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[1974-03-19-NJPW] Antonio Inoki vs Strong Kobayashi


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Strong Kobayashi, a rather troll-like looking wrestler (to put it mildly). Dude looked like a DNA experiment between Inoki and Baba. This was a rare early match between top natives and a hell of a fight. Basically Inoki bullies Kobayashi some and then gets his shit pushed in repeatedly. What a weird way to work a match against an outsider, but they did succeed in garnering tremendous heat. Inoki dominates the early going with a bunch of quasi-amateur holds which I dug a lot. He scored a really nice toe hold riding takedown and would constantly do leg rides and toe holds. After getting grinded for a while Kobayashi finally scored a simple arm roll which felt like a nice victory, but dickhead Inoki won't break clean in the ropes. Inoki keeps taunting and slapping Kobayashi between the holds and this is building tremendous intensity. Kobayashi is reacting to all this in really amusing exaggerated ways too. Finally, Kobayashi grabs a bear hug and just manhandles Inoki like a ragdoll. Inoki had pretty great facial expressions here, as he went from looking pained to annoyed to filled with contempt. Later on, when he had regained the upper hand he would look really smug and self satisfied. There was also a great moment where Inoki went for another back ride, only for Kobayashi to use his indicated by name strength to muscle up and reverse him into an awesome Cobra Twist of his own. Shozo smells blood and starts laying stiff clubbing blows to Inoki's neck, but as we learned from the Great Antonio's example Inoki does not take kindly to this and nearly KO's him with a huge punch in another awesome moment. Inoki is looking to finish this now with his grapevine moves but they end up on the outside and Kobayashi makes him eat a posting. Inoki is bleeding huge now and Kobayashi smells his chance going to town on him with punches. Really liked how a bloody Inoki would pop up with a smug grin after catching Shozo with a supex.

Man what a spectacular match. Molten heat, cool grappling, blood, punches, neat story, it's all there. Thought both guys did a great job here. Also, gotta give them credit for working a pretty long match that still leaves plenty on the table. I'm surprised this isn't mentioned more often among the best of the 70s bouts, I found it highly captivating.

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  • 2 months later...

Annoyed, stiff, fist throwing, tight grappling Inoki rules and that's the Inoki we get here. Say what you will abut Inoki, but he packs a mean right hand and his head scissor was deep -- surprising Kobayashi didn't go to sleep. Inoki later loosened it up as it was blatantly choking Kobayashi. Kobayashi is no slouch either and withstands the brutalness Inoki brings and he also locks in some tight, gritty holds. The crowd was somewhat sitting on their hands, but they got hot once Inoki got bloodied up and Kobayashi just blasted the cut with right hands.


Great match with a nice slow build to a hot finish.


1970's New Japan is some underrated stuff.

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  • GSR changed the title to [1974-03-19-NJPW] Antonio Inoki vs Strong Kobayashi
  • 3 years later...

Antonio Inoki (C) vs. Strong Kobayashi for the NWF World Heavyweight Championship. March 19, 1974 at the Tokyo Kuramae Kokugikan. 

This is a huge deal. A rare main event between two Japanese wrestler. (The first in NJPW history) So when Strong Kobayashi challenged Antonio Inoki, wrestling fans were very surprised and pleased. The media called it "The Ganryu-Jima duel". In reference to the sword duel in the 17th century, between Musashi Miyamoto and his rival Kojiro Sasaki on a small island of Ganryu-Jima. Strong Kobayashi had been a bodybuilder and one of the top stars of International Wrestling Enterprise. He was a powerful wrestler, and he had fought in Europe and in the AWA. Kobayashi became an ace in IWE, but he had a falling out with the management team and eventually retired from the company. He challenged Baba and Inoki, and Inoki accepted. Because Inoki had said "I will fight with anyone". This is an intense bout. IWE’s mostly known for its brawling style but their guys were capable technically too, as Kobayashi shows in this match against Inoki. At the end, Inoki won with a German Suplex Hold for the three count. One of the best Inoki's match. The bout, was voted Match of the Year by Tokyo Sports, and earned New Japan its first 20% TV rating. After this match, Strong Kobayashi joined New Japan and fought as Sakaguchi's partner. But the stars of New Japan were Inoki and Sakaguchi, and Kobayashi was only "the third man". He retired in 1981, and passes away in 2021. 

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  • 2 years later...

NWF Heavyweight Champion Antonio Inoki vs Strong Kobayashi - NJPW 3/19/74

I am kinda surprised this match seems to be the more hyped between the two compared to the December match. I thought this match was great, but the intensity of the December was off the charts. Did a little digging in Kobayashi's history to give myself some context. This is his first match in New Japan, he was in IWE previously. He was the IWA Champion (IWE's top prize) as of February 1974 when he vacated I assumed because he took this match. Interestingly, he does not wrestle again in Japan until December 1974 against Inoki in the aforementioned kickass rematch. He wrestled the intervening months in America. He wrestled a lot in America actually which I found interesting. I am sure @KinchStalker has more to say on the background. 

As for the match itself, this is a terrific slow burn match where the intensity ramps up to a bloody fever pitch. It explains by the December match was so hot coming out of the gate because in this match the tempers had already boiled over. I would not call this traditional NWA/AJPW championship style wrestling to open. This is more of Amateur wrestling for I'd say the first 15 minutes. Really the story of the match is reactions and how each man overreacted throughout the match to small slights. 

Early it was Inoki showing up Kobayashi at will, he back heel tripped Kobayashi on what should have been a clean break. Kobayashi seemed flustered and that resulted in Inoki pretty much showing him up continuously until Kobayashi got a hammerlock about 10-15 minutes later. Inoki was taking down and reversing at will. After the Hammerlock, Kobayashi started building momentum. They got into a Greco-Roman style waistlock war which Kobayashi won with a Bearhug. Now the shoe was on the other foot. Inoki was overreaction and getting frustrated and leaving himself open to counterattacks like a Kobayashi Crucifix. Inoki goes back to what works which is wrestling. He gets a nice Butterfly and takesdown into a pinning combination. Kobayashi overreacts tries to turn it into a slugfest and Inoki TAGS him with a right. Kobayashi goes down like a sack of potatoes. What a moment! It is all because Kobayashi overreacted and left himself open to the counterpunch. Inoki clamps on a TIGHT Figure-4 around the head of Kobayashi, which Kobayashi claims is a choke and I see his point. He does a great job on the rope break, selling the choke. Kobayashi lights up Inoki on the ropes in classic Inoki fashion he does NOT sell as much as Kobayashi. Inoki goes for the Octopus. Things start to ramp up. In a second Octopus attempt, they tumble to the outside. Kobayashi bulldog headlock rams Inoki's head into the post and busts Inoki open! Wow! Kobayashi punches Inoki in the head right in the wound on the apron. Vertical suplex in, 1-2-NO! Great nearfall! Strong Kobayashi lives up to his name and tries for the Argentine Backbreaker, but Inoki reverses and back drops out. German Suplex! 1-2-3! Wow a clean finish! 

I loved the story of the match. It something that really rewards the viewer and also speaks to the pettiness of interpromotional rivalries. The technical work was really strong and tight. It was unique to Inoki who incorporates more amateur/shooty matwork into his matches than say a traditional NWA title match. I did think it was a little slow overall in the first 20 minutes but I think it is worth because of what it sets up at the end. The finish was red hot and very climatic. Great stuff. ****1/4 

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