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  1. Animal Hamaguchi (アニマル浜口) Profession: Wrestler, Trainer Real name: Heigo Hamaguchi (濱口平吾) Professional names: Heigo Hamaguchi, Mr. Hamaguchi, Hyogo Hamaguchi, Higo Hamaguchi, Animal Hamaguchi Life: 8/31/1947- Born: Hamada, Shimane, Japan Career: 1969-1995 Height/Weight: 170cm/103kg (5’7”/227 lbs.) Signature moves: running neckbreaker, diving back elbow drop, airplane spin, diving foot stomp Promotions: International Wrestling Enterprise, New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Japan Pro Wrestling [1984-87], WAR Titles: NWA International Tag Team [Stampede] (1x, w/Mr. Hito), WWC North American Tag Team [WWC] (1x, w/Gordon Nelson), IWA World Tag Team [IWE] (4x; 2x w/Great Kusatsu, 2x w/Mighty Inoue), All Asia Tag Team [AJPW] (2x; 1x w/Mighty Inoue, 1x w/Isamu Teranishi), World Six-Man Tag Team [WAR] (1x, w/Genichiro Tenryu & Koki Kitahara) Summary: Animal Hamaguchi defied his size to become one of the IWE’s most respected alumni, prominent for his work as a tag wrestler and later a trainer. One of nine children, Heigo Hamaguchi and his family entered great hardship when his once-rich father’s business failed. Heigo has recalled that, since he could not pack a lunch to school, he would spend his lunch break drinking as much water as he could to endure his hunger. In fifth grade, he moved to Osaka with his mother and younger sister, but after moving from place to place in the big city he returned to Hamada in his second year of junior high. While living with an elder brother, Heigo continued to attend school in Hamada, but it was difficult for him to make it on time due to his early-morning job as a milkman. He cites the compassion and encouragement he received from his homeroom teacher, who he would later learn had quietly come to see him wrestle, as an important moment in his life. Hamaguchi would graduate from junior high, but high school was not affordable. In 1963, he ran away from home to begin a “journey of self-discovery”, performing odd jobs in construction sites across various cities while living in hanba (bunkhouses). He claims that this ended on December 8, 1963 - by coincidence, the same day Rikidozan was stabbed - when he reflected on his life and decided to return to Osaka. He found work at a steel mill, earned a heavy machinery license, and worked diligently to support his family. While on holiday, Heigo saw the 1958 Steve Reeves film Hercules and was inspired to take up bodybuilding. He began to work out at Takao Kaneko’s Naniwa Bodybuilding Gym. The Naniwa Gym would become a source of recruitment for the International Wrestling Enterprise in 1967, with Sueo Inoue and Onizo Murasaki joining the company. Hamaguchi stuck with bodybuilding until a 1969 runner-up performance at the Mr. Hyogo contest, after which he was scouted. He joined in August and debuted the following month, losing by forfeit to Atsushi Hongo. Hamaguchi would succeed Hongo as Great Kusatsu’s valet. It has been noted that he might be the only living IWE alumnus who speaks fondly of Kokusai’s most divisive figure. Hamaguchi took after Isamu Teranishi and former gym buddy Mighty Inoue in his early career, imitating their technical styles. In early 1970, he adopted the ring name Mr. Hamaguchi, and then switched to Hyogo Hamaguchi that October. Finally, he would wrestle as Animal Hamaguchi, after he was given the nickname Animal by Olympic gold medalist freestyle wrestler Osamu Watanabe. During the IWA World Series in March 1971, Hamaguchi approached Karl Gotch and asked to be trained; this mostly amounted to being a warm body for him to perform holds on, but he claims the experience made him stronger. Hamaguchi is the rare Japanese wrestler who is considered a Gotch disciple despite neither being an early NJPW dojo product nor a JWA wrestler during Karl’s one-year coaching contract. Left: Hamaguchi suplexes Kurt von Hess on March 26, 1977. Hamaguchi got his first excursion in 1972, when he worked for Dick the Bruiser’s WWA in Indianapolis. As Higo Hamaguchi, he played the stock