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[1986-05-01-NJPW] Yoshiaki Fujiwara & Osamu Kido & Akira Maeda & Kazuo Yamazaki & Nobuhiko Takada vs Seiji Sakaguchi & Tatsumi Fujinami & Keiichi Yamada & Kengo Kimura & Shiro Koshinaka

Phil Schneider

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This is a 5 v. 5 gauntlet challenge, following the spectacular 5 v. 5 elimination tag the previous month. Truly a classic match, with only a couple of down spots keeping it from reaching the heights of the 1984 gauntlet. The match starts out with Takada and Yamada and I enjoyed this juniors shootstyle more then I can ever remember enjoying the more heralded Takada v. Yamazaki match up. Yamada is super fast on the mat and worked around Takada well. We then get three really fun Sakaguchi matches with him chucking around Takada and Yamazaki and getting caught by Kido. Kido showed some great fire in his Sakaguchi match landing a nasty kick to the face, the other two matches left a bit to be desired, even for a Kido fanboy like me.

Of course the match picks the fuck up when Fujiwara hits town, Kimura jumps him at the bell and they have a great little toe to toe brawl with Kimura busting him open and working the cut. There was a great escape with Fujiwara using a headstand while blood dripped onto the mat. Fujiwara sinks in a super nasty armbar for the win. He is cranking it about as badly as he can. Then we get Fujiwara v. Fujinami which is the closest we ever got to an epic singles match between the two. Fujinami is really working a choke sleeper here, cranking it and pulling at Fujiwara's neck. You rarely see Fujiwara dominated on the mat, but Fujinami's strength and Fujiwara's blood loss gave Tatsumi the advantage. So Fujiwara says fuck it, and takes Fujinami to the floor smacking his head into the ringpost and spiking him with a piledriver. Fujinami is leaking now, and Fujiwara switches into killer mode. I loved how he didn't even give a fuck when Fujinami got the flash backslide. He just got up and punched him in the head. Maeda comes in and finishes off Fujinami who ends up losing on a perfectly reasonable blood stoppage. Blood stoppages are one of my favorite wrestling finishes as long as the bleeder is bleeding, and Fujinami has a face full of Heinz.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 10 months later...

Unfortunately, I have only seen the parts with Takada & Fujinami since I have this in part on a couple of comps. I'll share my view on what I have :)


Takada vs Keichi Yamada - It really may be one of the coolest NJ mat matches for its time. You know Takada's going to win but you don't know when or how. Yamada really made Takada work and therefore scrapped his crappy tendency to do things out of logical order and lay in a rest hold. Yamada was great even before Liger. Great match


Takada vs Seiji Sakaguchi - I've never really heard anything good about Sakaguchi but, um I haven't heard any overwhelming criticism either. This was very good match especially when you see how big Sakaguchi is compared to Takada. He looks like how Giant Baba "should" look & he's credible in this style because if I'm correct he's a champion caliber Judoka.


Fujiwara vs Tatsumi Fujinami - This begins with Fujinami coming out to a hero's welcome and Fujiwara standing, scowling, bleeding in the ring like violence personified. They generally work around the sleeper hold and no one does it better than 'wara. If he's not selling like someone hit him with Sarin gas, he's going for an escape or counter. Eventually, the action spills outside and 'wara is like an animal trying to maim or put Tatsumi to sleep...perhaps trying for the double count out win for UWF. After the piledriver on the bare floor (!) both are bleeding but, 'nami looks like a red face painted Muta. This encourages Fujiwara who blasts 'nami with a European uppercut to the face...but therein lies his downfall. Classic stuff


Fujinami vs Akira Maeda - Tatsumi gets a chance to wipe up a little and catch a breath as Maeda comes out. Despite the sanguine spillage, he's still spry. They take it to the mat right away. Clearly, the fresh Maeda has the advantage but, NJ's last chance is fighting at every opportunity. This gets rough and tumble as things go. Mr. Maeda even kicks Fujinami back open with short soccer kicks to the face. Even when the match is over, the animosity is still in the air. Classic match up which sets up their 6/12/86 bout.


These four matches which play into the larger elimination match are the epitome of original or perhaps true Strong Style.

