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[1991-05-19-WCW-Superbrawl I] Ric Flair vs Tatsumi Fujinami


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  • 2 months later...

I'm not sure what to make of this match. Flair worked really, really hard to get the crowd into this. It sort of worked at times, but they couldn't sustain any heat. Part of it is that there was some weird jingoism in the buildup, part of it is that Fujinami didn't really go over the top to put on a great performance and part of it is that Flair's tricks felt a little exposed. Part of it I think is that Flair's act just seemed so tired at this point, and part of it is that I think this just wasn't a feud that was meant to happen in 1991. Japan didn't quite seem like the right setting for the March match, and the U.S. didn't quite seem like quite the right setting for this one. I think they are both on par with each other in terms of match quality, but even though WCW becomes really dreadful for a few months in the immediate aftermath of his departure, Flair was stale and needed a change in scenery. Even in a unique setting with a completely fresh opponent, it's old hat. This is a very good match, but sometimes, that's not enough.

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There was way too little build for Fujinami on television--one press conference angle wasn't enough. More TV footage of Fujinami working, whether it was taped footage from New Japan or some TV squashes or anything. God bless Dusty for somehow tying in his friendship with Willie Nelson into an analogy about Fujinami. These entrances are absurd, by the way. That and in contrast to the Hansen/Vader feud, WCW didn't go to any lengths to educate fans that this was something besides American Champion vs. Evil Foreigner. Thus, we get Flair trying to work heel and Fujinami work babyface in the face of "USA" chants. The time wasn't right yet for a no-frills "two guys wanting to be the best" championship match. The match itself is fine, and I liked it better than the Dome match, and to some degree I'm surprised that they held the crowd as well as they did. Part of me wants to give credit to WCW for something different, but the other part sees the failures here as being pretty self-evident.

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Yeah, bringing in Fujinami was just stupid. He was a great wrestler, of course, but he wasn't going to do any of the stuff that might have gotten him over quickly. Though the work was solid, it wasn't anything special, even in purely mechanical terms. I can't really blame the fans for not reacting. WCW booking was deep in the toilet.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Introductions for both men feel cheap. Tough on everyone to bring in a guy like Fujinami to main event a big show. Crowd wasn’t into him. It was a step up from their New Japan match but by the end I was pretty much waiting for it to be over. Flair was trying hard but he started to way overdo it on the Flair flops.

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  • 2 months later...

This match feels really ahead of its time because it is worked like a indy main event in 2004. It was marginally sucessful surrounding a ton of negative parameters and I want to commend mainly Flair on that as he felt like the driver on the train. Fujinami was not bad here but again like the Vader match earlier in the year seems more along for the ride than adding a ton to the match. I did like the escalation that was done with Flair getting cut. Fun match to watch back in retrospect. Superbrawl I overall may be the show with the most good matches on it that I would still call a tad disappointing overall for a variety of reasons.

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  • 1 year later...

The work was good, but it seemed empty due to Fujinami not being well known amongst the crowd. I understand why they paired them up, but bringing over Muta to work Flair would have been great to see and would have worked considering Muta was about to get the big push in NJPW at this time. Fantasy booking aside, Fujinami was in a no-win situation here. Can't really blame him for not getting over quickly because he just doesn't work a style that allows him to get over in the course of one match. A lot of dull moments here.

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  • 7 months later...

This is too disjointed and messy for me to actually call it good. But there is some very good work within, and some stuff you'll rarely see elsewhere, like Flair's attention-getting chop to the back, three failed bridge-ups being used as a transition, and a sideways Flop that somehow ends with Flair upright and facing his opponent.

 

The camera doesn't just catch Flair's blade, it seeks him out. Someone should smarten up those poor directors.

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  • 2 weeks later...

If you put this match in the Tokyo Dome, they would have called it one of the greatest ever. Both of these guys brought everything they had, and I'm not sure Fujinami's ever looked better. He didn't change his style, exactly, but he picked up the pace for the American audience and showed that he was more than willing to mix it up with Flair when it was called for. Flair also did well working the mat with Fujinami, which he didn't do too often by now in title matches. This really felt like a struggle, particularly when Fujinami trapped Flair in the octopus and just about had him beaten. I personally could have done without the ref bump finish and the tights pull for the pin, but I doubt Dusty knew any other way to book a Flair win at this point, so I'll let that slide.

 

The downside here was the crowd. I wouldn't have blamed Flair and Fujinami if they'd noticed they were working in front of a bunch of corpses and decided to lay in a headlock until the pay-per-view time was up. Seriously, what was their problem? If nothing else, they should have popped for Flair getting his ass kicked, even if it was by a foreigner they'd never seen before. Or they should have been cheering for Flair to get out of the holds and predicaments that Fujinami put him into. It was their choice, but the choice they ended up making (sitting in stone silence) killed this bout as dead as they were. No amount of hype for Fujinami could have gotten them to care as much about him as they did Sting and Luger, but they could have at least given him a fighting chance. The only move that got any kind of pop, and it was a half-hearted one at that, was when Flair crotched Fujinami on the railing. I don't buy the "they were still worn out from the tag title match" excuse either, because they were just as apathetic before that match even started and didn't even really warm up while that match, their supposed dream match, was going on.

