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William Bologna

Tatsumi Fujinami

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FIGHTING SPIRIT 2002 February 1, 2002 Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center Sixth game Masahiro Chono & Tatsutoshi Goto & Hiroyoshi Tenzan VS Shiro Koshinaka & Riki Choshu & Tatsumi Fujinami

I actually went slightly out of order on that last one. When presented with a choice between Misawa and Tatsutoshi Goto, my subconscious tried to do what was best for me.

The crowd reacts in unexpected ways. Before the match, Tenzan grabs the mic and says some stuff that's presumably pretty spicy (it makes Choshu pretty mad, whatever it was) - no reaction. During match, Koshinaka hits guys with his ass, and we get a huge pop every time.

Anyway, this match is a complete failure. Tenzan talks a big game (I'm guessing), but there's nothing to back it up. After the opening sequence in which a fired up Choshu gives him his comeuppance, there's nothing to suggest that these teams dislike each other or that one of them is made up of bad guys. They just go through the paces, doing all the stuff they'd do anyway.

Also, there seems to have been some kind of mass miscommunication at the finish. They're setting up Chono kicking Koshinaka and pinning him, but people are standing around at the wrong time and in the wrong places. We get there, but it's not smooth.

These late career Fujinami matches are turning out to be pretty boring most of the time, and I don't think you can blame it on our hero aging. He's just in there with people who aren't all that good and/or aren't trying very hard. *pretends to cough but actually says Chono*

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WRESTLING WORLD 2003 2003 January 4 Tokyo Dome The first game Osamu Nishimura vs Tatsumi Fujinami

Every so often we get one of these throwback exhibition matches. "Remember when guys in black trunks used to do this?" and then they roll around and procure wristlocks for a while. There was one with Kido that was entertaining, and then there's this one, which was lousy.

It's also kind of sad. Fujinami's a legend who can still go, and Nishimura was always a better wrestler than his push. Yet here they are jerking the curtain with an eight minute bad match while the Tokyo Dome crowd steels themselves for what looks like a really, really crappy card.

It is bad, which you wouldn't expect given that this is right in Nishimura's wheelhouse. Previous installments have seem him looking smooth as silk exchanging holds, but here he and Fujinami aren't on the same page. There's just too much fumbling. The finish in particular is terrible. Nishimura does the thing where he puts his feet in the other guy's armpits and flips him over, and then he does a bridge. There's nothing cooler when it's done well, but . . . well, I've never New Japan's current crop of young lions do anything this awkwardly.

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Fighting Spirit starting ~ CHAPTER1 ~ January 4 Tokyo Dome, 2006 The fourth game Tatsumi Fujinami Osamu Nishimura Takashi Iizuka Toru Yano Hirooki Goto Hiroshi Nagao vs Choshu force Kohei Sato Uwa NoTakashi Yoshito Sasaki kamikaze Daisuke Sekimoto

So I guess Choshu's invading with a mob of indie guys? Fujinami looks to defend the honor of New Japan with an army consisting of Nishimura and three young boys, all in black trunks. What they lack in experience and visual appeal they make up for with enthusiasm. Fujinami's team runs in and starts brawling. Their leader lags behind, but we can cut him some slack. The man's 53 years old.

I would have thought that as we get closer to the present, it would be easier for me to identify the wrestlers. But what with gimmick and costume changes, and with quite a few of these guys never reaching a level of prominence high enough to be observable by me, I'm clueless about a good third of them. It says Hirooki Goto's in this, but I don't know which young guy in black trunks he is.

I do recognize Toru Yano before his dissipation became his gimmick. Black trunks, black hair - seemingly an upstanding citizen. He doesn't even punch anyone in the balls.

On the indie side, we've got a blue guy, an orange guy, a guy in long pants, a tall guy, and Daisuke Sekimoto! I love that dude. He doesn't yet have his mullet, but he's always recognizable because he looks like a thumb.

Everyone gets in and does stuff, and every so often everyone runs in and brawls. Twelve men in a match is too many, but it's fine. My biggest issue with this match is that the finish involved two of the guys I didn't recognize so I had to figure it out. It turns out Kohei Sato pinned Hiroshi Nagao.

For five of these fellows, this is their only entry on NJPW World. I hope you weren't looking forward to any more Yoshihito Sasaki matches

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Wrestle Kingdom II in Tokyo Dome January 4, 2008 Tokyo Dome Sixth game ONE NIGHT STAND ~ LEGEND vs V・B・H ~ Choshu force AKIRA Jyushin Thunder Liger Masahiro Chono Tatsumi Fujinami vs "brother" YASSHI Shuji Kondo TARU heresy heresy

Pre-match prediction: The indie dirtbags do a bunch of disrespectful stuff, and then the old guys kick their asses. Let's see if I'm right.

Post-match analysis: I was right! One of the dirtbags got on the mic and said something over and over; something disrespectful enough to get him booed. Then they got some heat and finally got their asses kicked.

It was actually more fun than I thought it would be. The bad guys did some cool stuff, like holding AKIRA up by his legs and axe kicking him the dick. They then did a commendable job getting their asses kicked. The dude wearing the Jamaican flag as a headband in particular earned his paycheck.

So, I thought I was done. I was going to watch the Choshu retirement match and go do something else. But once again Gedo snuck in and added a bunch of content. As a paying customer, I guess I should be grateful. I'm not.

So it's once more into the breach (in this case, "breach" means "1980s"). We get some Dick Murdoch, which should be fun. Sadly, I have to watch another Bruiser Brody match. Also a weirdly large amount of Jimmy Snuka. King Kong Bundy. A number of Strong Machines. All the greats, coming soon.

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New Year Golden Series January 27, Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, 1984 Antonio Inoki&Tatsumi Fujinami VS Hulk Hogan&Iron Mike Sharpe

As I step out of my time machine and back into 1984, I'm thrilled to see the Hulkster. It makes up for also seeing Inoki.

We also get Iron Mike Sharpe, who's a lot of fun here. He just heels like crazy. He hits Fujinami with the semi-foreign object around his wrist; he whines to the referee; he grabs hair and generally cheats. It's a little confusing, because his partner is, if not the good guy, certainly not the bad guy. Hogan does all the stuff he always does in Japan, but neither I nor the crowd is tired of it.

What they really want is a showdown between Hogan and Inoki. They get it after Fujinami puts Sharpe in the scorpion deathlock. Hogan comes in and axe bombers Fujinami out of the ring. Inoki comes in, and the two illegal men have a sequence hot enough to bring the crowd to its feet.

It is the 80s, though, so the bell rings halfway through the confrontation: Fujinami has been counted out.

This worked because the crowd was so hot for it and because it felt like the silly-ass 80s finish was building to something. I don't know if the Hogan vs. Inoki payoff happened. If it did Fujinami wasn't in it, so it's really not any of my business.

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