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  • GSR changed the title to [1986-05-01-NJPW] Yoshiaki Fujiwara & Osamu Kido & Akira Maeda & Kazuo Yamazaki & Nobuhiko Takada vs Seiji Sakaguchi & Tatsumi Fujinami & Keiichi Yamada & Kengo Kimura & Shiro Koshinaka
  • 2 months later...

When I watch this match, I see Fujinami as the top babyface and the ace of the promotion. I know that Inoki was more popular and probably drawed more. But that's the feeling I have when seeing his performance. He reminds me a bit of Misawa. It's really thrilling to see him covered in blood fight Fujiwara and Maeda. What a dramatic match ending. I really liked the moment when Fujiwara gave all he had to reach the ropes in order to get out of Fujnami's submission hold. Sakaguchi, Takada and Kimura were all three more than decent. I cannot say the same thing for Koshinaka, Yamada, Kido and Yamazaki. It's a difficult match to evaluate because depending on the match-ups, it was boring, average, good and awesome. It's rather uneven. But I would be more tempted to give it a big note because the end with Fujinami, Fujiwara and Maeda supplants, in my opinion, the less glorious moments of the match.

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  • 2 years later...

Akira Maeda & Yoshiaki Fujiwara & Osamu Kido & Kazuo Yamazaki & Nobuhiko Takada vs Tatsumi Fujinami & Seiji Sakaguchi & Keiichi Yamada & Kengo Kimura & Shiro Koshinaka - NJPW 5/1/86 Gauntlet Match

Wait! Inoki is not in this match! Part of me is disappointed because he brings so much star power. Inoki vs Maeda~! Inoki vs Fujiwara~! always feels huge! Part of me is also happy because it would be a foregone conclusion that Inoki would be standing tall at the end. Now I am not so sure. This is a Team Gauntlet Match. To my knowledge the only of its kind. One member of each team starts out, whoever wins the singles match stays in the ring, the loser exits and another member from the losing team enters. The match continues all members of one team are eliminated. It is conceivable that one wrestler could sweep and thus the other four member from his team do not get to wrestle, but this being pro wrestling, I am sure we will get full monty and it will come down to the fifth  wrestler from each team. Lets check this out. 

Round #1: We are starting with Takada vs Yamada and the size difference is stark. It is amazing Takada was considered a Junior in the 80s. He is massive compared to Yamada. He nearly takes Yamada's head off with a kick but it more of a glancing blow. I think this is only the second or third match I have seen pre-Liger. Takada is schooling him on the mat. It looks like he is wrestling a gnat. Yamada gets a pretty deep toehold but Takada does not seem worried. Takada's leg is bigger than Yamada's body. This is crazy. Did the Liger bodysuit just make Yamada look bigger or did he stop wrestling large dudes. Very nice double leg takedown from Takada. After watching suplex-heavy, highpot-oriented All Japan, nice to get back to some grappling. Takada applies a deep double wristlock on Yamada. Crowd is reacting. Could it be over early. Yamada makes it to the ropes. Interesting strategy New Japan basically starting with their weakest competitor. Nice Fireman Carry throw but loses control of the takedown and Takada back to the cross armbreaker. Yamada rakes eyes with boots. Great waistlock takedown by Takada controls into a side mount. Takada into a toehold loses control. Takada chinlock. Yamada nice drop toehold out. Ref was right with them ready to count when anyone's shoulder were down. Yamada tries to get a Leg Crab on Takada but his leg is too big. Takada regains side control and back into a deep double wristlock. Doesnt look good for little Yamada. Yamada scoots to the ropes. Wow. I thought that was it. Yamada goes for a bunch of kneelifts and throws Takada with a gutwrench suplex and figure-4s the head. This is Takada's fall to lose. He is letting it slip away. Takada popped out and wicked wicked kick. Here we go! Yamada catches back heel trip into the toehold. I am really enjoying all this grappling. It was so nice when different promotions actually had different styles instead of being homogenized. Yamada inverted Indian Deathlock which was a Staple as Liger. Rude Awakening by Liger. Yamada does for the powerbomb that was silly. Back drop. Takada LIGHTS him the fuck up with kicks. The ref pulls him off to count. Yamada gets up and Takada rifles him again and then another series with the spinkick to the face. Yamada catches the fourth set and Figure-4! Takada actually broke the hold. I think the only time I have seen that. Yamada Saito Suplex! Yamada Lariat wrestling like his a mini-Choshu! Can the kid pull it off! Backslide for two! This match rules. Takada body shot. Takada steals one from Fujiwara the armbar out of a German Suplex attempt. Takada has it cinched in but again Takada lets him to get to the ropes. Where is the killer instinct? Amazing kick combination from Takada. Saito Suplex and only gets two. Takada applies his leg lace which I hate but Yamada uses free leg to heel kick him. Yamada makes ropes again. Wow. Takada suplex and Leg Lace again and he finally wins. That match alone was awesome nevermind there would be 8 more. I have no idea how I am going to rate this. This was an excellent David vs Goliath shoot style match. Really dug the vibe. 

