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Yoshiaki Fujiwara

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Here are my reviews of two of the three matches DR recommended. Seems like I didn't review the Mochizuki match, so look for a C+A Fujiwara post upcoming

 

Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs Super Tiger UWF 9/11/85- EPIC

This is the final UWF 1 match up between these two, and really their masterpiece. Kris Zellner described the beginning of this match resembling a heavyweight title fight, and that is really accurate. The first part has a lot of feints and shrugs, Fujiwara throws some jabs, Tiger tosses some range finder kicks but neither guy wants to make the first move. At one point Fujiwara grabs Tiger's wrist and just yanks him in to take him down.

Then you have the Fujiwara controlling Tiger on the mat. The two most trite moves in the first UWF are the half crab and sitting leg lock. Watch some of the lesser matches from this period and they are loaded with diffident half crabs and somnambulant sitting leg locks, watching Fujiwara work those moves shows the real gulf between him and everyone else. He is constantly moving and working to improve his position, and Tiger is constantly trying to counter. There is never a point in the hold where nothing is happening. After being controlled on the mat, Tiger is able to get a break and unloads a nasty jumping knee right to Fujiwara's face. Fujiwara gets up at nine, backs Tiger into the corner and just blasts him with one of the best straight right hands in wrestling history. And it is on. Most UWF1 matches have a slow build and a hot finish, but this was the best slow build of any of the UWF, and damn near the best hot finish.

The end run of this match was really all about establishing distance. Super Tiger needs to have some distance to unleash his kicks, and when he gets that distance Fujiwara does an amazing job of selling them as deadly, even when they don't land clean. He is drooling, eyes rolling back into his head, checking his tooth to see if it still there, gasping for breath when he gets hit in the belly, Tiger looks like a guy who has the eraser in his feet, he can end a match with one shot. Meanwhile Fujiwara is attempting to keep it close, either on the mat, or in the corners where he can land body shots or headbutts. The finish run is perfect example of that, Tiger gets a couple of near fall KO's, but makes the mistake of locking up with Fujiwara, he tries for a German suplex, but Fujiwara, throws a back elbow, and just drops into a Fujiwara armbar for the tap out. Just an awesome perfect finish for a great match.

 

 

Yoshiaki Fujiwara v. Wellington Wilkins Jr. PWFG 5/19/91-GREAT

Damn was this a blast. This was worked as a mat brawl, both guys were exchanging really nasty shots mostly on the mat. Short punches to the temple by Wilkins, almost JYDish seated headbutts by Fujiwara, Wilkins kind of leaping from a lying position into a knee on Fujiwara's throat. Fujiwara was almost working heel here, as he slaps on a kneebar and lays out in a supine lounging position with his head resting on his elbow, he almost looks like he is stifling a yawn. Wilkins is great, he has nice deadlift suplexes and takes Fujiwara's signature boston crab reversal as a dangerous neck bump. Is their any other shoot Wilkins out there? Did he work Kingdom or something?

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Fujiwara/Tiger 12/5/84, Fujiwara/Choshu 6/9/87 and Fujiwara/Yusuke Fuke 2/24/92 would be my three Fujiwara starting recommendations. You get to see him in more than one setting and view how he's the goddamn best in all of them. Really any 80s match with Super Tiger could be one of there instead of 12/5/84, but why not start early.

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I've been slowly making my way through the 80s NJ Set and I'm in the middle of a bunch of great Fujiwara. I have seen a couple of Fujiwara matches over the years (I've seen the Choshu match from 6/87 and a Takada match from 1990) but I'm really watching him closely and in bulk for the first time.

 

I'm really digging him so far. I thought the two Maeda matches from early 86 were terrific and 2/6/86 is the best Inoki match I've ever seen.

 

His facial expressions and selling really stand out so far (and of course the headbutts). I'm looking forward to checking out UWF and then PWFG stuff as well when I finish the 80s sets.

 

For the big Fujiwara fans, who is his best opponent? Looking at the Other Japan results it looks like Sayama. Would that be fair?

 

What was he doing before 1984?

 

What is his best match against a dog shit worker?

 

When was his peak? I saw DR Ackerman say earlier in the thread that 1991 was around his peak. Would that be the consensus?

