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Loss

[1991-03-21-NJPW-Starrcade in Tokyo] Ric Flair vs Tatsumi Fujinami

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This was a better match than I expected. While Flair is still an excellent wrestler, he has slipped from where he was in 1990, and he was with an unfamiliar opponent, so I wasn't sure to expect. But here, he does look like the Flair of old. He gives a really tough, inspired performance. Fujinami is perfectly good, but this is Flair's match all the way. I like how he always ups the aggression when working in Japan, and there are a couple of spots like the neckbreaker that he pulls out that aren't part of his normal repertoire. I do think these two had a classic match in them that would never find its way to the surface, although five years earlier, they almost definitely would have hit that level. They do have really good chemistry, and it's a credit to Fujinami that he puts Flair over so strongly in the body of the match. The bullshit Dusty finish is a terrible, terrible idea in front of this large a crowd, especially when it was to set up a U.S. rematch that had absolutely no appeal to a stateside audience. It brings this match down a level. But everything preceding that is gold.

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I view this match differently than Loss. I really didn't see these guys clicking with one another. I thought the work wasn't smooth and their was some awkward moments between the 2. Now this finish was a cluster fuck . Doing it in Japan was a bad decision.

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I fall between you guys on this one. There were definitely some awkward moments where they seemed unsure which direction to take the match. But they also delivered some really intense exchanges that redeemed it to some degree. We've talked the idea of the "Flair match" to death on this board. That said, this felt like a stereotypical Flair match -- always something happening, stiff and intense at the right moments, signature spots checked off, more about action and forward propulsion than any real theme. I agree that they could have had a damn good match in the 1980s.

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Yeah, I honestly didn't see a lot of great chemistry here--definitely not in the early going and certainly not to the level of Sting and Muta. They almost lose me early on but come back to put on a pretty good closing stretch, and even the ending is pretty well-executed for what it is. I dunno why they felt the need to bring in Fujinami for a U.S. PPV main event, but if you're going to do that this is as good of a way as any to establish him to American audiences and quickly. Sorry, but my MOTN goes to the IWGP tag title match.

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Never seen this one. Fonzie as referee! I think Flair got that haircut just for the visual when he is in a side headlock. Flair blocks getting slammed off the top rope! I hate those type of pinfalls where the guy getting pinned makes no attempt to struggle during the pin to try kick out but then pops up right away after the three. Was okay at best but I’m in the camp where the chemistry between the two just didn’t seem to be there. I much prefer Flair versus Tenryu.

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I probably align mostly with childs on this one. Early 10-15 minutes were pretty ho hum with a lot of instances where i thought Fujinami looked actively bad. Then Flair bladed and this turned around big time and the ending stretch was pretty hot. Finish is dumb as hell.

 

Good show overall though with 4 matches at least flirting with 3 stars.

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I may be seeing things that weren't there, but it looked to me like Fonzie saw Flair throw Fujinami over the top rope and was going into the ring to call it, only to be held back by at least three different officials. Even the appearance of something like that makes this finish seem like one of the old-fashioned hometown fixes seen in old-time boxing matches. Did Fonzie recover from his bump a little too soon, or was Dusty (who I assume booked this) getting a tad sloppy in his old age?

 

As for the match itself, Flair dominates most of it, which is a nice change of pace, and busts out moves we haven't seen from him in a long time, if ever. Fujinami tries to get momentum going, and wins some chop exchanges, but can never quite sustain the advantage long enough to be a threat to Flair. Even though Flair gets himself busted open, he doesn't seem to be in any real danger of losing at any point until the finish. Fujinami seems a step slow compered to what he was before; that back injury seems to have taken its toll, though he still looks like he belongs in the ring with Flair.

 

I assume we'll find part of the answer in the weeks to come, but here's how I understand the aftermath so far: Fujinami's victory was allowed to stand by the NWA despite the screwy finish. But WCW, sensing a ready-made rematch, went ahead as if the Dusty finish meant that Flair retained the WCW title (which they considered separate) and said that Fujinami would defend the NWA title against Flair at SuperBrawl. This angered the NWA Board of Directors, and was the first step toward WCW leaving the NWA (which they finally would for good a couple of years later) and going out completely on their own. Feel free to correct me if I need it.