Round #2: Takada goes up against old man Sakaguchi who is out for blood early. Takada finally has to pick on someone his own size. Sakaguchi is probably the biggest man in this match. Maybe Maeda. Sakaguchi knows Takada has been in a war and needs to out him early. Takada weathers the early onslaught and is trying to keep Sakaguchi at bay with kicks. Sakaguchi back on mat with a  fierce chinlock. Back to the ropes for Takada. Rifle kick by Takada. Sakaguchi throws him down out of the corner. Old Man Sakaguchi's brute strength versus Takada's technique is great. Takada back to cross-armbreaker. Takada shoves Sakaguchi. There needs to be more shoving in pro wrestling. Sakaguchi gets in and takes Takada's back! Rear Naked choke! Middle of the ring! Sakaguchi lost it and Takada's long legs meet the ropes. Takada rifle kicks thinks he as a missile dropkick set up but Sakaguchi evades. Takada crashes and burns. Skaguchi nearly loses him on an Argentine Backbreaker but recovers and forces the submission. Another excellent contest! 

Round #3: Sakaguchi vs Yamazaki! I could see this one going either way. Sakaguchi again looking to use strength to pick up a quick one. Yamazaki is a smaller version from Takada, look for lightning kicks. I dont think he will be as suited to contend with Sakaguchi's strength. Lets see what happens. Yamazaki check kicks early. Sakaguchi headlock but Yamazaki wriggles free. Sakaguchi weathers some more check kicks and takes Yamazaki down. Yamazaki needs to put some zip on those kicks or this will be a short night. Yamazaki avoids a crucifix. Sakaguchi gets a deep roll up. Sakaguchi lets Yamazaki up. Yamazaki tries single leg pick up well that was something different. Yamazaki loses control of the takedown but gets the toehold, Sakaguchi pries him off and Yamazaki goes for the Takada leglace. Sakaguchi isnt selling shit. Yamazaki looks so young. Yamazaki slaps the shit out of Sakaguchi in he hold. Good for him. Yamazkai repositons in the center. Sakaguchi stands up and repositions into his own like a BOSS! That was the most Alpha move I have seen in forever! That was sick! Yamazaki Saito suplex into a cross-armbreaker fully on, but Sakaguchi forces a pinfall break. Sakaguchi grabs the kicks and a deep single leg crab, tap this chump out! Lets Go Sakaguchi! I am the biggest Sakaguchi fan ever now! Sakaguchi Alpha Boss 4 Life! Oh cmon! Rope break. Sakaguchi throws Yamazaki down. Deep Boston Crab! Yamazaki taps out. Sakaguchi Alpha Boss is going to run the table! 

Round #4: Sakaguchi vs Kido. Kido is like the older version of Takada. If I recall correctly, Kido love his punt kicks. I dont really know what to expect. My heart wants Sakaguchi to run the gauntlet, I think he has a good chance against Kido but I could see him taking the L here too to freshen things up. Kido's first move is a toe kick so I was not far off. Kido gets a crossface. Kido is grittier than Takada and Yaamzaki that will work in his favor against the larger Sakaguchi. That and Sakaguchi had already had two opponents. Some nice grappling exchanges between these two. Kido punt kicks on the Greco-Roman knucklelock as Kido is true to form. Sakaguchi slaps Kido around. Sakaguchi SMOKES Kido with a wicked high knee. Looks like he got him right under the chin. Sakaguchi Alpha Boss 4 Life! Kido recovers and is looking for a single leg crab on the tree trunk that Sakaguchi calls a leg he steeles for a leg lace and Sakaguchi makes the ropes. Sakaguchi says fuck this, Atomic Drop! Kido small package, Count to Three! BOOOOOOOOOO!

