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[1989-04-16-AJPW] Masanobu Fuchi vs Shinichi Nakano

Matt D

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I've seen a bit of Fuchi in Memphis and some of his work in the mix of larger tag matches into the 90s, but I hadn't seen anything of his Junior stuff before this. According to Jetlag, Nakano was a Fujinami trained outsider that tanked his career by leaving with Tenryu in 90. This was one of many shifts of the title in 89. In the first seven months, it changed hands seven times, which seems wonky for me for an AJPW title but the tag belts changed hands five times in 89 so it's not that strange, I guess.


This was absolutely a Fuchi showcase, but one that helped to elevate Nakano as well (it better have, since he was winning it), solely through the fact that he survived, didn't give up, and found strength in his desperation. Unfortunately, they put the belt on Momota four days later, but what are you going to do? It actually leads me to wonder if it was the intent or not.


Fuchi had such control here. Some of that played out obviously in the narrative. There was early matwork with Fuchi manipulating Nakano however he wanted. At one point ,Nakano locked in a deep headlock (which is really the most basic move in the world, potentially gutsy, but basic), and Fuchi didn't just shrug him off, but was able to get a leg, shift it this way or that, and then toss him against the ropes. Even this was more to foreshadow and set up when he used the leg to escape a move later. The illusion of believing that a wrestler is one or two moves ahead is hard. That's why we don't see it more even though it's not a massive intellectual leap when you think about storytelling, but Fuchi had me absolutely believing it. He shifted an escape attempt into another hold, floating over, snatching up a limb, jockeying, very often making a pointed and deliberate attempt to show the crowd he was doing something (like using his foot to break hands apart so he could lock in a hold) and making futile Nakano's every action. Mastery is really the only word for it.


Nakano tried to get the first strikes in since he wasn't getting anywhere matching holds (and this is after Fuchi had given him a supportive clap on the shoulder after a rope break too). All it did was make Fuchi grind down a bit more the second he got a limb back though. Here he was making sure to press his knee in for leverage, or just cut into Nakano's personal space as he had a hold on. Again, mastery, little things you don't often see.


Whenever Nakano got in a shot or a hold, it was obviously through desperation. Both wrestlers locked in double wristlocks in the match, but Fuchi's was so deliberate and Nakano's was far more grasping, straining. Fuchi wouldn't just allow himself to get whipped. Everything Nakano did ended up looking earned, often by the skin of his teeth, which, I think, helped the fans get behind him all the more when he kept fighting. Occasionally his athleticism would win through and he'd be able to hit a suplex or even a small flurry, but Fuchi had so many visceral and believable ways to cut him off, whether it was taking a limb or reversing a whip, or just having him walk directly into a straight punch to the face. Towards the end, he was bullying Nakano more and more, including just bum's rushing him right out of the ring. It meant that when the finish did hit, with Nakano desperately leaping across the ring with a shot to the back of the head to prevent a probably overconfident Fuchi from escaping a waistlock and hitting a hail mary German, the crowd popped hard with appreciation.


It's a shame that he went and lost the belt four days later. Ah well. Now I need to go out of my way to see a lot more of these Fuchi title matches.




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Masa Fuchi, baby. The man lost his calling as a UWF/NJPW style grappler. In 2018, people are probably not that eager to check out another AJPW superclassic (ZOMG!), but you gotta believe me, this is good. In a way this feels like a glimpse at what the company might have been had it's style turned into a different direction, closer to the shootstyle orgs of the 90s.

I assume because Nakano is a Fujinami trained outsider Fuchi is determined to hit the mat here, and this match has about the most matwork in a post-classic era AJPW match I can recall. And it's not that loosey goosey pro style matwork either, this is largely Fuchi grinding and twisting the fuck out of Nakano. It wasn't quite torture master Fuchi either, but the hints were there for sure, and the intensity kept building and Fuchi kept cranking in his holds beyond the point of tolerance. It works better than many other technical based matches too as Nakano getting destroyed on the mat served to get the always reliable Korakuen hall crowd on Nakano's side in a big way, and that payed dividends during the big finishing run. Nakano was solid here, he sold extremely well and showed hints of serious determination, but this was the Fuchi show all around, complete with punches and boots to the face for good measure, even having a go at a second and earning himself some nice boos in the process. It makes me wish there was more AJPW junior stuff available because it's such a nice change of pace from seeing Fuchi get whipped around in multiman tags against the heavyweights.

The finish was a fluke but a pretty good one, normally a fluke is a flash pin or submission, in this case however Nakano just blasts Fuchi in the back of the head, sending him semi-KO'd into the ropes and sealing it with a german where he is barely able to hold the cover until the 3. A tricky match formula executed beautifully, and it feels like wrongful scorn of history that this bout ended up lost in obscurity and Nakano lost his title just 3 days later in an even bigger fluke against Momota, his 1990 rematch against Fuchi not being available and the rest of his career blundered in obscurity. We all know Fuchi ended up making his case as one of the greatest of all time, still watching this makes me wonder what could have been had he been in a different era or promotion.

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  • GSR changed the title to [1989-04-16-AJPW] Masanobu Fuchi vs Shinichi Nakano

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