Japanese heel as partner to one of the gimmick’s great journeymen, Mitsu Arakawa, grappling in knee-length takasago tights and wooden geta against the territory’s top stars. Hamaguchi returned home in mid-1973, where he spent three years in the second tier of the pecking order. This meant that he got to wrestle the top stars who came to the territory, but he failed to break through and win any titles. A second excursion in 1976 saw Hamaguchi work in Calgary and Puerto Rico, winning tag gold in both. He returned home for the 5th IWA World Series, where he changed his outfit to a one-shoulder singlet. The IWA World Series tournament was paralleled by a tournament for the vacant IWA World Tag Team titles, and Hamaguchi established himself as a major force through it. He and Teranishi reached the finals before they lost to Big John Quinn & Kurt von Hess on March 25. The next day, Hamaguchi teamed up with his senior Kusatsu to win the belts. Outside of a temporary loss to the Wild Samoans, the duo held the belts for nearly two years. Kusatsu’s final reigns with the championship whose lineage he dominates was the one that established Hamaguchi as one of the autumnal IWE’s top wrestlers. This was further cemented late that year, when he teamed up with Inoue to win AJPW’s All Asia Tag Team titles from Great Kojika & Motoshi Okuma for three months, before Gokudō won them back. In early 1979, after Kusatsu & Hamaguchi lost the IWA tag titles to the Yamaha Brothers, Animal & MIghty reunited to bring the belts home. While defending the titles eight times over the next year, Hamaguchi also appeared at the August 26, 1979 Tokyo Sports show, where he teamed with future tag partner Riki Choshu to wrestle Gokudō to a DQ victory. Hamaguchi was struck with bad luck on March 31, 1980. In a tag title defense against the NJPW team of Haruka Eigen & Kengo Kimura, Animal slipped on the beer-wetted floor while taking a Kimura plancha and hit the back of his head on the concrete, causing him to faint and spraining his right angle. They would win the match by foul play, but Hamaguchi was sidelined and the team was forced to vacate the titles two weeks later. Three months later, they worked a program with Eigen and Strong Kobayashi to lose a match for the vacant belts and then regain them, suggesting that the March match’s finish had not been the planned one. In spring 1981, Hamaguchi was struck with a liver condition and the belts were vacated again, with Ashura Hara taking his place in the company’s last two tours. A liver condition may sound like a coverup for backstage shenanigans (see: AJPW referee Jerry Murdock’s “stomach ulcer” cover story for getting fired in 1976) but by all accounts, this was a legitimate condition. When Kokusai's "fifteen years of hardship" finally came to an end, Hamaguchi joined Rusher Kimura and Isamu Teranishi in a move to New Japan on Isao Yoshihara's orders. It was Hamaguchi that accompanied Kimura when he took the ring on September 23, 1981 to challenge Inoki for October 8. In fact, it was Hamaguchi who covered for him. The long-taciturn Kimura’s first word when asked for comment was a polite “konbanwa” (good evening), which punctured the tense mood and drew laughter from the crowd. Hamaguchi was aggressive in his comments, provoking IWE traitor Ryuma Go at ringside, and salvaged the segment. After the Inoki/Kimura match ended in Inoki’s disqualification, Kokusai Gundan would form. From breaking into shows in plain clothes to challenge New Japan again and assaulting play-by-play commentator Ichiro Furutachi, to even abducting and assaulting Inoki in the waiting room, the faction drew massive heat and became the most hated heels in the country. During an Inoki-Kimura match on September 21, 1982, Hamaguchi crossed a line, taking a pair of scissors from Strong Kobayashi at ringside and cutting Inoki’s hair during a brawl on the outside. The team is also remembered for a pair of three-on-one handicap matches against Antonio Inoki. Hamaguchi would later say that he blossomed as a wrestler during his New Japan tenure, and that Kokusai