Round #5: Koshinaka vs Kido. Koshinaka spices thigs up before I can preview this matchup by hurling Kido to the outside and piledriving him on the floor! That was sick! Team New Japan is doing Alpha Boss shit. Koshinaka showed me a lot in the Takada series so I am excited for him here. Lets see how long before he slams his ass into Kido's face. Koshinaka chinlock loses control into a Kido chinlock. I think Koshinaka takes this one so that Maeda or Fujiwara can go on a  little run. Kido gets a deep double wristlock but Koshinaka breaks the plane of the ropes. Koshinaka figure-4s the head. So much for that red hot start. So far the most boring rounds have been with Kido, but they are still good just not as good as the first three. Yamada is definitely my favorite so far. Kido takes his back and gets his hooks in. They're in the ropes. Koshinaka uses his ass to to crash down on the knee of Kido which is different for him. I am still waiting for Koshinaka/Dustin/Naomi as the ultimate WAR trio with Michael Cole on commentary to shout "THEY CALL THAT THE REAR VIEW" during the simultaneous Ass Attack spot. Koshinaka is working the knee which is a good hook. Boston Crab! Kido powers out and gets two. Koshinaka bodyslam and gets two. Koshinaka maintains a side mount and double wristlock. We Want Fujiwara! We Want Fujiwara! The crowd is not chanting it but I am from my couch. Koshinaka shoves his ass in Kido face so Kido sledges him. That was an appropriate response. HE CALLS THAT REAR VIEW! YES! 1-2-NO! BOOOOOO! RESPECT THE ASS! Kido evades the flying splash! Kido nails a  beautiful dropkick and Koshinaka powders. Koshinaka yanks Kido to the outside. Koshinaka throws Kido over the railing. The bell rang; they might have both been counted out. Interesting. They essentially reset the match to be Maeda & Fujiwara vs Fujinami & Kimura, which would be a sick tag match on its own. Kinda surprised since Sakaguchi got two wins I figured either Meada or Fujiwara would get two.

Round #6: Fujiwara vs Kimura! The second bananas! So this is definitely coming down to Fujinami vs Maeda! Fujiwara is one of those dudes that because of his DVDVR love you think he is a bigger star than he might have been. I feel like he takes this so Fujinami can at least get one fall if he does job to Maeda. But I dont know how much of that is DVDVR hype making me believe Fujiwara is a big deal. I have seen plenty of Kimura matches he is fine. He will do his Running Leg Lariat thing and probably a piledriver. It is Fujiwara he could have a great match with a potted plant. Lets do this! Wait Im wrong! Kido is in the ring! Only Koshinaka got eliminated since he was on the floor first! Fucking Kido got to eliminate two people. Are you shitting me? Fuck this dude Kimura! They struggle over a Kido takedown attempt. Kimura stomps him in the ropes and Kido powders. He needs to worry this ref doesnt fuck around with his count. Kido nice drop toehold he is trying to get in my good graces but I want Fujiwara! Kimura armdrag. Kimura whiffs on the school boy I have never seen that before. Another armdrag by Kimura. Kido applies an armbar on Kimura. Kimura rocks Kido with some European Uppercuts and then backbreaker. Nice knee to break free of cover. Kimura chinlock on Kido. We want Fujiwara! We want Fujiwara! Kido Saito Suplex. Kimura kicks out at 1. Kimura running Leg Lariat on the Criss Cross! Single Leg Crab! Kimura wins! Yes bring on Fujiwara! 

