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William Bologna

Tatsumi Fujinami

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Fujinami Tatsumi vs Riki Choshu 2/3/1984

 

I hope your happiness doesn't count on reading my opinions of a fifth Choshu vs. Fujinami match, because this one doesn't happen. There's a tussle outside the ring, and some dude yells into the mic for a while. Eventually we see Choshu emerge from the fracas, and he's all bloody. Dirty work at the crossroads!

 

The rest of this is basically the aftermath of one of those patented 80s bad finishes, but at least they didn't make the guys wrestle for 15 minutes beforehand. Fujinami beats up on Choshu and gets blood all over himself, the crowd throws streamers, the cornermen get involved - the usual.

 

It ends with the referee standing in the middle of the ring holding that fake-ass belt they were always fighting over, looking as befuddled as I was.

 

Cagematch informs us via Google translate that the match didn't happen because Yoshiaki Fujiwara attacked Choshu and I guess made him bleed with an armbar or something. So thanks for coming, Sapporo, and drive safe!

 

It's amazing that the 80s didn't kill wrestling in this country.

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Antonio Inoki & Fujinami Tatsumi vs Masa Saito & Riki Choshu 5/24/1984

 

Our first Saito sighting, and man is he cool. He looks like some kind of giant steroid caveman, and he can really move.

 

The bad guys - and we'll see just how bad they are later on - dominate. We get a just fantastic heat segment on Fujinami. Choshu's got his working shoes on, Saito is awesome, and they're tagging in and out contantly and keeping things moving as they work over Fujinami.

 

Inoki gets similar treatment, amid short comebacks from our heroes. Well, from our hero and the butthole who signs everyone's checks.

 

To be fair, Inoki doesn't hold this match back at all. He's generous with his foes this time, and he really does get his ass kicked.

 

Which brings us to the finish. Choshu puts Inoki through the ringer - Inoki gets blasted with a lariat, spike piledriven, and then lariated again. Choshu is absolutely sure he has the pin, but Inoki kicks out so subtly that we can't even blame Choshu and Saito for being upset. I'm even willing to cut Choshu some slack when he winds up and sends the ref to the shadow zone with a clothesline.

 

Fujinami is not as understanding as I, and his attempt to intervene earns him a lariat of his own. Choshu and Saito, disqualified, treat it as a moral victory.

 

This was pretty good. It started out hot, as the villains really put a lot of work into beating up their opponents. They weren't just sitting in holds; they kept it going. It did slow down, though. They spent far too much time taking turns putting Inoki in the scorpion deathlock, but it picked up again towards the end as the anti-Inoki violence reached a crescendo. This was a good 20 minute match that would have been a great 15 minutes.

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WWF World Heavyweight Championship bout Hulk Hogan vs Fujinami Tatsumi 6/11/1985

 

This is for the WWF title, so we know who's not winning. Can you imagine an American company putting the title on Fujinami? And then headlining a pay-per-view with him? Why, a company that did that would have to be run by idiots.

 

It's interesting that since it's Japan, the WWF title gets the full treatment - they haul out a trophy and a certificate at the end and have someone doing the Lord James Blears-style awkward speech into the mic announcing the title match. Doing the honors tonight is . . . holy crap, that's Vince! He's showing no hint of the character he would become, as this speech is just as stiff as it usually is on these occasions.

 

Danny Hodge is the special guest referee. He does OK. He doesn't Kiniski it up or anything.

 

They repeat this sequence a few times: Hogan dominates on the mat and whips Fujinami into the ropes (which always gets a pop since the crowd is waiting for the axe bomber). Fujinami ducks and gets in some offense. Then we go back to Hogan holding him down.

 

It's better than I'm making it sound. Hogan looks awkward standing (he opens with that go behind hammerlock thing he always does in Japan, and it looks terrible), and their height difference makes some of the upright exchanges look silly, but he's fine on the mat. He throws out some nifty stuff - a running powerslam, a Jumbo-style jumping knee, a backdrop suplex, and a weird-looking double club to the back of the head off the ropes. He even busts out a surfboard. He's laying in his shots, too. Hogan is very, very good in this match, and it helps that once again the crowd is infected with Hulkamania.