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I've been slowly making my way through the 80s NJ Set and I'm in the middle of a bunch of great Fujiwara. I have seen a couple of Fujiwara matches over the years (I've seen the Choshu match from 6/87 and a Takada match from 1990) but I'm really watching him closely and in bulk for the first time.

 

I'm really digging him so far. I thought the two Maeda matches from early 86 were terrific and 2/6/86 is the best Inoki match I've ever seen.

 

His facial expressions and selling really stand out so far (and of course the headbutts). I'm looking forward to checking out UWF and then PWFG stuff as well when I finish the 80s sets.

 

For the big Fujiwara fans, who is his best opponent? Looking at the Other Japan results it looks like Sayama. Would that be fair?

 

What was he doing before 1984?

 

What is his best match against a dog shit worker?

 

When was his peak? I saw DR Ackerman say earlier in the thread that 1991 was around his peak. Would that be the consensus?

 

I think his best opponent is either Maeda or Choshu, Maeda is basically inventing shootstyle, and those matches have intricate submissions, big time violence and great drama. The Choshu matches are basically the two of the most charismatic wrestlers in history having a big time main event. Like Hogan v. Rock if they were great in ring wrestlers

 

Before 1984 he spent a lot of time in Europe, no footage so far.

 

I wouldn't call Takada or Sayama dogshit, but I don't think either of them are very good, and Fujiwara had some stone cold classics against them,he had a great match against 1997 Abby. A really good match against Fred Hammeker a dutch kickboxer clearly didn't real know how to work.

 

I would say 89-90 during his UWF2 run was his peak, but he was really great from mid 80s all the way to mid 90s for sure, and was still having EPIC stuff in the last coupe lof years

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When was his peak? I saw DR Ackerman say earlier in the thread that 1991 was around his peak. Would that be the consensus?

 

Somewhere in the second half of the 80's to me. Fujiwara was past his peak in UWF 2 already (although still excellent at that point).

 

Best opponent would probably be Maeda.

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When was his peak? I saw DR Ackerman say earlier in the thread that 1991 was around his peak. Would that be the consensus?

 

Somewhere in the second half of the 80's to me.

 

 

I would agree with this. His second run in New Japan is awesome. In early 86 he has the best Inoki singles match I've ever seen.

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Physically he probably peaked sometime around the big 5-on-5 gauntlet or the Inoki match, but I think that Yamazaki in '89 is his finest hour, and the best match UWF ever had.

 

He is a #1 candidate, and would be my highest ranked Japanese worker.

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I've made it to Disc 13 of the New Japan set and I just have to say after having watched a large sampling of Fujiwara over a brief period of time, everyone who pimped him as an all time great was totally fucking right. As soon as I finish this one I'm going to watch the Other Japan set to see more. And I need to add that PWFG set to the top of my list now. I just watched the Don Nakaya Nielsen match and now I want to watch Fujiwara vs Everyone Ever. The weirder the better.

 

Anyway, yeah. Fujiwara. Holy shit balls.

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Sorry to say that, but as I'm going through a bunch of NJ stuff, pro-style Fujiwara is taking a severe plunge with me. As great as he was in UWF and UWF 2.0 (mostly), I'm not feeling his pro-style work at all. Overreliance on goofy as fuck headbutts. And not doing it once or twice during a match. No. Five, six, ten times, sometimes in a row. None of which looks any good. Lots of choking, which is thrilling and compelling stuff. Dubious selling (at times terrific, at times downright shitty with mind-blowing no-selling big shots like Inoki's enzuigiri's or being thrown head first on metal wrenches that hold the ropes). His Boston crab counter is cool as hell the first time you see it, but by the seventh time, you realize it's just another "you can't powerbomb Kidman" spot, although and to be perfectly fair, the Boston crab was a much more common spot for everybody in NJ, but still, it's basically a cool spot that means nothing except look cool and pop the crowd (aka, a Ric Flair trademark spot). He can go from some terrific looking counters and some cool as hell striking moments with his dickish old fuck character to some Keiji-Mutoh-on-crack goofiness moments in the same match, which renders him really frustrating to watch, as you get the feelling he could be absolutely great, but rather relies on shortcuts which the crowds admitedly loves (those stupid looking headbutts, no-selling spots). It can still be fun thanks to his great personnality, but to me he goes straight into Mutoh territory when he's doing pro-style (I'm a Mutoh fan, I'm even a Muta fan, but I know where to put him).

