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[1982-01-08-NJPW] Tiger Mask & Antonio Inoki & Tatsumi Fujinami vs Babyface & Dynamite Kid & Abdullah the Butcher

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This is about as random a match as you can get that doesn't take place on a WAR card or inside the Worldwide Arena at Disney MGM. It's the top three stars of New Japan facing imports from Sudan (read: America), England and Mexico. New Japan has been home to what I would argue as the best wrestling in the world in the early 80s, if only because of Tatsumi Fujinami's junior heavyweight mat clinics. This is not that. Instead, they follow the lead of the legendary final match of All Japan's tag league just a few weeks earlier by inviting chaos and escalating the pace.

 

What I really like most about this match is that the presentation is one that favors the strengths of virtually everyone involved. Inoki can stand on the apron and get involved when he needs to sell a top feud or get a pop from the crowd (which wasn't difficult), so his credibility adds something. Abby is up against two willing bumpers in Fujinami and Tiger Mask, and his brawling around the ring fosters the atmosphere as much as or more than anything else. And of course, Fujinami is the utility guy who can work with everyone, but he's hardly carrying that load alone, as Babyface helps him out from the other side.

 

For all the deserved criticisms levied at Tiger Mask and Dynamite Kid, they both shined in this setting. Tiger kicked Dynamite squarely in the face with a roundhouse kick to break up a choke attempt on Fujinami across the ring. Dynamite pays him back by dropping a knee on his nose a few minutes later. They largely avoid the highspots that would be their trademark, probably because I don't think either guy wrestled a sequence that lasted two minutes. If anything, Tiger's primary role here (well, everyone's primary role here) seems to be to get Abby over as a monster, and he (and everyone else) is (are) very good at that. In one of my favorite moments of the match, Tiger is about to hit Abby with a plancha on the floor when Dynamite pushes him off the top rope, which is a great tactic to heel him with the crowd. That's not the only time something gets teased that doesn't happen as expected -- I don't think Tiger squaring off with Abdullah would have gotten the reaction it did had Tiger not saved Fujinami earlier from Abby's attempts to pummel him on the outside.

 

Most wrestling fans can appreciate a troop of top stars holding off foreign menaces, and we've seen it in countless incarnations if we've been watching for any length of time. When done improperly, it seems archaic and when done right, you get fever pitch heat and a nice stage to get over the characters of everyone involved. This was that dynamic done right.

 

A ***1/2 match, and I'd love to go higher but they don't really build to a strong climax. That said, that rating hardly tells the full story.

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It's the top three stars of New Japan facing imports from Sudan (read: America)

 

I think that you mean Canada.

 

To add something valuable to the thread... this is the match that made NJPW realise that Tiger Mask looked so defensless against Abdullah that they decided not to book him against heavyweights again during the rest of his run. Exactly like WCW did with the cruiserweights!

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Well, it was entertaining to say the least. Dynamite Kid often goes after his rival Tiger Mask, which is well thought, it enables to reminds fans that these two are right in the middle of a feud and that they don't suddenly forget it when they meet each other in tag team setting. Dynamite is stiff when he does it, which is scrumptious. Inoki does a good job at showing he views Abby as a threat. Moreover, it doesn't look like he's lazy like he tends to do in some matches. ***3/4.

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