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[1978-05-30-NJPW] Antonio Inoki vs Andre the Giant

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You could classify the matwork here as "NWA" style-in that holds are worked and worked over until there is a transition and that transition really determines the quality of the match. Sometimes it feels like a waste of time but sometimes it's worth sticking through it. It's worth sticking with it here. Before the match Andre gets annoyed by Inoki getting a bigger reaction than him and refuses to shake hands. He attacks Inoki's arm early on-no sitting in a hold for five minutes but repetead wristlocks and armlocks that really establish his dominance. Andre easily drags Inoki to the middle of the ring once Inoki reaches the ropes and does a cool hammerlock slam, both of which make for cool visuals. Andre gets frustrated with the ref over.....something, leaving himself open to Inoki who goes for his leg, thereby establishing Inoki could get in control that way. When Andre goes to attack Inoki's arm again Inoki tries to kick away at Andre's legs, but they don't transition into Inoki's control quite yet. Eventually Inoki manages to counter Andre's armlock with a Headscissors-which looks amazing. Andre then manages to cross over Inoki's legs and changes his focus on attacking them. Inoki eventually manages to counter that with a Keylock-another big visual. They do tease Andre countering it a couple of times but before countering it Inoki turns him back into the Keylock to further establish the armwork. Once Andre does pick Inoki up into the air instead of placing him on the top rope like the norm is in 70s matches he throws him out of the ring, putting over the peril of the situation. Andre nurses his arm for a bit but Inoki quickly returns to the ring and we get to the finishing stretch, with Inoki nailing a couple of big Enzuigirs that connected well and Andre doing a Suplex and a ot of headbutts. I particularly liked the Canadian Backbreaker counter where Inoki pushed the corner-post instead of the ropes to counter Andre into a Back Body Drop. Unfortunately politics get in the way here-as Inoki can't even get a visual count-out win, Andre immediately no-sells him and only loses because he started brawling with a remember wrestler ringside, then gets back in the ring and lays out Inoki to get his heat back. Damn that 50/50 booking :) Very good match based around strategy, though I doubt Andre had the skills to produce anything truly great with lots of matwork. ***1/2

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Antonio Inoki vs Andre The Giant - NJPW 5/30/78 MSG Series Championship

The MSG Series is the follow up tournament to the World League and the precursor to the International Wrestling Grand Prix (IWGP) and finally today's G-1 Climax. It is round robin format with the two highest ranked wrestlers after the round robin format meeting in a one match playoff championship round. Andre The Giant had more points coming into this match, but with no such thing has home ring advantage (I guess they could have the match in NYC or France) this is an even contest. 

I thought this was the best match between these two I have seen thus far (I am missing the first '74 match and the second '77 match. I will watch the '79 match soon). I liked this a smidge better than their '76 match. I thought this had all the great trappings of the '76 match, but with even more drama. The first ten minutes is all NWA Championship style with Andre working arm holds. At the very outset, Andre is distracted talking to his manager Frank Valois and Inoki dropkicks him. Andre does big fumbling oaf so well in trying to catch Inoki. When he does, he goes to town on Inoki's arm. I liked the Hangman's style armbar. All the armbars were well-worked with good wrist control. Strong double wristlock, he even busted out the hammerlock/half-nelson pin. In the '76 match, he was really good at getting on the ref's case and here he was yelling at the ref when he couldnt negotiate the pinfall. Inoki tries to go for the legs, but to no avail. Inoki is definitely over and Andre was great playing to the crowd jawing with them. I

I liked the unique counter here. Inoki decided to use his legs to counteract the Giant's strategy. He forced Andre over with his legs into a tight headscissors. I have said previously no one until Vader did wounded bear selling as well as Andre. Andre really sold like he was trapped and being suffocated. They went back to this twice to really get the point across. I liked how Andre abandoned the arm to attack the legs. Ok, so you think you can beat me with your good limbs, how about I take those away too. However, before he could really do damage, Inoki applies his signature short arm scissors. Again, great Andre selling, he dumps Inoki over the top rope onto the floor in a gnarly bump but no one in Japan cares. That was too funny, today people would go crazy, there it just felt pedestrian. Inoki tries to attack the arm again, I love the switching strategies. Now it is Andre with big headbutts. Diving headbutt to the arm like he is a Giant Harley Race. SUPLEX SLAM! Andre misses the diving headbutt! ENZIGUIRI! BIG SELL BY ANDRE AS HE TUMBLES OF THE RING! Wow! Great countout finish as Andre goes for an Argentine Backbreaker, but Inoki kicks off the ringpost and executes a back drop on the Big Man! Sakaguchi and Valois get involved but Inoki makes it into the ring, but Andre doesnt and Inoki wins the MSG Tournament.

Great NWA style match which sees each man work different holds with tight transitions and logical consequences. You beat me with your legs well I will take out your legs. I thought the finish was red hot. Andre brought the character work and selling in spades and really carried the match. ****1/2

  

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