 

I agree that these two could have had a five-star classic a few years earlier. As it was, this match was above good, but nowhere near great. Liger/Nogami was the Match of the Night for me.

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I liked the intensity and stiffness of the exchanges a lot. I also think they went back to Flair taking a back body drop or somebody grabbing a quick headlock far too often. Even if they worked in those headlocks, it just seemed like both guys had more they could have done.

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IWGP Heavyweight Champion Tatsumi Fujinami vs NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair - NJPW 3/21/91

 

This is the worst time period for Ric Flair's hair. It looks like he as a flying saucer on his head.

 

I believe this is Flair's first challenge for IWGP Championship as the NWA was historically affiliated with AJPW while NJPW was affiliated with WWF & Florida. Things switched in the early 90s with WWF switching their affiliation to Tenryu's upstart SWS and WCW moving to a relationship with NJPW that would last through the 90s. It is important to note Flair's WCW World Heavyweight Championship is not on the line. This was a new championship was that created in early 1991. I wonder if part of the reason this match exists to put over the fact that they are now two different world championships in WCW and really explain to the fans that the NWA & WCW are different entities.

 

At this time in New Japan, short of Antonio Inoki coming out of semi-retirement, Tatsumi Fujinami was The Man. 1991 was his last hurrah and his 20th anniversary as a pro wrestler. He would continue to wrestle throughout the 90s and win the IWGP Championships two more times, but he treated more as a legend or elder statesman than a regular main eventer. He traded the championship earlier in the year with Vader and would lose the championship to long time rival Riki Choshu at the 1/4/92 Dome Show, but not before having two big championship matches with Masa Chono, who at the time seemed poised to be The Musketeer that would break out.

 

The first half of this match was pretty much Flair by the numbers. He gets shown up early on the mat and then in a fire fight. I liked Fujinami going for the Dragon Sleeper early and Flair sold it really well. Desperately looking for the ropes. There was definitely some serious miscommunications. A weird criss cross spot that just ended. The press slam off the top that clearly went awry. Fujinami did look worse than Flair, but not by much. Nothing was sticking. Flair was clearly calling the match and just kept moving through stuff way too quickly. He starts working the knee but before you know it Fujinami has him in a Scorpion Deathlock and then we are back to back body drops and that botched press slam off the top. They needed to slow the fuck down. Flair could not focus on one thing in the first half of this match.

 

It continues into the second half. They are doing the Steamboat chop out of the corner, back drop and then Flair is hitting Butterfly Suplex and a delayed vertical suplexes. The Suplexes look great, but nothing means anything. Finally we get some stickiness. When Flair blades off a railing spot. Now we have a hook. Fujinami is teeing off on Flair. Fujinami has been at his best in this match when he has been playing it like Wahoo or Garvin would. They intensity of the strike exchanges have been great not much else. The Flair Flops in this were great and well timed. Enziguiri one was good. Flair and Fonzie heads collide and Fonzie goes over the top rope. Fujinami does his best Steamboat impression with a ton of quick pinning combinations that fans count along with. It is clear Fonzie is not getting back up so when Fujinami does the Banana Split Schoolboy out of the Abdominal Stretch, Tiger Hatori counts three to give Fujinami the NWA World Championship.

 

This sets up the SuperBrawl I main event of Fujinami's NWA Championship vs Flair's WCW Championship. What was the point of that match? This match is all over the place. I am hard pressed to even call this good. Fujinami looked disinterested and lost at times. Flair just could not settle the fuck down. One of the worst matches I have ever seen out of these two all time greats.

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The first 15 minutes felt like an exhibition between two young lions (minus the fire) going through the basics. Flair does all his trademark spots, but you can tell his heart isn't in it. The match picks up ever so slightly when Flair gets colour. They start to up the intensity. I know both these guys weren't at their best so I was able to adjust my expectations accordingly, but I could imagine a naive fan who thought they were sitting down to watch a big title match between two of the best ever to come out actively disliking this. 

★★½

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