Round #7: Read what I wrote for Round #6 originally. Fujiwara has this one in the bag in my opinion. Kimura throws Fujiwara into the railing and post. That was sick! Kimura plays to crowd. That was Kimura's best chance head Fujiara off at the pass while he was making his entrance. Kimura is all revved. THAT IS BLOOD! Kimura piledrives Kimura! He spiked his ass! Kimura is clawing at the cut! Great facial expression from Fujiwara there. Fujiwara Headbutt! Crowd has come alive! Fujiwara HEABUTTS! FUJIWARA CHOKING THE LIFE out of Kimura ! Fujiwara inverted Triangle as Kimura makes the ropes. Fujiwara looks like a killer right now. Kimura looks fucked. Kimura gets a chickenwing out of a headlock into a Fujiwara armbar on Fujiwara, but Fujiwara break free into a great transition to a Butterfly lock into the Fujiwara armbar, Kimura wriggles free and powders. Kimura gets a chinlock and then figure-4s the head. Fujiwara reaches up and Fujiwara headbutt! Kimura comes up with a sick, tight headscissors! Fujiwara potatoes Kimura in the ropes. Kimura unleashes hell on the ropes but FUJIWARA GRABS THE ANKLES BOY YOU FUCKED! Fujiwara kneebar and and Kimura gets to his stomach and the ropes. His eyes say it all. Kimura knows he escaped death. Fujiwara almost completes the armbar takedown and Kimura waistlock takedown. Kimura Scorpion Deathlock on Fujiwara surprisingly very few attempts at his popular move. This has been really good. Fujiwara stands on his head and back to leglace but Kimura uses the momentum to make the ropes. Fujiwara grabs the arm and but Kimura makes the ropes. Fujiwara gets it in deep This time it is over. Watch Fujiwara's face on that one! He looks so determine to submit his ass. 

Round #8: Fujiwara vs Fujinami! Fuck yes! Fujiwara has no prayer but this is going to be sick. Fujinami looks stacked! Fujinami headbutt and Fujiwara isnt selling shit. Fujinami into a tight chinlock great Fujiwara facial expressions. Fujinami and Fujiwara are not easy names to keep straight while typing and watching at the same time. Wish me luck. Fujiwara bucks Fujinami off. Fujinami back to headlock but Saito Suplex by Fujiwara. Love the struggle here. So much intensity. Fujinami back to the chinlock. Both men wants this so bad. Fujinami kick to Fujiwara on the mat. Fujiwara uses the hair and Fujinami maintains the chinlock. This may be the best chinlock sequences I have ever seen. Fujiwara back to the hair but Fujinami wont let go. Fujiwara is so close to the ropes, Fujinami uses his leg to keep Fujiwara from making the ropes. Fujiwara looks like his about to fade. He is so close! Come on. Fujinmai resets and Fujiwara makes the ropes! That was dramatic! I bought into it. Fujiwara powders. Fujiwara is a master of drama. Fujiwara like a wild animal yanks Fujinami to the outside. He starts throws vicious headbutts. Fujiwara hold Fujinami from getting into and applies a choke in the ring. That was wise for but Fujinami switches back to his own choke. Watch a great expression from Fujiwara. Nobody sells the sleeper/chinlock better. Fujiwara makes it to his feet and buckles. Fujinami sunset flip gets two. Fujiwara Single Leg, Back Heel Trip, Leglace. This how we won the last match. Fujinami gets to his belly. Fujinami is tenaciously staying on the choke. He is sticking to his strategy. Fujiwara selling is otherworldly. Fujiwara fades into the ropes. Fujiwara busts out his tricked Boston Crab escape on instinct. Fujinami dropkick back to the choke. It doesnt look good for our hero he collapses into the ropes and powders to the floor still in the hold. Fujiwara rams Fujinami's head into the post! There is light! Vicious headbutt barrage! Fujinami into the railing back to the headbutts! Go Fujiwara Go! Koshinaka should be pissed. They have spent an eternity on the floor. Fujiwara piledriver on a bloody Fujinami. Fujiwara choking Fujinami. We are getting on our money's wort Fujiwara blocks Fujinami's re-entry. Big fight to get back in the ring. Fujiwara has a choke and they return to the ring. Fujinami suplexes out. Fujinami's is wearing the Crimson mask. Fujiwara headbutt! This rules! Fujiwara Headbutts! European Uppercuts! Fujinami backslide! Count to three! Fujiwara throws a couple more headbutts for good measure to soften up Fujinami for Maeda! Here we go! 