 

Finally, they resume running the ropes. Fujinami ducks an axe bomber but gets hit on the rebound for the pin.

 

This was worth watching, and the weird thing is that Fujinami was the second-best guy in the match. He's still not really making his presence felt in these heavyweight matches, and he plain screws up a couple times here. At one point he's on offense and bodyslams the Hulkster. Then he stops, does nothing for a moment, and bodyslams him again, deflating a previously noisy crowd. Worse is the finish. On the axe bomber, he apparently forgets to bump, and Hulk has to kind of push him over with his arm. It looks awful, and it takes away from what should have been a hot finish.

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Antonio Inoki vs Fujinami Tatsumi 9/19/1985

 

My dedication to this project has been - I'm sure I don't need to tell you - nothing short of the astonishing. The blistering pace, the careful research (sometimes I'd consult both Wikipedia and Cagematch!), the sleepness nights trying to figure out something to say about another Choshu match . . . but this is too much.

 

I'm not saying I couldn't make it through 35 minutes of Fujinami rolling around on the mat with Antonio Goddamn Inoki, but if I did, it would probably be the last wrestling match I ever watched. So I skipped around a lot.

 

Inoki has a young Masahiro Chono in his corner; first time I've recognized one of the cornermen. The Fujinami matches end in 1989, so I'm thankfully spared from having to watch a lot of Chono down the line.

 

And there's special guest referee Lou Thesz. He's no Danny Hodge.

 

Meanwhile, Inoki looks like he's been too busy doing stupid shit and losing everyone's money to hit the gym. He's got a broad chest, but his limbs are all spindly, and he looks like a mini Baba.

 

They surprise us all by taking it to the mat early. So I skipped a few minutes, and they're on the mat.

 

I skip a few more minutes, and they're doing some rope-running, but cooler heads prevail as they stop themselves and go to the mat.

 

*fast forward*

 

They're working a figure four.

 

*fast forward*

 

Arm bar.

 

*fast forward*

 

OK, here are some moves. Fujinami even hits a dragon suplex - haven't seen that in a while. Eventually Inoki sinks in the dreaded (and stupid-looking) octopus hold. Fujinami powers out, but Inoki takes have again and goes to the octopus hold. Fujinami gets to the ropes, but Inoki comes back with an . . . octopus hold. Then Thesz calls it off - I'm guessing he couldn't take any more.

 

Remember when Fujinami was a junior heavyweight? Remember how fun that was?

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You totally underrated Fujinami/Inoki. Match tells a great story with Inoki as the old school ace trying to fend off his faster and flashier protoge. The mat work is simple if you're used to WoS or shoot-style, but the selling and struggle is off the charts, and that's really what's important to me.

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85IWGP TAG-LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP ANTONIO INOKI & SEIJI SAKAGUCHI VS FUJINAMI TATSUMI & KENGO KIMURA 12/12/1985

 

I've never seen Sakaguchi before. He towers over the rest of them, and he looks like the Son I am disappoint guy. Haircut you could set your watch to.

 

So, this was great. It's long, but they keep things moving. The build from matwork to rope-running to throwing bombs felt correct. For once, Antonio Inoki was really, really good. Everyone was. It was great.

 

Exciting finish as Fujinami comes off the ropes at Inoki, kinda tries for an octopus, and goes behind to hit the dragon suplex and . . . pin Inoki! He can't believe it. The crowd can't believe it. Kengo Kimura's more surprised than anyone. I was totally expecting Inoki to pop up and act like it didn't hurt (Muto-style) or do something else to steal Fujinami's thunder, but to his credit he just looked appropriately chagrined.

 

Fujinami and Kimura win the tag league, so everyone comes out to get their trophies. We hear another big pop when Dick Murdoch shakes Fujinami's hand, which was cool. I wish there were more Dick Murdoch in this thing. That tag league in 1981 that Andre and Goulet won also had Dick Murdoch and Stan Hansen teaming up. Murdoch/Hansen is the Misawa/Kobashi of dickhead gaijin ass-kickers, but we get exactly zero of their matches on NJPW World.

