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[1986-02-05-NJPW] Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs Akira Maeda

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Maybe not the perfect match but the perfect match-up, and my ideal match, hitting everything I want in a pro-wrestling match. Plenty of snug and effective matwork up front, with the little things executed so well. But the match really delivers after the restart, where you get hard kicks and bodyshots, and Fujiwara working the hell out of his signature armbar, catching Maeda from all angles and transitioning to the double wristlock when he sees the opportunity. Awesome finish too, with Fujiwara grabbing the heel hold and Maeda grabbing the choke as a counter, seeing who can hold out before Fujiwara starts drooling and finally passes out. Great match.

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Now I am really confused did you watch the same match twice?

Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs Akira Maeda - NJPW 2/5/86

So the disparity between this match and January is not as great as I thought going into this. This match finished #24 and the January match finished #29. For me, the January match is clearly the better complete match. This match has the better finish. I was reminded a lot of the heralded Maeda vs Takada match from UWF REBORN 1988. In the way that the front half of the match is filled with inconsequential shoot-style filler before they kick off the hot finish run. There is a lot of great hold/counterhold, some great takedowns, strikes and even misses, but nothing feels like it matters until they roll out of the ring both locked in my least favorite hold the "bundle of legs" lock. After the restart, this match is wrestled at a ***** clip. Thats what makes rating this and that Takada/Maeda match so difficult. JIP to the restart and you could be fooled this is a Greatest Match Ever contender. Fujiwara tries to close the gap on Maeda to avoid the kicks and work the body. Maeda is able to create separation and land some wicked kicks. Fujiwara powders. Fujiwara tries a takedown but Maeda reverses into a deep double wristlock forcing Fujiwara to powder. I love when you see different aspects of strategy only to be thwarted. It is very Ric Flair. Maeda is poised to dominate and looks for his German suplex, BUT ARMBAR TAKEDOWN! SHADES OF JANUARY! The crowd pops! I love 80s Japanese crowds. Fujiwara cant cinch it in fully and Maeda rolls, but Fujiwara gets a deep double wristlock. Maeda has huge legs and is able to get a rope break. This is what would do Fujiwara in as he would get another Fujiwara armbar takedown, but Maeda's long legs saved him. So Fujiwara goes for a toehold to eliminate this advantage and then the mother of all finishes happens. As Fujiwara is wrenching on this toehold, Maeda applies a choke, Fujiwara is trying to rip Maeda's leg off, but it is just too big. He is foaming at the mouth and almost as if rigor mortis sets in he is frozen yanking on the toehold only to pass out drooling. Maeda lets go knowing what he has done and the ref calls the match. I love the last half of the match: Fujiwara constantly changing strategies to adapt to Maeda only to succumb to a choke hold in the most epic fashion possible, but just like that Maeda/Takada match I cant give wicked high marks to something where the front half is so inconsequential. CHECK OUT THIS FINISH! ****1/4

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Excellent match. The grappling was great to see, so snug even for 80's NJ. Then the striking was good. Everything felt like a battle and struggle. ****1/4

 

Edit: Much better second time around. Loved the grappling throughout the match. I thought I'd be more into the striking aspects of the match, given that's what I like about wrestling the most, but they sucked me into the back and forth struggle for holds that the stiff as hell strikes were actually a low point in the match, and I still loved those parts all the same. And what about the ending, Fujiawara with a heel hold, Maeda with a rear naked choke. First one to fall loses. Great match. The restarts didn't bother me a ton but they did disrupt the flow the match had a bit. ****3/4 

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