Round #9: Damn! This could go either way! If Maeda wins, Fujinami is protected because he had a hellacious bout with Fujiwara. Fujinami wins, it is an insane overcoming the odds story! Lets go! Fujinami looks like he just went through a Slasher Flick. Maeda is a big boy. Maeda goes for the big Kick right to the mush. He wastes no time. Single catch back heel trip, Fujinami loses control of the takedown and Maeda gets the cross-armbreaker. Fujinami rolls onto his knees, smart, but Maeda rolls into a new position of strength. Great grappling. Maeda maintains pressure on the arm. Fujinami escapes into a Scorpion Deathlock which applies on the large legs of Maeda. Maeda makes the ropes. Maeda rifles him with big kicks as Fujinami falls backwards. Snap suplex back into the crossarmbreaker. MAEDA WICKED KICK TO HEAD. AGAIN AND AGAIN! THIS BRUTAL! Headbutt to wound. Tons of kicks to the head. Fujinami shouldertackle, Massive kick to head on a charging Fujinami! Maeda stole the Dragon Suplex! 1-2-NO! Crazy! back to cross-armbreaker. I thought it was over for Fujinami. This feels like a reset. Fujinami makes the ropes. Maeda soccer kicks Fujinami's head which fires Fujinami the fuck up! Fujiwara armbar out of the German suplex, textbook by Maeda. Fujinami does it back to him. Cant believe Maeda just made that mistake. Fujinami into a hammerlock. Maeda's long legs make the ropes. Fujinami catch kick and into the German Suplex for two. RAINBOW SPINING HEEL KICK! Maeda hurled his body at Fujinami! Fujinami makes it back up. Maeda wipes him out with another! The ref calls it for blood or beeing out on his feet. The TKO is a good face saving finish for Fujnami. 

The beginning ruled and the ending ruled. The Kido stuff dragged. Trying to rate this is like trying to rat a Royal Ruble. I will say ****3/4 but everyone shoulw atch this. Takada vs Yamada was my favorite until Fujinami vs Fujiwara. Those last two falls were ***** dramatic wrestling! Peak shit! s

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  • 10 months later...

One hour and twenty minutes! These gauntlet series are some of the coolest things New Japan ever did. They're not technically one match in the traditional sense, but in a narrative sense they pull together into one package with each individual segment contributing towards that overall story, flowing from one to the next, from beginning to end. The '84 gauntlet was my #1 on the DVDVR New Japan set and is one of the greatest things I've ever seen in wrestling. I have not re-watched that bastard however as it is an ENDEAVOUR and I didn't think I had it in me to do it in one sitting at this point in my life. Well to hell with that because I just sat on my arse for 80 minutes and watched this one front to back. In a novel concept I will now talk about each individual match, using no more than 150 words for each (I thought about doing 100 but Fujinami/Fujiwara was simply too good for me to be shackled as such). 

Takada/Yamada fucking ruled. Have I mentioned how fun young Liger was? If he wanted to he absolutely could've been an amazing shoot style wrestler, right along the same lines as Sano. I know that's like saying Michael Jordan could've been a really good baseball player if he didn't like basketball so much, but still. This had lots of struggle and was more or less entirely shoot style, with Yamada going at the prince hammer and tong. Takada thumps him with kicks and it looks like Yamada is going to be counted out, but he keeps getting up and the nearfall off the backdrop driver was insane. Yamada sells the urgency of these shoot submissions better than most actual shoot stylists. Great opener and probably one that would be remembered super fondly as an early Liger match if it was its own thing.

Takada/Sakaguchi was a nifty enough styles clash, if a step down from what we just got. Takada aims to chop the big tree down with leg kicks and Sakaguchi is having none of it. Sakaguchi using his lankiness for leverage to escape holds is a cool way to get around the fact he shouldn't really be hanging with Takada on the mat. Canadian backbreakers are great. Bring back the Canadian backbreakers.

Sakaguchi/Yamazaki was a badass wee five minutes. Yamazaki is fired up going after the big lummox, throwing on legbars and slapping Sakaguchi about the face when he tries to sit out of them. Sakaguchi is LONG though and it's hard to keep him locked up. Eventually he just muscles Yamazaki into a half and then full crab and Yamazaki succeeds only in softening Sakaguchi up somewhat for Kido.