 

This was better than anything at Wrestle Kingdom.

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5 VS 5 YILI MI NATION MATCH ANTONIO INOKI, TATSUMI FUJINAMI, KENGO KIMURA, UMANOSUKE UEDA, KANTARO VS AKIRA MAEDA HOSHINO, YOSHIAKI FUJIWARA, OSAMU KIDO, NOBUHIKO TAKADA, KAZUO YAMAZAKI 3/26/1986

 

Lots of new experiences for me in this one. I've never seen Kantaro Hoshino, Umanosuke Ueda, or Yoshiaki Fujiwara before. I haven't seen Kazuo Yamazaki since the 90s, I've seen little of Nobuhiko Takada other than Vader matches and Hustle gifs, and Osamu Kido is famous for being the kind of guy you can't remember if you've seen.

 

UWF invades! They have kickpads and less fakey-looking submissions, and they're completely mad as hell. Also mad as hell is our hero Antonio Inoki, who has to be restrained from fighting these guys a minute before he's supposed to fight these guys.

 

Akira Maeda, last seen as Fujinami's tall but forgettable partner, is leading this rag-tag band of slightly more plausible wrestlers, and he has truly transformed himself. By which I mean that he now has kickpads and kicks all the time. He didn't used to do that.

 

My MVP here is Kantaro Hoshino. He's a head shorter than anyone else in the match, but he's out there running around in his uncanny tiny-man way and throwing haymakers. It's all excitement when he's laying into some kickpadder or getting himself booted around. He goes out early, but he makes his mark.

 

Fujinami's contribution here is focused on dealing with that damn Fujiwara. I immediately liked Fujiwara - he has a different kind of presence from anyone else. He and Fujinami work an extremely nifty sequence that has me looking forward to the next entry in this series, which is a singles match between the two. They eliminate each other by mutually falling out of the ring, which is apparently part of the rules of this match.

 

I'm trying to figure out what's going on with Ueda - is he injured? He's barely in this, but the crowd goes nuts whenever he tags in. His longest stretch sees him as one of two men left. He tags in, Maeda kicks the hell out of him, and they tumble out of the ring together.

 

Finally we're left with Inoki vs. Takada and Kido, and guess what happens. And while I really do hate Inoki, I can't get too mad about the result here. Inoki worked his ass off, made sure to use all his fakest submissions (spinning toehold, abdominal stretch, surfboard) to heighten the contradictions, and had the crowd yelling his name throughout the match. He should have won.

 

This was rad, but of course it was. There were ten dudes so it was all action, and the crowd was absolutely molten for the whole thing. I'm grading on a curve here, because this was an extremely easy environment in which to have an exciting match.

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FUJINAMI TATSUMI VS YOSHIAKI FUJIWARA 5/1/1986

 

This is part of a 5-man NJPW vs UWF gauntlet match, and it would appear from the blood on his face that Fujiwara has already been through some stuff.

 

Fujinami sinks in a headlock and they sit in it for most of the match. But it's great! Fujiwara's always trying tricky stuff to get out of it, but Fujinami holds on. And it makes perfect sense - Fujinami's fresh, and all his blood is still inside his body (for now). He's pressing his advantage.

 

This strategy falls apart when Fujiwara gets him outside and, as so often happens when he ventures outside the ring, Fujinami winds up with a non-trivial amount of his blood sitting on his face. He really hit one this time.

 

Fujiwara presses his advantage by removing the mats and piledriving Fujinami on the floor. They beat the hell out of each while each man tries to stop the other from getting back in the ring. Once in, Fujiwara brutalizes Fujinami with headbutts and uppercuts until our hero blocks an uppercut and turns it into a backslide for three.

 

Fujiwara has this cool "whatever" kind of attitude afterwards - he even goes in for a handshake. Fujinami, blood pouring down his face, slaps him and yells a bit.

