as Abby & Benkei. First Anjo and Tiger take turns laying into pudgy old sumowrestler Benkei before Abby comes in for the old stab & chop. Anjo ends up bloodied and playing a really good Ricky Morton for such a natural dipshit heel before coming back by beating the shit out of Abby and bloodying him in return. Undeterred by the potential Hep infection Tiger Mask comes in and beats the shit out of a bloody Abby aswell. Tiger can't really do highspots against these fat dudes so he just throws a bunch of kicks to the face and kneedrops and it's awesome. Abby trapping Anjo with his blob physique was a great spot too. Tiger Mask & Anjo looked super here and Abby selling and coming back with a last ditch throat chop was genuinely exciting stuff.
  17. Sayama and his fat man flips are great, no questions about it. Solar is really fired up and carried this, even though there wasn't as much matwork here as there needed to be. This would've been really good if Diablo & Azteca weren't so mediocre. Seriously these two have been working their own vanity promotion for years and can't have an exciting exchange to save their lives.
  18. 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!
  19. This was a fun match with everyone dishing out stiff shots and Anjoh making jokes. Takayama was wearing biker gloves for some reason, but other than that his exchanges with Anjoh and Tiger Mask were the highlight of the match. Tiger Mask works best against heavyweights because it adds some restraint to his work and Takayama forces him out of his usual spiel by not going along and making him actually hit the mat and work exchanges instead of just hitting his spots.
  20. This was really, really, really damn good. The match was mostly dominated by the veteran in Tiger Mask - he did a great job doing that. Volador got his highflying, high impact comebacks in & all of them were really enjoyable. ***3/4