Gundan was the peak of his career. However, he would break from the faction in 1983 to join Riki Choshu’s Ishingun faction. Hamaguchi was not Choshu’s only tag partner during Ishingun’s New Japan run, but the two were a great pair, with an energy and penchant for spike piledrivers which pegged them as a 1980s update of the Yamaha Brothers. Right: Hamaguchi wrestles Jumbo Tsuruta on March 13, 1986. In summer 1984, New Japan terminated its alliance with New Japan Pro Wrestling Entertainment, a company run by former NJPW sales manager Naoki Otsuka, after Otsuka contracted a Denen Coliseum show to AJPW. In response, Otsuka threatened to pull out New Japan wrestlers. Hamaguchi was one of thirteen wrestlers to join what would become Japan Pro Wrestling, and after an angle near the year’s end, Japan Pro entered All Japan’s rings for what would become a two-year “interpromotional” feud. Often working as Choshu’s tag partner on b-shows, Hamaguchi made numerous television appearances during this era. In July 1985, he and Teranishi won the All Asia Tag Team titles. On March 13, 1986, in a best-of-five series between the two factions at Budokan, Hamaguchi faced Jumbo Tsuruta in possibly the most famous singles match of his career. As Japan Pro crumbled in 1987, Hamaguchi decided to retire. He had once promised that he would retire if his transfer from New Japan to All Japan caused any problems, and his friendship with Choshu did not override the debt he felt to Baba for having kept him on the payroll while he missed dates due to illness. In the ceremony, he said: "I found my soul in this square ring. Thank you, pro wrestling. Goodbye, pro wrestling." This wasn’t the end for Animal Hamaguchi, though. In Tokyo’s Asakusa district, he opened the Animal Hamaguchi Wrestling Dojo after his retirement. In the following decades, many would train at his gym to build up the conditioning for professional wrestling before they sought employment; notable Hamaguchi Dojo alumni include Shinjiro Otani, Takao Omori, Satoshi Kojima, Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, and many, many more. Hamaguchi would also return to the ring, first for New Japan in 1990 and 1991 as a part-timer, and then with WAR in 1994 and 1995. The most notable match from his New Japan return was his participation in the main event of its show on the 30th anniversary of Antonio Inoki's debut, where he teamed with Big Van Vader against Inoki & Tiger Jeet Singh. In his WAR run, meanwhile, he held its six-man tag team titles alongside Genichiro Tenryu & Koki Kitahara for three months. Hamaguchi with one of the 21st century's most successful Hamaguchi Dojo alumni, Shingo Takagi. Miscellaneous No profile of Animal Hamaguchi can go without acknowledging his daughter, Kyoko Hamaguchi (seen at right with Choshu as a child). Kyoko originally pursued amateur wrestling with the ambition of following in her father’s footsteps, but joshi’s decline ultimately discouraged her from going professional. Instead, she became one of the most successful women in Japanese amateur wrestling. While her record-three Olympic appearances “only” brought her two bronze medals, Kyoko won five gold medals at the FILA Wrestling World Championships. Animal’s loud cheering of his daughter at the Olympics made him a celebrity in his own right. When Hamaguchi’s family came to see him wrestle a cage match against Intern #2 (Tom Andrews) in Hamada on March 30, 1975, his older brother got a punch in. Hamaguchi was the opponent against whom Riki Choshu debuted his Rikilariat, as he lost to the move on New Year's Day 1982. During his wrestling career, Hamaguchi’s only other notable media appearance appears to have been a bit part in episode #17 of Toei’s legendary 1978 Spider-Man series. He picked up the pace afterward, with a couple small appearances in television dramas and a small role in Naruto the Movie: Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom. He has also appeared in several commercials over the years. (See also: a cameo in the music video for Hitomi Shimatami’s 2007 single “Neva Eva”.)