 

This was short but really cool. It made sense, and it got just vicious as it went on. I'm going to need to go back and watch the rest of the Fujiwara matches, because that is an interesting dude. He has kind of Minoru Suzuki vibe - he just carries himself differently. It's a mixture of sadism and indifference.

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FUJINAMI TATSUMI VS AKIRA MAEDA 5/1/1986

We pick up with Fujinami finding himself in the same position Fujiwara was in last time: Facing a fresh opponent with blood dripping down his face. Fujinami's situation is even more dire, as his combination of a crimson mask and reddish chestplate makes Fujiwara's sanguine offering look restrained.

 

He still bows when he's announced, though. Fujinami is going to need to lose more plasma than that before he fails to recognize the conventions of professional wrestling.

 

We start with a handshake. I've only seen two matches in this affair, but the last one certainly wasn't this genteel. They are former tag partners, so it's nice of Maeda to show that there are no hard feelings before he starts blasting a bleeding man in the face with his kickpads.

 

That is the story of the match. Maeda kicks and kicks and kicks. He whiffs on a couple during a closeup, which is too bad, but Fujinami really gets slammed a few times too. Maeda clearly doesn't have any idea where these things are going, but it works. He's effectively wild, like Nolan Ryan.

 

Eventually the kicks catch up to Fujinami, and he starts staggering around like Jake Roberts. Maeda uses Fujinami's own dragon suplex against him, but he kicks out. Finally Maeda hits a spinning back kick, and the ref declares that Fujinami has had enough.

 

And that's it! UWF wins. I was expecting Inoki to come out and put himself over, but Fujinami was the #1 on this particular team. He's not happy that let down New Japan Pro Wrestling King of Sport - he wants to keep fighting and he will absolutely beat the asses of all his cornermen if they don't get out of his way.

 

Like the Fujiwara match, this was short but logical and rad. I like how in both cases the losers came out looking strong. Fujiwara started at a bloody disadvantage but set his team up for the win by doing lots of damage before he went down. Fujinami started this one at an even bloodier disadvantage, but he fought hard and showed limitless fighting spirit before he could no longer withstand the wrath of the kickpads. In victory, Maeda looked like a goddamn assassin.

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IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP LEAGUE FUJINAMI TATSUMI VS AKIRA MAEDA 6/12/1986

Big match feel here, even though Fujinami, who normally shows up in an hilarious huge-lapeled special occasion robe, can't be bothered with anything more than a t-shirt with a lion that looks like a chicken on it. The girls handing out flowers in jazzercise outfits make up for it.

This is basically a long version of their abbreviated last encounter. We get a respectful handshake, and then Maeda puts the boots to Fujinami over and over. This is great, of course. Fujinami tries to take it to the mat and use pro wrestling, but he inevitably finds himself back on the business end of those kickpads. He does this cool thing where he puts his hands up defensively but after the third or fourth kick can't block anymore and falls down.

Maeda is so shooty that he disdains pinfall attempts, allowing the ref to determine if Funinami is still conscious/alive after these sequences.

A hip toss sends both men outside, and Fujinami once again succumbs to the outside the ring hemophilia that has afflicted him so often. Maeda gives him a jumping back kick in the corner and then dragon suplexes him for a two count. Then we come to the finish, which . . . man, what a letdown.

Maeda comes off the ropes and throws a jumping back kick. Fujinami throws a kick of his own, and they bounce off each other and fall down. They lie down for a while until the ref decides it's a double KO.

I have a number of problems with this.

 

  • Fujinami's kick looked perfunctory and crappy. He has an unfortunate habit of making his last move in a match his worst. He screwed up taking Hogan's axe bomber; he screwed up getting knocked out of the ring by Choshu; now this.
  • It made Maeda look like a wuss. He dominated this match. Sure, Fujinami got to do some stuff to him, but the bulk of it was him teeing off on Fujinami. Then he bonks his head once, and that's all it takes to put him down? He looked like an assassin last time. This made him look like a klutz.
  • Remember that spot Benoit always did where he'd whip the guy into the ropes and go for a dropkick, but his opponent would hold onto the ropes, he'd miss the dropkick, and then he'd sell the back bump? I hated that, because he was going to take that bump regardless of whether he hit the dropkick; somehow missing made it hurt more. This is similar - Maeda was throwing spin kicks around like a TKD exhibition, but this one managed to KO him.