 

So yeah, as much as I love his UWF work, his pro-style body of work just doesn't cut it for him to be considered an elite worker overall. Despite all his shortcomings, I think I'd have Choshu ahead of him actually. I dunno, since Fuji in UWF was just terrific most of the time and I'm a shoot style fan, so...

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I haven't seen anyone talk about it ever but Fujiwara vs Don Frye was awesome and featured a sublime Fujiwara performance, another example of Fujiwara taking a guy with a limited skillset and getting the most out of him.

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Aoki now looking like Pequeno Rusev was weird. Don't buy him at all a shoot-style wannabe and found him much more fun when he was a Dynamite Kid wannabe ten years ago. That said, I'm a Fujiwara completest and this was good-hearted amusement. Aside from maybe wXw-era Johnny Saint, has there been a better 66-year old wrestler than Fujiwara? Some of the matwork stumbled, but a lot of it was solid and the headbutt exchange alone makes this worth watching.

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This match was way better than I expected even with all the praise. Fujiwara no selling the first headbutt, casually walking over and headbutting the steel rod connecting the post & turnbuckle and then casually getting back in the ring with a smirk on his face was awesome.

 

Best 65/66 year old has to be Fujiwara or Satanico.

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Fujiwara might be the last person I rate. And one reason for that is because I don't know what to do with him.

 

I've really dug him on NJ set so far, and plan on watching the high end stuff today, but as some will know I really don't have time for UWF, or indeed any sort of shoot style to the point where I actually had to start skipping it on 1990 yearbook.

 

I've really loved him as a kickass fired up babyface in 1984, who isn't afraid to get his face cut up for the cause.

 

This was a bit of a highlight from him in the 5v5 gauntlet.

 

7. Hamaguchi vs. Fujiwara

 

Fujiwara turns up with more fire than the actual sun and forces the veteran Hamaguchi to bail and break the momentum. Fujiwara will not be cooled though. Piledriver gets a very hot near fall. Clothesline by Hamguchi. Body slam. Elbow from the top rope. Another super hot near fall. Fujiwara has SO MUCH FIRE, Hamaguchi resorts to choking him. I'm loving his US-territory-style heeling in this match. Hamaguchi could have worked Memphis. Can you imagine him somewhere like Mid-South brought in as a hired hit man by Jim Cornette or something? He could have been a great territorial heel, I have no doubt,

 

Samoan drop by Hamaguchi. Multiple headbutts by Fujiwara. Hamaguchi bails, but Fujiwara follows him and slams him into the railings. And again. Fujiwara is like a proper fucking man's man isn't he. You can see him in like a dive bar with a pint in one hand and a cigarette in another, and then if something kicked off he'd snap a pool cue over someone's head. He has that vibe about him. This was another great entry in this match. The look on Hamaguchi's face after the bell goes for the double count out is amazing. It's the look of a man who knows he has failed his mission.

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Maybe my highest ranking Japanese wrestler. Definitely my highest ranking Japanese male wrestler. The sort of wrestler that you want to see against everyone (Shit, is there a Fujiwara vs Abdullah match?) anywhere on the card because he's always going to do something interesting. During his peak he's as great as anyone. 

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He was my number 1 in 2016 and is my current working number 1 for 2026. We've got five years but even if he's usurped, I doubt he drops more than a couple spots. My current goal is cleaning up my 2016 list by applying a more standardized methodology. After that I can start considering catching up on new footage, deep dives, etc.

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Fujiwara will do very well for me. He is just my type of wrestler and feel he is really one of the smartest workers ever. He maximizes movement and really excels when it comes to physical storytelling.  I really like wrestlers who jump off the screen immediately and feel singular. He does both of those things.  He is very likely to be in my top 20, maybe my top 10.  

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I royally screwed him over in 2016 but Fujiwara is a top 5 contender this time around. The godfather of one of the great pro wrestling styles and was, at worst, a Top 3 worker within that style. He wasn't a particularly flashy or eye-popping matworker but more than compensated for that with a world-class sense of positioning and movement as well as top notch striking, body language, and facial expressions. He also adapted effortlessly to the more classic pro style and even showed proficiency in a hybrid setting (i.e., UWF 1), more than a decade before that style arguably even existed. Impressive longevity but his peak is the true standout in my eyes with the 15 month stretch from 7/1989 to 10/1990 being one of the most productive runs of any wrestler ever.