  2. Let's talk about AJPW in the Spring of 1986! These are the Samurai Classics so no Riki Choshu but hey there's lots of other great stuff going on. Ted Dibiase/Ron Bass v. Motoshi Okuma/Rocky Hata (04/06/86): Kind of a squash match. Of the Japanese guys, I'm not sure who was who. Respectable start to the show nonetheless. Kuniaki Kobayashi v. Masa Fuchi (04/06/86): Now we're cooking! Kobayashi and Fuchi are just beating the crap outta each other and I loved it. Two of my favorites in their prime. Very good match Tenyru/Takashi Ishikawa v. Ted Dibiase/Ron Bass (04/19/86): Oh man everyone is on fire here. We get the nice introduction to the DiBiase & Ron Bass team and now we see what they can do versus one of the top AJ native teams. This was so basic but absolutely wonderful because you don't need big moves and flash to have a great tag match. DiBiase in AJ is the best. He vs Tenryu is money in the bank! Tenyru v. Ashura Hara (04/12/86): Holy cow '86 Tenryu is awesome! The Tenryu/Jumbo vs Yatsu/Choshu match from 01/86 is a classic but now I'm seeing more of him and there's more to the story. He's not quite as well defined as a hard hitting wrestler yet but man does Ashura Hara bring that out in him! It makes sense though as Hara is a tank and I love their tag team during the Revolution era of AJ/Tenryu. This totally exceeded my expectations. I want to call it a classic but I'll pull back a little and just say near classic at ****1/4. Harley Race/Jerry Blackwell v. Tiger Jeet Singh/One Man Gang (03/13/86): Quick bout, Blackwell vs OMG were like 2 sumo but after that it turned into a double DQ. Shohei Baba/Ricky Fuyuki/Takashi Ishikawa v. Rusher Kimura/Ashura Hara/Goro Tsurumi (04/06/86): Really fun 6 man match! Fuyuki and Ishikawa along with Hara kept this really competitive. Goro Tsurumi is an awesome character looking like a manga heel wrestler with afro pirate mustache and skull adorned unitard. Rusher and Baba do their job and yeah this is the stuff that puts a smile on my face. Baba/Ishikawa v. Killer Khan/Masanobu Kurisu (05/10/86): OK, thought I'd like it more with Kurisu & Ishikawa but it didn't do much for me. Tenyru v. Ted Dibiase (UN Title, 04/26/86): Well here is the singles match that I was looking for. And man, it's what I wanted. Great smart arm work by DiBiase. Just a really good give and take in the beginning/middle. This is joined in progress so not sure what the true start is like. Nonetheless, the match goes on pretty long I think. In that time we get solid mid 80's meat and potatoes wrestling from both guys. Its the stuff I could watch for an hour because they have created a world where it looks like their struggle is real and relatable. Not only that but we get two of the best in the world doing it. They are physically and stylistically a great match for each other. A great match for sure! If you're a fan of Tenryu and what they were doing in SWS and WAR, you really want to check out some of these matches. Thanks for reading and stay safe folks!
  3. This runs 6m5s, we get 69% (nice) of it at 4m11s. The sinews of the match are missing in what we have but what we have is enough to inform us of this much; Koki Kitahara is a capital-P Prick. Ni Hao was a young upstart in Kitahara's CAPTURE International and neither of them showed much mercy to each other, Ni Hao swinging giant shots to Kitahara's skull from mount and then headbutting him into the red only for Kitahara to get on top and start swinging even harder. Then he breaks up a straight ankle lock by punching Ni Hao square in the goddamn face. Its a fluke that we have even this much of it on this comm. release but all that we get here is just wanton brutality, and yet as set in stone as the result is it never feels like Ni Hao is entirely out of his depth - it's just that his master hits a lot harder. Outstanding stuff, for all its brevity.
  4. Insane spectacle, which may have been even better than the previous match. Easily the best Nagasaki singles match I've seen ever, hell it's probably the best for Fuyuki too. This is a lumberjack match which in WAR means guys dressed like ninjas or wearing devil masks and tracksuits are stalking near the ring. Initially it's fun with both guys being locked in the ring to potatoe each other, but things take a crazy turn when Nagasaki takes a big bump to the outside (a remarkable thing in itself) and for no reason decides to shove Tenryu aside. Tenryu gets pissed off and they proceed to hurl chairs at each other as you can feel the tension growing exponentially. Jado & Gedo proceed to get involved, braining Nagasaki with a chair, leaving him bleeding like crazy. It leads to this really fascinating ending run where they just keep escalating the violence while guys from the outside keep getting involved. Nagasaki is especially of the charts here, bleeding and absorbing some sick headbutts and lariats but then turning around and doing some psychotic things, throwing the referee around, teeing off on Fuyuki with chairs, undoing the ring ropes to strangle his opponent, hitting his awesome superkick. I've never really thought of lumberjack matches as a great stipulation or cared for matches that have guys not involved in the match getting involved., but fuck this was great.