This was really, really good, but I can't call it great with that finish. It felt important important, like a title fight even though it was just a tournament match. The UWF/NJPW feud is clearly one of the greatest things that ever happened.

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If I'm not mistaken, the match was booked to be a time-limit draw. The finish we got was their attempt at an audible after Fujinami got busted open too badly to continue.

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The finish was something that really bothered me when I first watched the match, but I've come to peace with it of late. Though it probably would have been better if they got to wrestle a full 30 minutes, Maeda does a fine job of selling the idea that he hit his head on the way down from his jumping back kick and knocked himself out as a result. Maeda having Fujinami on the ropes only to get a bit too excited and knock himself loopy isn't too bad of a note to go out on.

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Fujinami was not booked to lose that match.

When Maeda hit him with the high kick in the corner, it caught Fujinami just right and he started bleeding buckets.

Maeda was a bit nervous, knowing the finish, so they improvised the double KO finish.

 

The crowd bought it, thankfully, since the NJ vs. UWF feud was red hot at this time.

 

Dan Ginnetty

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Fantastic thread! I'm thoroughly entertained. And thanks to random dudes popping up with trivia from time to time, I'm also more informed.

 

Win win.

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IWGP TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH FUJINAMI TATSUMI & KENGO KIMURA VS AKIRA MAEDA & OSAMU KIDO 8/5/1986

Fujinami and Kimura apparently won the tag titles at some point - NJPW World gave us no hint of this happening. But the UWF guys are here to challenge. They're backed up by Yoshiaki Fujiwara, who's in his casual Sunday outfit today - short-sleeve Oxford shirt and white slacks. He looks ready for a barbecue, which he must be late for, since he shakes everyone's hands and leaves before the match begins. The camera follows him the whole time, so I guess something was going on here.

 

Normal stuff until about halfway through, when Maeda unleashes the kickpads and start destroying people. Kimura really gets it this time (I guess Fujinami had learned his lesson). At one point he tags in, kicks Maeda a bunch of times, and then gets absolutely floored by a kick to the face. He was holding his jaw while Maeda had him in a leglock, so there's every possibility that he wasn't selling here. You saw what happened last time - Maeda can't control these things.

 

Kido was pretty good, although he's out of sync with the rest of the UWF guys. He keeps throwing these quick slaps, which are cool but about as shootstyle as a paradise lock.

 

We think the finish is coming when Fujinami ducks a spinning kick only to get caught by another on the rebound. Maeda then tries one in the corner, but Fujinami ducks and Maeda starts selling the leg, which Fujinami takes advantage of. Great sequence.

 

It had no bearing on the actual finish, though, which comes as Kimura (who looks kinda like the singer from A-Ha) is beating up Kido. He goes for an abdominal stretch or something, but Kido cradles him for the pin, the certificates, the trophies, and the belts.

 

Real solid stuff. This isn't a match I'm going to look back on wistfully in the years to come, but it was a fine example of professional wrestling in the age of Greg LeMond and Princess Diana.

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FUJINAMI TATSUMI VS BRUISER BRODY 9/19/1986

Brody is a guy I'd been talked out of liking before I'd ever seen one of his matches. Looked like a wildman but dull as dishwater once the bell rang, they said. Ate up his opponents and never sold nothing. The poor man's Stan Hansen, if not the poor man's John Nord.

 

I tried to be fair, but he annoyed the hell out of me before the match even started with his monotone yells. He proceeded to squander my goodwill further acting as though pro wrestling had no affect on him. Fujinami gets his back but might as well not be there, as Brody just stands up. Fujinami nearly procures an octopus hold, but Brody slams him out of it. Brody gets caught going to the top for a knee drop (he's the poor man's Togi Makabe!) but despite Fujinami having the element of surprise and solid footing, Brody manages to avoid the humiliation of having a wrestling move done to him.