 

 

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I ranked Yoshiaki Fujiwara #7 in 2016 and I feel great about that one. I could see him challenging my #2 spot. Hes the best male Japanese wrestler ever. 

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I also had Fujiwara at number 7 in 2016 and he'll be top 10 again in 2026. In terms of wrestlers who worked both shoot style and pro style for semi-lengthy periods of time, he's the best ever. Shit, he might be the best shoot style worker ever and he was amazing at pro style to boot. It's been mentioned, but he's maybe the greatest defensive wrestler ever. Hardly anyone sells the cumulative damage of strikes better, how he'll sell those first shots that are partially blocked while trying to catch and arm or a leg as a counter, how he'll then sell the ones that start getting through his guard, how he'll sell the ones that land flush. I also love that he's a total carny and I'll always appreciate some Fujiwara horse shit. Plus he's like 95 and the last time I saw him he could still go, so he has the longevity and he has the incredible peak. Number 7 might be too low. 

 

YOSHIAKI FUJIWARA YOU SHOULD WATCH: 

w/Antonio Inoki, Tatsumi Fujinami, Nobuhiako Takada & Kengo Kimura v Riki Coshu, Yoshiaki Yatsu, Animal Hamaguchi, Isamu Teranishi & Kuniaki Kobayashi (New Japan, 4/19/84)

v Super Tiger (UWF, 12/5/84)

v Kazuo Yamazaki (UWF, 1/7/85)

v Super Tiger (UWF, 1/16/85)

v Super Tiger (UWF, 911/85)

v Akira Maeda (New Japan, 1/10/86)

v Antonio Inoki (New Japan, 2/6/86)

W/Akira Maeda, Osamu Kido, Nobuhiko Takada & Kazuo Yamazaki v Antonio Inoki, Tatsumi Fujinami, Kengo Kimura, Umanosuke Ueda & Kantaro Hoshino (New Japan, 3/26/86)

w/Nobuhiko Takada, Osamu Kido, Akira Maeda & Kazuo Yamazaki v Seiji Sakaguchi, Tatsumi Fujinami, Keiichi Yamada, Kengo Kimura & Shiro Koshinaka (New Japan, 5/1/86)

v Riki Choshu (New Japan, 6/9/87)

w/Masa Saito v Antonio Inoki & Dick Murdoch (New Japan, 12/4/87)

w/Tatsumi Fujinami, Keiichi Yamada, Shiro Koshinaka & Kengo Kimura v Hiroshi Saito, Kuniaki Kobayashi, Super Strong Machine, Masa Saito & Riki Chosu (New Japan, 9/12/88)

v Kazuo Yamazaki (UWF, 7/24/89)

v Akira Maeda (UWF, 2/9/90)

v Nobuhiko Takada (UWF, 2/27/90)

v Nobuhiko Takada (UWF, 10/25/90)

v Masakatsu Funaki (PWFG, 7/26/91)

v Minoru Suzuki (PWFG, 11/3/91)

v Yusuke Fuke (PWFG, 2/24/92)

v Hiroshi Hase (New Japan, 5/3/93)

v Shinya Hashimoto (New Japan, 6/1/94)

w/Tatsumi Fujinami v Nobuhiko Takada & Masahito Kakihara (UWFi, 6/24/96)

w/Shinya Hashimoto v Daisuke Ikeda & Takashi Sugiura (Zero-1, 9/15/01)

v Minoru Suzuki (Big Mouth Loud, 3/22/06)

v Shinya Aoki (NEW, 4/5/17)

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I've watched a whole lot of Fujiwara this month, particularly his 1987 New Japan run where I'd probably call him the best wrestler in the world that year, and holy smokes I think I forgot just how amazing that guy was (even having him all the way down at #7 last time). His performance in the 8/29/87 match with Maeda is one of the best single-match performance I've ever seen, from his selling to his aggression to his obvious application of strategy (or at least communicating the IDEA of strategy in a contest that is predetermined), he was out of this world great. I think right now it's basically a toss up between him and Tamura for who's going to be my second-highest ranked wrestler from Japan in 2026. What a pro wrestler. 

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