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[1977-03-05-AJPW] Jumbo Tsuruta vs Billy Robinson

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Billy Robinson vs. Jumbo Tsuruta 05.03.1977.

Early on this is looking a bit different to any AJPW match I've watched yet in this period. Robinson escapes a hammerlock with a sneaky heel trip to take Jumbo down, and then dodges him with a cartwheel. WoS stuff added to the old NWA style.

 

Robinson is so cocky in everything he does. Just look at that smirk on his face after he got Jumbo into several pinning predicaments but had to break for the ropes. And again when he has Jumbo in a hammerlock, only to get that smirk wiped straight off as Jumbo elbows him to the outside.

 

This is subtle stuff but I'm already totally behind Jumbo now, Robinson just getting under my skin with his smugness.

 

There's an interesting battle in the Boston crab position that I don't remember anyone really doing. Robinson trying to roll out of it but Jumbo keeps stepping over to keep it on. Eventually Robinson escapes with a headstand motion (don't know what to call it). Maybe this stuff was common for the style but I don't see those reversals coming.But Jumbo doesn't relent on the offence, hits Robinson with a running bulldog and gets a 3 count! First fall to Jumbo.

 

The 2nd fall is now really slow and I don't think this is good. Feels like a protracted resthold for ages and I don't understand why. But boy once they get out of it do things kick off when suddenly they're just throwing bombs. Robinson hits Jumbo with a dropkick and quick backbreaker to get the 3 count. Burst of energy after a mostly uneventful 2nd fall.

 

Robinson is now pressing his advantage on the 3rd fall. Jumbo keeps trying to mount a comeback but just can't string two moves together before Robinson cuts him off. It's almost frustrating to watch. Jumbo finally hits Robinson with a back suplex and looks like he's turning things around. Goes for a dropkick but Robinson dodges and Jumbo's on the floor again. Ahh. Jumbo's back up though and shoulder checks Robinson down before he gets hit with anything, he rolls Robinson up only to countered and Robinson gets the 3 count! What a let down for Jumbo. Robinson has won the NWA UN title.


***3/4

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Robinson’s a lot of fun to watch in the ring, whether he’s schooling someone on the canvas or playing defense, looking for a way out of a predicament. Seems like a rare feat to be able to make a seven minute headlock struggle captivating but Robinson is able to pull it off masterfully. I go back to this often but like any good novel, I appreciate the little attentions to detail. The movements, the strategy, the methods of approach that add a sense of intelligence to any pro-wrestling match. Little things like Billy’s hip attack to stun Jumbo before taking him over with the hip toss, or figuring out a way to escape a side headlock that is unique and effective, not doing the same flopping thing over and over again.The 1970’s stuff feels animated at times, especially in some of Robinson’s more theatrical bumping around and selling, but it’s the matwork and counterwork that keeps me engaged, even if there’s no long-term continuity to it. During the first fall, Robinson is relentless with his attacking Jumbo’s neck, throwing his weight onto it, delivering a vicious neckbreaker. There’s an unstable nature to the match, to a lot of these early Japanese match-ups in general, with the teased strikes and suplexes, boiling up to an explosive third fall. After Jumbo wins the first fall following a pair of running bulldogs, he stays on Billy’s neck to start the second fall, leading to the prolonged headlock struggle with some really neat reversal attempts, like Robinson bridging with the chancery hold. Thesecond fall is a slow burn but it picks up, as Billy’s able to find his way out with a backdrop and evens the score with a backbreaker. He keeps after Jumbo’s back with a side suplex, a second backbreaker and a crab hold, and when that doesn’t get him to submit, Robinson begins chopping his neck out of frustration. Loved that. Jumbo fires off some suplexes but Robinson, who had managed to slink through much of this match, comes away with the victory after countering the O'Connor Roll. Awesome match, one of my very favorites from the 70's.

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Jumbo might be the champion, but he isn't as experienced as Robinson. I could watch Robinson try and weasel his way out of holds all day. He's super engaging and compelling and he can make even a simple headlock or Boston Crab interesting. If you want a good match to get yourself acquainted with the style of old-school puroresu instead of going straight to the heavy hitters like Baba/Robinson and Funk/Tsuruta, I'd say give this a watch to ease your way in. It doesn't go too long, has everything you can expect from this time period and it's rather workrate-heavy. That final fall felt like a sprint!  ★★★

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