 

At last Fujinami gets in a little offense, as he works the leg for a while, giving us a nice closeup of the carpet samples on Brody's boots. Brody sells a figure four by yelling, looking slightly annoyed, and then reversing it. Just super compelling stuff here. Fujinami finally gets Brody to sell after he kicks in the knee. This leads to about thirty seconds of knee-related offense until Brody gets bored and tackles him.

 

They do a few sequences here, which don't look bad even though they're mostly Brody winning all the tie-ups and booting Fujinami. Our hero does hit a German suplex hold, which popped the crowd and, thirty-some years later, me. I should mention that while Brody isn't winning me over, the fans are super into him. I don't get it, but these people are presumably big Inoki fans as well, so we're clearly not on the same page.

 

When I saw this matchup, I said to myself "I bet this ends in a double countout." That happened, and it wasn't even one of the better double countouts. Fujinami treats us to one of his patented late-match screwups as he runs into Brody sending them both . . . nowhere. So they have to roll together outside, where they fight a little bit, climb on the apron, and get counted out. This one is right up there on the scale of obvious, half-assed 80s non-finishes.

 

My pain is not over. Brody re-enters the ring, and he and Fujinami have the most perfunctory, half-hearted brawl I've ever seen. They were obviously just checking off an item on the list of stuff that happens in a Bruiser Brody match. The list is complete when Brody gets his rope and chases people around.

 

I understand how affection for the departed can lead people to some outlandish conclusions, like that Tupac was better than Nas or that Roberto Clemente was better than Frank Robinson. But I don't care how murdered he is - I don't know how you look at Hansen vs. Brody and pick Brody.

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FUJINAMI TATSUMI VS KENGO KIMURA 12/10/1986

 

They're partners, brothers in arms. But tonight, they are foes.

 

We think it's going to be all respectful as they shake hands, but as soon as Kimura turns his back, Fujinami jumps him. This is war! Wrestling without the romance!

 

No commentary on this one, which is interesting. You can hear the competitors constantly grunting and muttering, which helps gets the match over as a real struggle while they roll around on the mat. It also underscored just how much English the ref was using - "Give up?" "Break!" "One, two, three..." and even "No no no no!" Nothing quite rises to the level of a Tenryu vs Koshinaka (I think) match in which the Japanese ref told the Japanese wrestlers in Japan to "Watch the kicks" in English, but it does demonstrate to what extent English is the lingua franca of professional wrestling.

 

Fujinami dominates the early matwork, which is good and struggly. Eventually we get a rope break, and Kimura gets up selling his arm. Fujinami is behind the ref bouncing in anticipation, and the crowd is ready for something to pop off.

 

It's at this point that they start going a million miles an hour, running the ropes until Fujinami attempts a sunset flip only for Kimura to lean down and smack him right in his damn face. It's here that I realize that Fujinami is heeling a little bit - another slap prompts him to roll outside and whine about closed fists, which Kimura is not throwing.

 

Well, he wasn't throwing them then, but when Fujinami rejoins the action Kimura starts boxing. Fujinami catches fist after fist (the ref doesn't care) and then two piledrivers, but he gets a foot on the rope.

 

They exchange backslides, which I thought was going to be the finish since Fujinami kind of screws his up, and that's something he does at the end of his matches. Finally Kimura runs at Fujinami in the corner only to be greeted with a sunset flip (is that still a sunset flip? Not sure what to call it) for the three count. Fujinami doesn't screw this one up - it looks great.

 

Kimura looks annoyed, but he does finally shake hands and raise Fujinami's arm. I'm glad they worked it out.

 

This was really good. It was fun to watch Fujinami in this role, where he's higher-ranked and cheating a little bit. I can't help but be a bit disappointed by the man's lack of presence, though. He just doesn't have in same way as, say, Choshu or Tsuruta. He's not dull, but he's not as memorable as the super charismatic guys.