  5. Two barrel chested bastards throwing tables at each others heads, bleeding and cracking each other hard with open palm blows and headbutts. If that premise for a match is not enough to get you to watch this, you came to the wrong board. Black Cat looked very good here, he threw a great punch and knew how to keep things moving. Initially he was the aggressor but after Fuyuki seemingly hardway'd him with a series of headbutts he turns into the babyface and even does a strap drop. Whenever the action spilt to the floor, Cat seemed out to seriously hurt his opponent. For example, Fuyuki would connect him with a foreign object, and it was one of those "worked" looking foreign object shots, but seconds later Cat would just smash the same object over his head. The finish had Cat lariating Fuyuki in the face and moments later one guy eating a nasty headdrop which came completely out of nowhere.
  6. Another round of beefy dudes clobbering eachother. This wasn't peak WAR interpromotional material, but I still probably liked the best out of all the matches on the show. Particularily because the whole match felt thoroughly violent, and Fuyuki and Koshinaka were really at each other's throat. They randomly broke out into this super violent exchange that lead to a poor sap getting punched repeatedly and all was right in the world. I continue to enjoy Goto in these Heisei Ishingun tags as old guy with 2 moves who comes in to lariat and backdrop fools and nothing else, altough there was some sloppiness on his part. Hara's career was winding down but he could still take some big bumps. These matches pretty much write themselves but they still work in some things you won't expect.
  7. Oddly enough, Norman Smiley fit perfectly into WAR. I've yet to check out his mexican work but this may be the best stuff he's ever done. He was allowed to work as this tough as nails shooter who would dominate on the ground and potatoe dudes with nasty shots. Basically an UWF version of Regal. His holds looked clinical and when it was time to kick Orihara like a dog he wasn't playing around. I imagine if Smiley had faced Hashimoto in a big match or something we'd all be Smiley superfans. Orihara works as a Smiley opponent because he is CRAZY and will bust out unexpected highspots. Worth checking out.
  8. In the grim darkness of the the near past there is only WAR! Yes, I'm back to Tenryu's playground to check out more wrestling that I may have missed or just forgotten. Takeshi Ishikawa vs Great Kabuki (09/15/92): Oh man, so I was hoping this would be a very good match but, eh it was just sluggish. There was no build to a climax just a lot of sleeper work and bleeding. It was OK but, I was disappointed. Let's get this back on track! Same show... Ultimo Dragon vs Negro Casas (09/15): This was 15 minutes of perfectly executed lucharesu. This was a real joy to watch. It wasn't super dramatic with a deep story (now maybe I'm wrong since they had a program going in Mexico at the time) but, sometimes wrestling doesn't have to be more than a contest between two competitors. Add the fact that Ultimo and Casas wrestled fast and smart - and you've got a great match! Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara vs Masa Chono & Shinya Hashimoto (10/01/93): Ten minutes of solid ass-kicking. Hash (IWGP champ) gets on the mic before the bell and talks some trash which kicks off this intense sprint-fight. As much as I love a smooth wrestling match (like above), I love a rough non-cooperative slobber knocker just the same. All four guys use their simple offense and great selling to put on a near classic match. Don't believe me? Watch for Tenryu's chops on Chono...that should get you going... Tatsuo Nakano vs Genichiro Tenryu (05/26/96): Don't think Nakano was safe with Tenryu & don't think Tenryu was safe with Nakano. Five minutes of trying to hurt each other wrestling at its finest. If you need a quick Tenryu fix - this is your match Thanks!
