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[1984-02-23-AJPW] Nick Bockwinkel vs Jumbo Tsuruta

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AWA World Heavyweight Champion Nick Bockwinkel vs Jumbo Tsuruta - AJPW Budokan 2/23/84 Special Guest Referee Terry Funk

 

It had been almost four years since Giant Baba had won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Harley Race. While Jumbo had been challenging for the NWA World Title since the mid-70s, the pressure must have been mounting for him to follow in Baba's foot steps and finally win the big one. All Japan, NWA and AWA were booked in a tough position where the American promotions did not want to a Japanese wrestler representing them, but All Japan needed to prove to their fan base their ace was a legitimate world class pro wrestler. In 1984, it was high time for Jumbo Tsuruta to avoid the choker label and he did just that by pinning Nick Bockwinkel to win the AWA World Heavyweight Championship. He did Baba one better by actually finishing the tour with his reign intact and actually defending the championship in America. You see Baba spent a ton of money to cement Jumbo's status as the man by buying him this reign. In return, Verne got actually what he needed a gaijin transitional champion to go from ace heel Nick Bockwinkel to his prospective new hot babyface act, Rick Martel. Baba would use a similar model of gaijin (Hansen, Doc and Gordy) to transition titles among the natives. It was a win-win for everyone involved and of course the big winners were the Japanese faithful that were able to see their hero win the World Heavyweight Championship from Bockwinkel after being thwarted repeatedly by cheap finishes.

 

The match starts with Bockwinkel trying to end the match early with a surprise cross body, but only gets two. Bockwinkel works an extensive arm work segment that is just awesome. Bockwinkel is wrenching Jumbo's arm in all directions, applying pressure with his head and knees (THAT IS A LEGAL KNEE TO THE HEAD, Terry Funk yells, which makes me chuckle). Jumbo is always struggling, teasing escapes, but Bock uses a multitude of nefarious tactics to keep him down. One of my favorite spots of the match was Bock's super slick double wristlock takedown into a rolling short arm scissors just really strong work there. Another fun spot was Jumbo trying to show Funk that he keeps getting pulled down by the hair only to be pulled down by the hair again. Jumbo finally is able to string some offense together in the form of an enziguiri into a high knee, but only gets one. Bock retreats and tries to go back to the arm, but Jumbo is rolling now with two piledrivers and a Thesz Press. The action is so hot and heavy that it spills to the outside. Bock unloads with heavy blows on the outside. Hey there is the 80s spot the head to head collision, but really does not lead anywhere in this match. I can't say I am a fan of that spot. Jumbo is throwing closed fists and ignoring Funk's admonishments. Jumbo will not be denied tonight and the crowd is pumped. Bockwinkel goes back to a top wristlock to get a nearfall, but Jumbo counters with a Russian Legsweep. Nice! It is bombs away from Jumbo with a variety of suplexes and he has the champion on the ropes literally as he has to use the ropes to break Jumbo's Boston Crab. The Japanese fans have seen this story before and usually it does not end well for their boy. Bockwinkel shoves Jumbo into Funk and if I was a fan I would be smelling screwjob and Bockwinkel hits two piledrivers and a bodyslam, but nothing doing. As usual, Bockwinkel chucks his opponent to the outside to buy himself some time. When it comes time to bring him in the hardway, Jumbo floats over and BACK DROP DRIVER! 1-2-3! Jumbo wins the World Title!

 

This was an interesting story as you get the sense that Bockwinkel clearly sees Jumbo as a massive threat to his title reign. He tries to win quickly with a cross body from there he dictates the pace and tries to take Jumbo out via arm work. He is keeping Jumbo grounded and we find out why later in the match. Bockwinkel does not have a prayer in a bomb throwing match. Once Jumbo is able to break free of the arm work and establish himself, he just starts throwing everything at Bockwinkel to finally win the championship. The tease all the usual screwjob finishes (double countout, ref bump), but this time the fans get to home happy with Jumbo Tsuruta winning the AWA World Title. Jumbo's long term selling could have been better. Bockwinkel was awesome in this, cocky in control and desperate on defense. The feel good ending elevates the great work in this to a classic match in my eyes. ****1/2

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A great match on the whole but I wish Jumbo had done a better job selling the arm considering Bock was attacking it for so long and so aggressively in the first half of the match. I thought Terry Funk did a pretty good job as ref and didn't distract too much. I enjoyed seeing him and Bock arguing during the match.

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I love the wrenching on the left arm from Bock. I agree Jumbo should have long term sold it. Had he sold it while on offense, it really would have been more dramatic when Bock hit the big knee in the corner and took back over on the left arm. Bock still performs like the all-time great he is, Terry Funk adds to the fun, and the feel good moment ... feels and looks really good. Overall, great stuff. ****

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The arm work early on lasted quite a while but didn't really go anywhere or mean anything. There were a few instances where a rope-break was available but Jumbo inexplicably didn't go for it. There was no obvious story here but the match picked up pretty well after the halfway point. Jumbo started working over the back a bit which at least made sense in the context of him doing the backdrop for the finish. This match was solidly worked but was just kind of there with nothing really exceptional or interesting about it. ***

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Great match on all facets aside from Jumbo's selling which was pretty much non-existent once he was out of Bock's holds. Other than that, I loved the match. Bockwinkle trying to get a quick win with the cross body early on, him trying to ground Jumbo with his superior at skills, knowing when his bread and better lies and knowing where Jumbo is best. The struggle for the holds is great, at least. Then Jumbo works on the back once he learns how to escape Bock's holds and goes to town on it with stomps and brutal clubs. The finish came out of nowhere for me tbh but that's not to say that I didn't like that either. The crowd were stunned and I don't think they expected Jumbo to actually win. :lol:. Great match. ****

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