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FUJINAMI TATSUMI VS BRUISER BRODY 9/19/1986

 

Brody is a guy I'd been talked out of liking before I'd ever seen one of his matches. Looked like a wildman but dull as dishwater once the bell rang, they said. Ate up his opponents and never sold nothing. The poor man's Stan Hansen, if not the poor man's John Nord.

 

I tried to be fair, but he annoyed the hell out of me before the match even started with his monotone yells. He proceeded to squander my goodwill further acting as though pro wrestling had no affect on him. Fujinami gets his back but might as well not be there, as Brody just stands up. Fujinami nearly procures an octopus hold, but Brody slams him out of it. Brody gets caught going to the top for a knee drop (he's the poor man's Togi Makabe!) but despite Fujinami having the element of surprise and solid footing, Brody manages to avoid the humiliation of having a wrestling move done to him.

 

At last Fujinami gets in a little offense, as he works the leg for a while, giving us a nice closeup of the carpet samples on Brody's boots. Brody sells a figure four by yelling, looking slightly annoyed, and then reversing it. Just super compelling stuff here. Fujinami finally gets Brody to sell after he kicks in the knee. This leads to about thirty seconds of knee-related offense until Brody gets bored and tackles him.

 

They do a few sequences here, which don't look bad even though they're mostly Brody winning all the tie-ups and booting Fujinami. Our hero does hit a German suplex hold, which popped the crowd and, thirty-some years later, me. I should mention that while Brody isn't winning me over, the fans are super into him. I don't get it, but these people are presumably big Inoki fans as well, so we're clearly not on the same page.

 

When I saw this matchup, I said to myself "I bet this ends in a double countout." That happened, and it wasn't even one of the better double countouts. Fujinami treats us to one of his patented late-match screwups as he runs into Brody sending them both . . . nowhere. So they have to roll together outside, where they fight a little bit, climb on the apron, and get counted out. This one is right up there on the scale of obvious, half-assed 80s non-finishes.

 

My pain is not over. Brody re-enters the ring, and he and Fujinami have the most perfunctory, half-hearted brawl I've ever seen. They were obviously just checking off an item on the list of stuff that happens in a Bruiser Brody match. The list is complete when Brody gets his rope and chases people around.

 

I understand how affection for the departed can lead people to some outlandish conclusions, like that Tupac was better than Nas or that Roberto Clemente was better than Frank Robinson. But I don't care how murdered he is - I don't know how you look at Hansen vs. Brody and pick Brody.

Regardless a murder joke is in poor taste.

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ANTONIO INOKI & KEIJI MUTOH VS FUJINAMI TATSUMI & RIKI CHOSHU 8/20/1987

I guess Choshu's back from All Japan, and I have to say that I don't approve of him and Fujinami as a team. These men were meant to be enemies.

 

And here's Muto! He's a frustrating wrestler. He had (had) breathtaking physical charisma, so it's easy for him to get over in any environment. But he has bad habits, like laying around on the mat for 30 minutes at a time, acting like getting beaten up by Kawada doesn't hurt, and running All Japan Pro Wrestling into the ground. It'll be interesting to see him in his larval form.

 

Lots of drama as we begin. Choshu grabs the microphone to bellow something, and there's a great deal of finger-pointing back and forth. Absent in all this is Inoki's partner. Any of number of dudes in t-shirts that say "FEVER" are in his corner, but no one gets in until they decide to rip off Cactus Jack and Mikey Whipwreck's first ECW tag title win and hustle Muto in from the back. He takes a moment to prepare himself, aided by Inoki slapping him in the face, and we're off.

 

Off to some very deliberate matwork. Lots of it. Choshu gets Inoki in the scorpion deathlock, and that's the only highlight.

 

Every wrestler in Muto's position reenacts the Patroclus story - in over his head, he fights bravely and accomplishes just a little more than you think he can before he is killed. New Japan fans have recently seen Hirai Kawato just Patroclusing his ass off before running off to Mexico.

