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Grimmas

Tiger Mask/Super Tiger/Satoru Sayama

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I've been watching some of his New Japan stuff lately, and you know, although I always thought Tiger Mask was overrated, he's just not the terrible worker he's been accused of being a few years ago. Yeah, he was sloppy at times. Yeah, some of his matches were a mess (the Dynamite match with all the restarts was kinda ugly). But no, he just wasn't doing the exact same things luchadors around him were doing. That's just not the truth. He was quicker, more explosive and more spectacular, that is, when he didn't fuck up his spots. He was also part of some really good matches, both against Dynamite and Kobayashi, and some cool tag stuff too. He had a wicked knee drop. And despite not being a vey good worker overall (let's not kid ourselves), what he brought to the game was enough to build some very good matches around that. And there's no denying his influence on guys like Liger, Sasuke and even Rey Mysterio (not to mention the Eddielenko matches which are the model for every "workrate indy wankfest" and yes, that is a negative in my book).

He was much better suited for shoot-style, to which he added some of his cool indiosyncrasies, his first UWF stint was full of really good matches (okay, he also had some really good opponents to work with).
Overall, not nearly as good as he was pimped to be, but not nearly as bad as he was accused to be either.

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That's a pretty fair assessment. His athleticism clearly excited crowds, even in places where other spectacular wrestlers worked. I found it puzzling, in going through the New Japan footage, why a guy like Hamada wasn't regarded as more of a groundbreaker. To my eye, he was as spectacular as Sayama and much cleaner. But I can't deny reality.

 

Every once in awhile, Sayama would do something absolutely breathtaking. He hit a dropkick, on Bret Hart I think, that was maybe the greatest dropkick I've ever seen. For me, that doesn't wipe away all the stuff he did badly. But I can see why fans overlooked his flubs. And I love his UWF run, especially the Fujiwara stuff. If we had five years of that Sayama instead of just one, he'd have a case.

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Falls into the category of being underrated by some and overrated by others. He wouldn't make my top 100, but I don't think he's a terrible pick. The UWF stuff is very strong. As a singles worker on the DVDVR New Japan set, he was a flop. But in tags where he could come in as a house on fire, he was good. I think him tagging with Fujinami against Pete Roberts and Solitario was very underrated on that set (#119). When tagging with guys like Fujinami, Hamada, Hoshino, he could come in for sprint segments to add a new flavor without going overboard.

 

It would be fair to say that his best singles (vs. Fujiwara, Steven Wright, Maeda, Marty Jones) were mostly carryjobs. Though Maeda was actually a few months younger than him, so that either speaks poorly for Sayama or well for Maeda. His worst ones are well known, but only the Dynamite Kid ones strike me as truly bad. The stuff with Bret, Rocco, and Canek all had structural flaws and dull patches, but by everyday standards they weren't "bad" matches at all.

 

Totally agree that Hamada and even Hoshino in hindsight look just as impressive, and that both as of now make my list, while Sayama does not.

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I think the problem with Tiger Mask, is that his best remembered matches just aren't that good. I actually think he suffers because of the hype surrounding the DK series. I remember at the time of the New Japan project, TM was a guy who consistently frustrated me, but he was also in a lot of matches that I really liked. Yeah I am not sure I can think of a single instance where I thought he was the best guy in the match, but when I compare him to some of the other guys who rubbed me wrong at times during that process (Takada, Koshinaka, Inoki) I'd take him over all of them relatively easily. I still think a guy like Hamada was doing stuff that was just as athletically impressive as well or better, and I can't see him in a top 100, but I'm actually not reflexively opposed to the notion of his inclusion either.

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I loved Sayama on the Other Japan set and really wish he had gone back to NJ and then to UWF2.0 with everyone else. The Fujiwara feud was absolutely tremendous and I really liked the Maeda matches as well. Also, I had no idea he still wore the tiger mask for a bit in UWF1.0 and I can't even put into words how much I love that he did.