Sakaguchi/Kido wasn't so hot. Kido is tiny compared to Sakaguchi but probably quicker and Sakaguchi has had to deal with two people already. Which is part of the beauty of these gauntlets. Ordinarily there's no way I'd have expected Kido to win this, but under the circumstances he can keep plugging away and see what's what. If I'm him I'm thinking a small package is a decent way to go as well. So fair play to the wee fella. 

Kido/Koshinaka was pretty okay. Koshinaka dragging Kido the floor immediately and hitting a piledriver ruled, then he went after the leg which was a fine enough idea if not the most compelling in execution. Kido slabbering him with a forearm was sensational. I am not particularly sure what the finish was all about.

Kido/Kimura was too short to really be much. Kido had already wrestled two guys and the last match ended with him lying arse-end up over the guardrail, so you maybe had an inkling of how this would go. Still, he went out a hero. Or at least a man deserving of mild applause. 

Kimura/Fujiwara is where the match picked up again. I guess this answers why Fujiwara was out for blood in their singles match later in the month. Kimura jumps Fujiwara at the start (much like Fujiwara would do in a couple weeks), rams him into the post, and this time the rock solid cranium can't save him. He comes up bloody and Kimura is all over him like a rash. He digs his fingers into the wound and when Fujiwara gets up and looks him dead in the face there's this "ooohhhhh" reaction from the crowd. Right before Fujiwara obliterates him with a headbutt. Fujiwara's face as he tries to rip Kimura's arm out the socket was an absolutely incredible visual. 

Fujiwara/Fujinami must be the best ever matchup that never materialised as an actual match. This was the closest we got to it and mother of god what a phenomenal bitta pro wrestling. Fujinami works the sleeper like he's trying to crush Fujiwara's windpipe and Fujiwara is the one true god of selling a chokehold, which you can add to the list of other things he's the one true god of. The struggle is just exceptional, the way Fujiwara tries to snapmare out of that choke only for Fujinami to keep hold, flip over with the momentum and go right back to it, Fujiwara's eyes glazing over more and more each time. There was one bit where he was reaching out for the rope, inches from that but closer to unconsciousness, so Fujinami wrapped a leg around the arm to cut him off and there was genuine belief that Fujinami might actually choke him out. As far as building drama with a single, simple hold it was pretty much perfect. Fujiwara knowing that Fujinami is the last one standing from Team New Japan and trying to get both of them counted out was so great. Fujinami sensed what the play was too and he was lunging to get back in the ring, but Fujiwara was feral and when that man has the bit between his teeth it's hard to pry it loose. I had no recollection of Fujinami hitting a total fucking gusher in this. Fujiwara ditching the count out strategy and piledriving Fujinami on the concrete instead was a pretty great way to bring about said gusher. It needed to be some real blood loss if he was going to sell being dead on his feet, and it was and the selling was phenomenal and so was Fujiwara whomping him with uppercuts and Fujinami just collapsing in the ropes. The backslide reversal to one of those uppercuts once again lends credence to the idea that UWF's kryptonite is the mighty backslide, but Fujiwara couldn't give a shit even after losing and goes right back to throwing headbutts. An unbelievable ten minutes and that might've been more than 150 words. 

Fujinami/Maeda to take us home honestly wasn't that much of a step down from the last match, which means it was fucking awesome. Fujinami's selling again is just out of this world, taking bullet after bullet and staggering around energy-depleted, falling awkwardly into the ropes, making last ditch reversals, facing down the inevitable while refusing to blink. Maeda hitting the dragon suplex and Fujinami actually kicking out of it is one of the best nearfalls I've seen in ages, and if you're going to do  a blood stoppage after all this then it better look legit. And brothers, this looked very legit. Bring on the singles match. 

So there you go. Nine "matches" over 80 minutes. As a whole it wouldn't quite make my top three New Japan matches for the year, but things like Yamada/Takada and Fujinami/Maeda were awesome and that Fujinami/Fujiwara bit is as good as anything I've seen in ages. A hell of a thing. 

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