  9. 4 tubby guys beat the fuck out of each other and it rules, what else is new? The opening minutes were really fun logical pro wrestling. Fuyuki was fired up, ready to take down Tenryu and kick Kitahara's ass. He also looked shockingly good doing sympathetic selling as he got awkwardly kicked in the chin and face repeatedly etc. Kitahara loves demolishing other dudes with kicks but ends up having his leg taken out in a simple spot that looked great. His leg selling was very good as his kicks became mostly useless. Tenryu's hot tag was really fun and different as Fuyuki just bitchslapped him out of the ring and proceeded to kick Kitahara's ass some more. Tenryu then hands out some Necro level chairshots only to get brained himself. Super Strong Machine is not a very charismatic dude compared to the others but he is really fun here blindsiding guys, just constantly ramming people in the back of their necks with lariats and chairs when they would least expect it. Tenryu kind of played the role of the megastar who looked like he was on the verge of defeat, always looking like he was gonna go "Damn now I'm REAL fed up!“ and then he would get bonked in the head again. Really cool finish. I'd say this isn't quite up there with the high end WAR material but for the genre this is must watch anyways.
  10. Absolutely brutal, blood drenched spectacle. The early going sees Kitahara establishing himself as a dangerous striker by chasing Ishikawa around some with his kicks. Ishikawa makes the mistake of running the ropes and gets brained with a high kick. To add insult to injury, Kitahara puts him in the Scorpion Deathlock (something Ishikawa used to do to piss off Choshu himself). Pretty stiff opening, but it's tame compared to what's to come. Ishikawa gets the advantage when he hits his great sumo charging shoulderblock. Soon Ishikawa goes to town on Kitaharas bandaged eye, hitting some punches that felt like they were intended to draw hardway blood. Ishikawa proceeds to just demolish Kitahara with some of the most brutal stomps, punches and kicks ever filmed. Kitahara is someone who can both dish out a beating and sell very well, and soon he is limping around with his vision clearly impaired like a beaten dog. The ending run is actually pretty hot with Kitahara making a big comeback kicking Ishikawa in the face repeatedly and hitting a huge moonsault aswell as narrowly avoiding a dangerous piledriver. However he soon falls to Ishikawas swatting lariats and gets brutalized even worse with PRIDE level stomps and knees. The finish felt like something that should happen in more matches. Brutal brutal match.
  11. Slow paced match, but I'd say there's enough of two tubby guys cracking eachother hard to keep this entertaining. The early exchanges here are pretty fun as obviously these two work really snug, and Ishikawa also hits the worlds greatest plancha early on. There were also some nasty suplex bumps from these big guys. The submission stuff was filler, but it lead to a transition. Both guys would use these nasty short kicks, very pro wrestling style, looks hurty and nobody really does those anymore. By the end this gets pretty epic with Ashura Hara selling the beating he took huge. He would hit a suplex, but be unable to continue because he was too beaten up. So he would just rely on Ishikawa coming too close and then brutally clock him with lariats and headbutts. Obviously there are lots of great lariats in this bout. Hara launching himself around ruled including just flying out of the ring, totally unexpected and looked great. This largely worked because it was built around Ishikawa being really great at brutalizing someone and Hara being really great at putting over a beating. Credible finish. This kind of „bloated guys stiffing eachother“ has become en vogue again recently with the BJW roidheads and WALTER so forth but I'd say this was better than 99% of those matches.
  12. See the problem with 1998 WAR is that there's so little of it. This was realy clipped, showing 8 minutes out of 13, however what was shown was some insanely violent, pissed-off scrappy pro wrestling. 1998 Ishii is just as brutal as during his more famous New Japan run, but in 98 he didn't do any overly long strike exchanges and was slightly more athletic, hitting a beautiful dropkick. Yamada always looks good giving and taking a beating, he is a deathmatch guy so he can totally do savage headbutt trading and has creativity for huge but not overly elaborate spots. He sure gives Ishii the business in this one, busting his nose with a spin kick, dropping some mad DDTs and just killing him with one of the most dastardly kneedrops ever caught on film. He was also not having Ishii's macho bullshit, shoving a chair in his neck when he tried blowing off a chairshot. Not a mindblowing match by any means, but I always get a kick out of a savage violent spectacle like this.
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