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[1985-09-19-NJPW] Antonio Inoki vs Tatsumi Fujinami


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This was a pure 70s grappling epic with an absolutely molten last 10 minutes or so. The grappling here wasn't intricate or anything, but they worked an ultra tight contest and did a good job bringing the intensity up and down. Most importantly, the match never felt slow or dry, so I'll take this over your Dory Funk Jr snoozefest. Inoki is very dominant early on, running through his holds including a great briding indian deathlock, but then Fujinami slaps him like a bitch and finally starts bringing the fight. I especially liked the sequence where Inoki teases the Butterfly Suplex and goes for a fireman carry. He didn't even hit that butterfly suplex later! Inoki's defensiveness ends up backfiring on him and Fujinami puts him in a Figure 4. The Figure 4 segment eats up a good chunk of thise 35 minuteish match so better have a good book ready. I didn't have a problem with it though because the payoff was strong and Inoki's selling was right on the money. Seeing Fujinami pushing the mythical Inoki to the limit was spectacular and the crowd was surface of the sun level hot for the possible dethroning. The finish was inevitable but atleast we get a massive pop for Fujinami powering out of the Octopus Hold. This went over half an hour with barely a bump in it but it was still totally spectacular pro wrestling.

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  • GSR changed the title to [1985-09-19-NJPW] Antonio Inoki vs Tatsumi Fujinami
  • 3 years later...

Antonio Inoki vs Tatsumi Fujinami - NJPW 9/19/85 SGR: Lou Thesz

No titles on the line to my knowledge but this is clearly a big match as they have trotted out Lou Thesz to be the Special Guest Ref. I was pretty excited for this match as I really enjoyed Inoki's 71 match against Jack Brisco. Generally enjoy the grapple-fuck contests that involve Dory Funk Jr, Jack Brisco or Inoki. I feel like Fujinami would be well-suited for the style. 

First Twenty Minutes: Admittedly I am pretty underwhelmed by this match. It is really excellent work. Snug holds, tight transitions and tremendous effort. After twenty minutes, they are drenched in sweat. You can tell how hard they are working. There is no psychology underpinning the work. I hate to call something that is worked so hard an exhibition, but there is no sense of escalation. They are just grappling and doing different holds. Inoki dominates the beginning of the match. Some really nice work, loved the takedown into that DEEP toehold. Inoki works a great Indian Deathlock into a bridge ala Mutoh. Watching this match, I realize that Mutoh was supposed to be the heir to Inoki/Fujinami whereas Hashimoto was Choshu's heir. It obviously worked out well for Hashimoto, but I think Mutoh was better at the character work and just not the technical marvel that Inoki and Fujinami. Fujinami slaps him which lets me know Fujinami is alive. Fujinami works for a reverse waistlock takedown and gets his hooks in. Inoki works a great backdrop/bridge sequence. He works a cool step up wristlock takedown and just ends up in a side mount. There is a cool Fireman's Carry from Inoki too. They tease a criss cross. Inoki hits a bodyslam into a chinlock in what I believe was the first slam bang highspot. It is high quality grappling which I have a great appetite for but I do need some character work or narrative otherwise it is too dry. Lets see what happens in the next 20 minutes or so. It is not bad per se, just disappointing. 

Second 15 minutes: Fujinami hits a dropkick on a criss-cross and we have life! Scorpion Deathlock and its a beauty maybe the best I have ever! That gets transitioned into a figure-4. The longest figure-4 I think I have ever seen. Had to be at least 5 minutes and I am not making that up. Inoki finally makes the ropes. Fujinami goes all Inoki with the Inoki leg kicks and then  He goes back to the Figure-4 which is BALLSY! Things really pick up from there...Fujinami nails a MURDER DROPKICK! Fujinami misses the Enziguiri ballsy move in an Inoki match and Inoki NAILS THE ENZIGUIRI! He goes into the Cross-Armbreaker and in 1985 it just is not sold properly at all. Fujinami makes the ropes. Fujinami wins a high energy criss cross with a lariat and then nails the ENZIGUIRI! Inoki reverses into a German Suplex with a bridge that I bit on! Inoki bodyslam he wants the Bombs Away Kneedrop. Fujinami tries to cut him off at the pass and Inoki straight PUNCHES HIM! BOMBS AWAY KNEE! Fujinami reverses into a Dragon Suplex. Well here comes the SLAM BANG HIGH SPOTS! Inoki PUNCHES FUJINAMI! OCTOPUS STRETCH! Fujinami throws Inoki's ass off, big pop! VERY SURPRISING! It takes two more Octopus Stretches (next one is in the ropes) and final one Lou Thesz calls it...TKO, NOT SUBMISSION!

Inoki put Fujinami over huge. Ref's decision finish, three Octopus Stretches, Let him break the signature hold and he had to use TWO CLOSED FISTS which is highly frowned upon in Japan. You really got the feeling Fujinami pushed him to his breaking point. The grappling was really strong in the beginning but needed either character work or narrative work to get me to really love it. That Figure-4 sure was something. The finish sequence was ultra-hot considered my interest still piqued for their 1988 encounter. ***3/4


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  • 1 year later...

This match is the first of two matches between the two wrestlers, the other one being the famous 8/8/88 60 minute time limit draw, the last time Antonio Inoki challenged for the IWGP Heavyweight Title, this one is worse than that match unfortunately, it’s awesome still but there’s a few moments during the match that dragged it to this spectrum of great matches with potential to be masterpieces but alas they weren’t, the crowd isn’t as involved as they were in the gauntlet match, their intensity wasn’t even close, in the gauntlet match they cheered regardless of who was in the ring and they went nuts when Antonio Inoki and Riki Choshu faced each other, nobody is chanting it felt like they don’t care about who wins and who loses, that’s understandable considering how New Japan was booked in the 1980’s but I don’t think that the average fan at the time had any idea about how booking worked, don’t tell me they didn’t chant because the japanese crowds are silent and respectful because if that’s true there’s no way to explain their chants and involvement in the gauntlet match and don’t tell me it was a fluke because then you can’t explain why they were cheering so much in the legendary match between Stan Hansen and Andre the Giant, to be fair those two matches had something in common they were way better than this one, it wasn’t all bad, Tatsumi Fujinami looked very good and Antonio Inoki actually sold his offense very well, he was suprisingly generous by his standards (they are very low), Fujinami’s great performance wasn’t rewarded with a win, Antonio had an amazing comeback (even though the crowd didn’t care) and was able to submit Fujinami with his octopus hold.

I’d recommend this match to every fan of NJPW in the 80’s, I think it represents well the best and worst parts of this company.

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