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[1986-06-12-NJPW] Tatsumi Fujinami vs Akira Maeda

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UWF top dog delivers a monstrous beating to New Japan's hero, who will not stay down no matter what. Maeda is good as the destroyer but Fujinami's epic selling performance makes this a classic. The top NJPW match of the 80s. ****5/8

 

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Awesome, awesome match -- one of my personal favorites -- and almost an all-time five star classic but with an unfortunately shitty finish due to the circumstances. Like any good ace, Fujinami tends to blow off a lot of offense but here, he really sells the injured leg and Maeda’s kicks as dangerous weapons. Maeda continues to target the leg, although he keeps going back to the arm despite the easy target -- I guess as a way to neutralize Fujinami's dragon suplex or jujigatame? On top of that, Maeda himself keeps teasing the dragon suplex. They trade suplexes before Fujinami slaps on the sasori-gatame, inducing the fans to collectively shit their pants. Then Maeda clips him with a rolling kick and when Fujinami touches his forehead and sees the blood on his fingers, he collapses. Maeda tries to finish him off with the dragon suplex hold and there's really terrific shock and relief from the crowd at the nearfall. The finish felt like an audible after Fujinami got busted open but whatever, still an incredible match and a really great performances from both guys.

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Akira Maeda vs Tatsumi Fujinami - NJPW 6/12/86

Hey an Akira Maeda classic that finally delivers! Of course it is in pro style with a true pro that brings the heat and excitement from the normally boring Maeda. Fujinami rules so hard in this match. The beginning of the match follows a pretty simple formula of Maeda grabs a hold, Fujinami counters and Maeda counters again before the ropes. It demonstrates Maeda' shoot-style credibility and that Fujinami does have a chance. Fujinami gets his biggest pop when the match goes pro style for a minute with a criss cross spot where Maeda misses a spinning heel kick then Fujinami nails a clothesline and gets a single leg crab. The shoot-style crowd will kill me but this match would be even better if they went full pro style. Basically, Fujinami gives up a deathlock to get Maeda's back loses control to a toehold and then ends up in a kneebar. This fucks up his leg. He tries valiantly to fight from his knees but Maeda does have awesome kicks that target the knee. Maeda goes from low to high as the kicks start flying up to the head of Fujinami knocking him down. The reason why this match is so good is two Fujinami's selling and how he peppers in hope spots. His first is a Scorpion Deathlock attempt but Maeda is too close to the ropes. Again Maeda is beating the hell out of Fujinami. Maeda is so frustrating we are sitting in a armbar/headscissors combo with no heat and some of that is on Fujinami for not selling in the hold. The drama should be applying in the hold not in he hold. Fujinami gets a Bow & Arrow and then lunges in with some kicks before a PILEDRIVER! The crowd wanted a pro style match, great leg selling throughout the piledriver and the aftermath. Maeda wants the Dragon Suplex before he loses control of this match, but Fujinami blocks. Maeda is relentless kicking the bad leg of Fujinami and then catching him with a knee to the face as Fujinami is doubled over. Fujinami is selling like a champ. In what should have been the finish of the match, Maeda hits three RIDICULOUS KICKS to the face of Fujinami! I popped huge for that! I know it is the 80s but instead we get a lame cross armbreaker that is not properly sold and has not dramatic tension. Fujinami kicks out the plant leg of Maeda! Pop! Maeda kicks him in the face! Suplex struggle->Maeda Fujiwara armbar takedown that was exciting, but again they sit in this hold way too long. Fujinami catches and diverts the kick for a GERMAN, 1-2-NO! Cant hold due to the bad leg. Fujinami gets a knockdown on some kicks that I didnt really buy as knockdown worthy kicks. Maeda Capture suplex, kicks to the leg and a kneebar well at least this hold makes sense but again we are just in the hold. Maeda drags from the ropes and reapplies the hold until the ref makes him break on five was a pretty good spot. They tumble over the top rope, I for sure thought we were getting the double countout at this point. Fujinami catches the kick, back heel trip, SCORPION DEATHLOCK! This hold is worked a lot better than the others a lot for demonstrative action. Maeda kicks the bad leg and then what should definitely been the finish...MAEDA BUSTS FUJINAMI OPEN HARDWAY WITH A HEEL KICK! German 1-2-NO! Suplex 1-2-no! At least Maeda is pouring it on. They both hit spinning heel kicks and it is a double knockout.

I feel like I did a fair amount of criticizing in the review, I honestly did think it was great. I am not anti-holds in the least bit, but the way they were being worked was dragging down the really hot stand up portion of this match. Maeda is as dry as the Sahara Desert, but here at least they played to his strengths which is kicking. Whether it was targeting the leg of Fujinami or just blasting him in the face with kicks until drawing blood, Maeda looked like the most proficient striker in pro wrestling. To me it was all about Fujinami, his selling of the leg was awesome, but more importantly it was his dogged determination and hope spots that kept this match alive. Going for the Deathlock, hitting the piledriver, kicking out the plant leg, hitting a German, scoring a knockdown. All those hope spots spaced out over the course of a dominating Maeda offensive performance meant there was always drama in the match because you could never count Fujinami no matter how injured he may be. Take out some of those superfluous holds, make this Maeda literally kicking Fujinami's ass versus Fujinami's desperation hope spots and this is a damn near five star classic. As is, it is still a New Japan classic and  one that shows how to put over a compelling asskicking without dying. ****1/4

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This is why I love Maeda, he may have a different ideology than most about wrestling but he is able to blend it into other styles, that mixed with great selling and a molten crowd makes for an extremely compelling match. Maeda is very aggressive and unrelenting with his attack on the leg, locking in a nasty leg bar with Fujinami in agony refusing to give up; enduring the pain. Some nasty kicks thrown to by Maeda, one that swiftly catches Fujinami making him bleed. Fujinami selling it like death, even when making his comebacks, he had an anguished look on his face. I thought the ending was genius but that's just me. Tremendous performance by both. ****3/4

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Maeda being a shoot dick translates well into him coming off as a kayfabe dick. Guy looks smug as hell and he looks like he's having a total blast stretching out poor Fujinami. The way they treated Maeda's spinning wheel kick really put that move over as a match ender and made Maeda look dangerous as sin. He ends up cutting up Fujinami's face with a rolling koppu kick and Fujinami just pisses out blood. It's a gruesome sight, but Fujinami has a lot of fight in him. He wipes out himself and Maeda by countering a Maeda flying wheel kickand both guys are unable to make the 10 count, causing the ref to throw this one out. The crowd is molten hot for everything and it felt like NJPW were set on pushing Fujinami as the next Inoki. 

★★★★½

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