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William Bologna

Tatsumi Fujinami

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Tatsumi Fujinami & Riki Choshu & Osamu Kido vs Kengo Kimura & Shiro Koshinaka & Masashi Aoyagi 8/15/1992

Here we have the debut of Heisei Ishingun, a faux outsider faction that kicked around for most of the 90s and never accomplished much. You've got Kimura trying to get out from under Fujinami's modest shadow; Koshinaka (now in black pants!) using his ass attacks for evil; and Aoyagi, who likes to kick it. He's a karate guy.

It's funny Aoyagi showed up here - I just started listening to Bahu's magisterial history of FMW, the early part of which is all Onita vs. Aoyagi and various other karate guys. Never heard of the guy in my life, and here is showing up twice in a week.

The idea here is to get the HI faction over as a threat even though no one in it was previously perceived as such, so everyone's selling like crazy for these guys. In particular, Kimura's spamming these leg lariats and the boys in black trunks are acting like they're devastating.

There's some good heat here. Before the match begins, Fujinami strolls over to have a word with Kimura, but Koshinaka steps in and slaps him across the face. There's also a yelling match with one of HI's corner men (I think it's Akitoshi Saito, but he doesn't have completely terrible hair so I can't be sure).

After ten minutes or so of fast-paced action, Kimura pins Fujinami after one of those leg lariats. Then everyone runs in and we have a brawl.

This was cool. I went back and looked up the Heisei Ishingun stuff after the match - while I was watching it, I had no idea why these people were teaming or what, in general, was the beef, but I liked it anyway.

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Tatsumi Fujinami vs Takahashi Ishikawa 1/4/1993

After one whole match, we set aside the feud with the fake outsiders for a feud with real ones: This year's January 4th Tokyo Dome show is headlined by back-to-back NJPW vs. WAR clashes! (Heisei Ishingun is all the way down in the second match, behind a bunch of WCW guys.)

A rivalry with WAR is a difficult thing to book. At the top, you have Genichiro Tenryu. He's won the triple crown. He's pinned Baba. He's got a pedigree, credibility. So you match him up with Riki Choshu at the top of the card (it wasn't any good, but that's not the point).

If Choshu's #1, then Fujinami's #2, and he gets . . . Takahashi Ishikawa. That's the problem when you're dealing with Tenryu's vanity promotion. The talent thins out real fast after you get past Tenryu.

I knew nothing about Ishikawa, but he looks like Tenryu and Arashi had a kid. Hell, I read his Wikipedia article and I still don't know much about him, which makes me think that there's just not that much to know.

But here he is the semi-main of a sold out Tokyo Dome show, so let's see what happens.

Fujinami comes out hot with the boxing. A dropkick sends Ishikawa outside, and he follows up with a tope. At this point the crowd is going apeshit. Then Ishikawa takes over, and we sit in a headlock for most of the rest of the match. Whew! I was getting a little overexcited there.

Eventually Ishikawa escapes two dragon sleeper attempts by kicking Fujinami in the face (that was cool). He hits two powerbombs and goes to the top after Fujinami kicks out, but our hero follows him and suplexes him. He hits three Inoki-style enzuigiris and locks in the dragon sleeper for the win.

This was OK. The body of the match was dull, but not so dull that I'm mad or anything. Ishikawa did not appear to be on Fujinami's level, either as a worker or as a believable competitor.

I think some of the subtext of the work was lost on me - in addition to Fujinami's alluding to Inoki with the kicks, Ishikawa tried a dragon sleeper of his own and a scorpion deathlock. I guess they were doing a thing?

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Tatsumi Fujinami VS The Great Kabuki 2/5/1993

We again run into the thinness of the WAR roster, as this match is all about convincing us that the Great Kabuki has a chance against Fujinami.

Fujinami has a young Yuji Nagata and Hiroyoshi Tenzan in his corner, as well as a middle-aged Riki Choshu. I never accepted those two working together after wrestling each other three hundred and twenty-four times in 1983, but I kind of buy it now that there's an external threat.

The story here - and I liked it - was that Kabuki's cornermen kept distracting Fujinami and/or the ref long enough for Kabuki to do something dastardly, which is his specialty. It worked quite a few times, but I'm unhappy to report that in most of these cases Kabuki didn't do any more than put Fujinami in an armbar.

The other story is that Kabuki wants the match to take place outside the ring, where he has help. We're used to Fujinami bleeding all over the place when he goes out there, so it makes sense when Choshu takes it upon himself to roll his compatriot back inside when the WAR guys are threatening him.

Business picks up when Kabuki takes advantage of the referee's inattention to spit mist in Fujinami's face. Our hero looks like he's covered in pesto and in real danger. He kicks out of Kabuki's attempts to pin him and tries a dragon suplex. Kabuki pops him pretty hard to get out of it. Fujinami tries a rollup off the ropes, which doesn't work, and a rollup off the shoulders, which does. 

This was almost really good. I liked Kabuki's presence. You could tell the dude was a cheater, and it brought an interesting dynamic. But other than the cheating and the finishing sequence (which was a lot of fun), this wasn't much of a match.

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Tatsumi Fujinami & Riki Choshu & Osamu Kido & Hiroshi Hase & Takayuki Iizuka vs Genichiro Tenryu and Ashura Hara & Takashishi Ishikawa & Hiromichi Fuyuki & Koki Kitahara 2/16/1993

It's all hands on deck in this installment of the NJPW vs. WAR feud. Fujinami gets top billing for the home team, while Tenryu gets a bigger pop than anyone during the introductions.

The crowd is beyond excited for this; they roar every time a new contestant enters. Even Fuyuki. Even Iizuka!

Inevitably, Tenryu is the MVP here. He's menacing, well-permed, and hitting people just as hard as he possibly can. But it's Choshu who wins the glory: We get our first fall when Fujinami hits Ishikawa with a couple enzuigiris and tags in Choshu, who lariats him for the pin.

The second fall sees Kido (who's just great in this, as is almost everyone else) ( not Hara, whom we haven't seen since 198,0 and who got old in the interim) as the surprise hero for New Japan. He's been pulling out these super nifty armbars all over the place, and one of them takes Tenryu out of commission for a while. Kitahara eats a uranage from Hase and then a lariat and deathlock from Choshu. New Japan presses their power play advantage and wins in two straight falls.

This was great. Everyone got to shine, even the pack of nobodies backing up Tenryu. The New Japan guys were surprisingly generous with their opponents, although I guess it's easier to be magnanimous when you're winning in two. Iizuka and Hase did a lot of the actual wrestling for their team, and they were certainly up to the task. Fujinami once again doesn't get treated as a legendary main eventer - he got beat on as much as anyone. But this was about building Choshu back up, and it did that.

It looks like we only get one more match in this WAR feud. I'm going to miss it.

Programming notes: During my post-G1 wrestling fatigue, it appears that Gedo sneaked in and added a bunch of matches to the Fujinami categories. The good news is that we get some Dick Murdoch. The bad news is that this is never, ever going to end. The damn thread turned a year old on Thursday.

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