 

Loss may have been right about Flair's act being a bit stale, but there was no excuse for this. Either Dusty grossly miscalculated what the people actually wanted to see or the fans deserve to be branded as hypocrites for behaving this way here and then chanting "WE WANT FLAIR" all through GAB '91. Guess what, morons? You had Flair, and he gave you one of his better performances in the last couple of years against an energetic challenger who brought his A-game as well. And what did you do? You almost completely ignored it. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if this was the match that convinced Jim Herd that Flair could be fired without too much damage to the company, but he fired the wrong man. There was an arena full of people in St. Pete that night who should have gotten the pink slip first, metaphorically speaking. I'm not even sure they'd have popped if Hogan had walked in with the WWF title in hand and demanded a title vs. title match right then and there.

 

The bottom line is, this was a great match that deserved a much better fate than it got. After seeing the disrespect the fans showed toward both the match and the men who wrestled it, I'm ready for Flair to head north and see what he can do for Vince. As for Fujinami, the man's still a hero in Japan, and he has no more to be ashamed of than Flair does. He gave his best, and it should have been good enough.

 

Before I forget. kudos to the announcers for trying to make this a big deal in the face of impossible odds. JR's move descriptions and history lessons were on point, and Dusty was full of good analysis and analogies, including the one Pete mentioned above concerning Julio Iglesias and Fujinami. The amazing thing was, it proved Dusty's point about Fujinami's international reputation perfectly, which doesn't happen often when announcers go that far afield. I might have been a little more receptive toward Fujinami's claim to the title than JR and Dusty were, but that was consistent with WCW's policy of regarding Fujinami as just another challenger, which was terribly misguided and may have led to a little of the crowd's apathy.

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  • 7 months later...

I thought both worked extremely hard to overcome the lukewarm and disinterested crowd and tell a great story. They initially tried Flair as heel and Fujinami as face but switched roles as the match progressed in a really cool way with Fujinami relentlessly targeting Flair with vicious and focused offense while Flair sold fantastically and made himself a sympathetic figure.

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  • 1 year later...

I agree with garretta. I do think had this match happened in Tokyo, or just in the US in front of a hot crowd, this would be remembered in higher regard. There were some missed spots, but for the most part this really delivered. I liked the spot with Flair after he bladed, he was in the corner and pushing Fujinami out of the corner a few times, like "come on punk." Then, he delivers the chop to his back. I loved it. I thought this was pretty great and like Microstatistics said, they both worked really hard to attempt to overcome the crowd. They could have just said screw it. It's a great match all-in-all.

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  • 4 months later...

I thought it was a really good bordering on great match. Easily better than the Tokyo match. There were some very nice wrinkles and the work was smart throughout. It's just two things working against it. First being that it was never given any real build to the preceding match or between that match and this one. Second is a direct result of the first. Nobody in the crowd cared about what happened. You could have put it on first for all the fans cared. After watching this show I'm not sure why these people bothered showing up or WCW put on the show. I mean, not building any matches for it besides the clusterfuck that was Sid/Gigante will have to go down as one of WCW's biggest mistakes. Book a PPV where nobody knows what the matches are or why they are happening and I guess this is what happens.

 

Edit: Oh yeah, fucking fire whoever came up with those entrances immediately.

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  • 2 months later...

NWA World Heavyweight Champion Tatsumi Fujinami vs WCW World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair - WCW SuperBrawl I

 

Flair hair update we have gone from flying saucer to the Beiber hair cut. 1991 was the nadir for Flair.

 

I don't get the booking of bringing in a virtual unknown Japanese wrestling legend based on a convoluted controversy that happened in Japan to main event a show. I am going with the narrative that this is to re-unify the NWA & WCW World Championships with Fujinami coming in as the NWA Champion. There is a group of Florida fans that are super into Fujinami chanting for him and bringing in a sign in Japanese. WCW's fanbase was insanely hardcore.

 

Better than Dome match. More heated action and better structure. In the last match, Flair kept calling for different spots so they both moving too fast from spot to spot, but also moving too slow in the sense that execution was slow. Here they were moving better and more in sync. Good fire fights between these two. Fujinami used holds well. Fujinami aged a lot man. Like I remember digging his 1980 work but there were times here where he just looked plain old and he was wrestling Flair, who is four years older than him, but was moving way better. Fujinami worked the back well. Flair was selling a lot better. The atomic drop on the railing was a good transition for Flair to get on top and work the knee. The figure-4 was over. The bridge spot was sad. Fujinami just did not look good at times, Another was the press slam again Fujinami just looked out of it. Flair blades off the railing. Flair is working over time to make this work. All the good Flair tropes down the stretch. They knock heads. Fujinami plays Steamboat with a bunch of nearfalls before Flair pushes him off into Tiger Hatori. Flair grabs a handful of trunks and Fonzie counts Fujinami. Why the hell do we need to protect Fujinami? Wasn't Flair the babyface? What the fuck?

 

Shitty finish aside, there is some good work here, but these two just don't really have chemistry. If this is your only introduction to Fujinami definitely check out his 80s stuff because he does not look good in these matches. ***

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  • GSR changed the title to [1991-05-19-WCW-Superbrawl I] Ric Flair vs Tatsumi Fujinami

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