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After watching all the 1981-1982 Tiger Mask, I've come away thinking he isn't in the GOAT conversation, but he was a good high-flyer who could be very good when he was in with a great worker. I think the reason people were more into him than someone like Hamada comes down to the mask and whatever crossover celebrity he had, but I don't think he was embarrassing either. This will raise some eyebrows, but I kept comparing him to young 2 Cold Scorpio in my head. By young, I mean 1992-1993.

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I get the comparison. Also, I think some of the more hardcore smarks dismiss the sheer physical-stuntsmanship aspect of his appeal to more casual fans. Rather like Rob Van Dam and Goldberg, TM just moved differently than everyone else. Those spinkicks of his were often fired off at almost Bruce Lee speed. That kind of thing is way more impressive to casual fans than just being an all-around solid worker with good mechanics.

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Comparing him to Hamada and acting surprised that he got more over is lame because they wrestled two very different styles. From what I've seen, Hamada was generally a mat wizard who would throw in a few well-built high spots, while Sayama not only built his whole offense around high spots but was doing them with far more explosiveness than anyone else, which is both very taxing on the body and requires a great deal more technical skill and athleticism to pull off. Compare the total injuries Hamada got over his entire career to what was suffered by Sayama in just his initial 2 year run and the difference is clear.

 

It's still crazy to say he was better then Inoki in 80's NJ, though.

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Why is it lame? They were contemporaries who were both pushing the envelope in terms of athletic spots. And it struck many people who watched them match up on the DVDVR set that Hamada looked better. Your points about the two working differently are fair, but it's a natural comparison, not a lame one.

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I haven't watched all of his UWF stuff yet but if it's as great as what I've been watching so far I'll probably rank him. The one young lion match of his I found totally rules, his World Of Sport stuff is GREAT, to the point if it was the stuff getting the hype the DK matches do I'd even be inclined to agree with it, he really looks like the most athletic performer ever there. HIs junior stuff I also like but would agree is overhyped. He was one of the strongest influences on my favourite style (shoot) and that's something I'm going to count in.

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The feud with Fujiwara probably peaked in their last match, so you have plenty to look forward to. But I didn't think his WOS stuff was great at all. He was certainly a sensation because of his athleticism, but I don't recall a lot of meat to his matches. Which performances struck you?

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But I didn't think his WOS stuff was great at all. He was certainly a sensation because of his athleticism, but I don't recall a lot of meat to his matches.

It is what it is. In his New Japan junior stuff you'd get glimpses of what he could do, whereas in his WOS stuff pretty much every transition struck me as a holy shit moment.

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I've been watching a ton of 90's/2000's Tiger Mask (namely RJPW work) and while there's some stinkers within the batch, he's definitely got a improved case for this based on what I've seen. Considerably adaptable in tags or singles against a super wide variety of opponents from a good match series with Suzuki to 5-minute sprints with a noob Ibushi and Otani to a brutal Takayama match all the way to having probably the last great match with old man Tenryu, can still go surprisingly well for his age and size, good technical stuff etc. Somehow also had a decent feud with no-knees Onita that didn't completely stink up the place. I'll have a more detailed examination up soon but I would suggest searching around for some of his stuff there.

 

 

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Outside of his UWF matches with Fujiwara, my favourite stuff of Sayama's are the competitive squashes. Him befuddling Sid Cooper on WoS, or Jose Estrada in WWF with his crazy offence is great stuff.

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1 hour ago, club said:

Outside of his UWF matches with Fujiwara, my favourite stuff of Sayama's are the competitive squashes. Him befuddling Sid Cooper on WoS, or Jose Estrada in WWF with his crazy offence is great stuff.

To add on to this, there's a solid semi-squash in 1985 UWF with him against Mach Hayato as well which is a super strong outing. The first half is just Sayama eating up the guy until they go more into the usual routine after they build up his comeback for a good while. It's maybe not as bombastic as the above mentioned, but it's still a compelling performance given how ape-shit the crowd gets from him working on top.

 

 

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