 

It takes some time for the story to kick in here, but once it does we get something worth watching. Choshu procures a second scorpion on Inoki, and Muto comes in to break it up. He fails, as Fujinami savages him and throws him out of the ring. But the young fellow is undeterred and comes back in to break the hold.

 

Muto has shown his mettle, and he gets to display his skills as he takes over on Fujinami. He hits a piledriver then goes to the top for a moonsault. Fujinami moves, so Muto lands on his feet, runs back to the top, hits a cross-body, and then nails the moonsault. Cool stuff.

 

He gets a few other moments to shine, but it all ends when, with all four men in the ring, Choshu back suplexes him for the three count.

 

Hard feelings after the match ends, as Sakaguchi starts peeling off his clothes as if preparing to throw down. We de-escalate, and then they bring out the trophies. I have no idea what they're for, but congrats to Choshu and Fujinami for winning them.

 

This was a fifteen minute match, and ten of it might as well have not happened. The last five were exciting, if a touch awkward. Everyone seemed just slightly out of sync.

 

And once again, Fujinami was an afterthought. Choshu's sidekick.

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ANTONIO INOKI & NOBUHIKO TAKADA & KEIJI MUTOH VS FUJINAMI TATSUMI & SUPER STRONG MACHINE & KUNIAKI KOBAYASHI 9/14/1987

They fired up the old random team generator backstage, and this is what we get.

All action early as Takada and Muto team up to just beat the holy hell out of Fujinami. It's a good five minutes of quick tags, dropkicks, kickpad kicks, and various holds. The punishment ramps up as these three continue to do all the work. Fujinami eats a couple backdrop suplexes, a beautiful German, and piledriver, and even a slightly mistimed spike piledriver.

Finally he rolls out of a Boston crab, catches a follow-up kick, and tags in The Machine, who, despite his super strength, immediately gets taken down and leglocked by Inoki.

 

They maintain a frantic pace - Team Inoki takes most of the match, but Inoki has given himself the night off. They tease a confrontation with Fujinami, but he doesn't seem to be in the mood. "Let Muto handle it" is his motto for the evening.

 

With Inoki coasting and Fujinami doing little on offense, the new guys get to shine. Muto's dropkicking dudes all over the place. Kobayashi throws some nice kicks and hits a fisherman's suplex, which the announcer calls a German, so maybe that's still a new one. Machine uses his beefiness effectively.

 

Takada's the biggest standout. He brings the shooty kicks, but he doesn't limit himself. He throws in a dropkick, some pro-style holds, and even a leapfrog. He also wins the match in a completely sweet manner. Kobayashi whips him into the ropes and tries a spin kick, but Takada grabs him mid-kick and rolls him over for the pin. It was very crisp.

 

This was a lot of fun but odd. The two guys you'd expect to be the focus weren't - Inoki did almost literally nothing, and Fujinami just got his ass kicked. Everyone else was great, and they kept it moving.

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FUJINAMI TATSUMI & KENGO KIMURA VS MASA SAITO & RIKI CHOSHU ANTONIO INOKI VS RIKI CHOSHU ANTONIO INOKI VS BIG BANG VADER

This is an infamous mess that involves Fujinami only tangentially, so I felt free to skip around. Inoki, Choshu, and Big Bang Vader take turns coming out and yelling into the mic (Vader has Masa Saito do his yelling for him) and having short matches with bad endings.

 

Fujinami and Kimura briefly take on Choshu and Saito, but the crowd isn't paying any attention, preferring to yell something over and over and throw stuff into the ring. Choshu hits one of his embarrassing lariats on Kimura and gets the pin on a one count. It's a special occasion here in the Sumo Hall, and anything goes.

 

We get two more matches after this. They both involve Inoki, and neither involves Fujinami, so I felt no obligation to watch them. I will mention that Ben Bader's offense was lousy at this point, so even I didn't enjoy it when he pinned Inoki after five minutes.

 

Maybe I'd feel differently if I spoke the language, but New Japan's Attitude Era isn't doing a lot for me.

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