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Giant Baba

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Giant Baba vs. Bruno Sammartino (8/7/68)

 

Bruno and Baba found their sweet spot here matching the physicality of their 15 minute draw with the psychology of their 60 minute bout. If you're going to watch a Baba/Bruno bout, I'd recommend this one as it's action packed without being overly long (or least it's clipped that way, I'm not sure how much is shown in full since Cagematch is trying to tell me it went 60 minutes.) It also has a more dynamic performance from Baba with wider ranging athleticism and better execution than their broadway. Hard to imagine they having a match much better than this.

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Giant Baba vs. Gene Kiniski (12/3/70)

 

I'm never sure what to make of Gene Kiniski. The stuff he does is never bad, but he doesn't really do anything great. I'm not even sure what the consensus is on him as a worker. Man, Baba defers to his opponent a lot. He's so passive. I keep wanting him to be more aggressive in these fights. You're a giant, you should be mauling folks. When he cuts loose against Kiniski it's formidable, but then he goes straight back to the same empty holds. I get that he's a sportsman and a gentleman, but Pat Roach was probably the most articulate wrestler there's been out of the ring and he still wrestled like a bear with a sore head. This wasn't any good until they started trying to smash each other's skulls in during the third fall.

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Giant Baba vs. Gene Kiniski (8/14/67)

 

This was a slog. A long, hard fought slog, but a slog all the same. The unique thing about Baba is that he worked like a normal man despite his tremendous size. You often don't pick up on how big Baba is because he's wrestling a guys like Kiniski who are tall and athletic, and he wrestles small most of the time, but there are a few shots of him in this where he's being attended to by his seconds and you can see how big he was next to the average Japanese *wrestler* let alone the salarymen in the stands. For some reason, Baba chose to work small. I'm sure he had his reasons, but if you judge his work against a normal guy then he seems average. Not markedly average, but all this talk about him being one of the smartest wrestlers ever, or a master of psychology, just seem like euphemisms for him being pretty good for a giant. I've yet to find one spark where I think Baba was as good as folks say.

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Giant Baba vs. Bruno Sammartino (8/7/68)

 

Bruno and Baba found their sweet spot here matching the physicality of their 15 minute draw with the psychology of their 60 minute bout. If you're going to watch a Baba/Bruno bout, I'd recommend this one as it's action packed without being overly long (or least it's clipped that way, I'm not sure how much is shown in full since Cagematch is trying to tell me it went 60 minutes.) It also has a more dynamic performance from Baba with wider ranging athleticism and better execution than their broadway. Hard to imagine they having a match much better than this.

 

The times were 12:58, 4:28, 7:34. Not a 60:00.

 

 

You look to be switching between d/m/y and m/d/y format. The three Baba-Bruno matches mentioned are:

 

2/3/67 = Mar-02-1967 (9:04, 3:00, 3:52)

7/3/67 = Mar-07-1967 (17:30, 13:10, tl)

8/7/68 = Aug-07-1968 (12:58, 4:28, 7:34)

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Some new Fritz and Kiniski matches from 1970 are up on Nicovideo if you search for their names in Japanese. Hopefully the 1969 Fritz match will show up soon and I'll save it this time.

 

I have to admit I am coming around to the idea that pre-AJPW was not a super worker. I count 13 full matches available from 1964-1972, plus some highlights of stuff in JWA. That actually seems like a really good sample size, especially given the sheer length of most of those matches, and I'd agree that the guy just doesn't have enough moments of greatness in those. The Destroyer match is still great stuff, though, and it's probably where the super worker talk comes from as both guys really hit it out of the park. Below that, I also think he had really good chemistry with Fritz even if they never had a match reaching the heights of the Destroyer match.

 

The thing with Baba is he wasn't that good at a lot of the things often associated with a great wrestler. He wasn't that good at selling a beating, he wasn't that athletic, and his offense often looked awkward. When he's working upwards of 30 minutes like in many of these matches, it's almost an inevitably that things will drag a bit just given his tool set.

 

What he has going for him in a big way is charisma and connection to the crowd. Those are things that really don't decline with age and it's why I think his prime may have been in the late 70's-80's when he was working shorter singles and tags that let him play to his strengths.

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Giant Baba vs. Bruno Sammartino (8/7/68)

 

Bruno and Baba found their sweet spot here matching the physicality of their 15 minute draw with the psychology of their 60 minute bout. If you're going to watch a Baba/Bruno bout, I'd recommend this one as it's action packed without being overly long (or least it's clipped that way, I'm not sure how much is shown in full since Cagematch is trying to tell me it went 60 minutes.) It also has a more dynamic performance from Baba with wider ranging athleticism and better execution than their broadway. Hard to imagine they having a match much better than this.

 

The times were 12:58, 4:28, 7:34. Not a 60:00.

 

 

You look to be switching between d/m/y and m/d/y format. The three Baba-Bruno matches mentioned are:

 

2/3/67 = Mar-02-1967 (9:04, 3:00, 3:52)

7/3/67 = Mar-07-1967 (17:30, 13:10, tl)

8/7/68 = Aug-07-1968 (12:58, 4:28, 7:34)

 

 

Oops, I was being lazy and going with the uploaders' dates.

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Giant Baba vs. Crusher Lisowski (12/6/67)

 

Pretty bad, but I wouldn't exactly say it was Baba's fault. I don't know what happened to the fun Lisowski from the 50s but he was replaced by a muscled stiff. Baba stood up for himself and made Liowski bleed, but that was about the only worthwhile thing that happened.

 

Giant Baba vs. Abdullah the Butcher (5/19/71)

 

Worth watching if you want to see a lithe looking Abby but a lousy match otherwise.

 

Giant Baba/Kintaro Oki vs. Bobo Brazil/Chris Markoff (4/16/69)

 

Really disappointing given how cool the Inoki/Markoff match was.

 

Giant Baba/Kintaro Oki vs. Bobo Brazil/Earl Maynard (1972)

 

Also uninspiring. One thing Baba hasn't proven to be is a great brawler.

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Dory Funk Jr. & Terry Funk vs. Giant Baba & Seiji Sakaguchi (5/19/72)

 

This was more up Baba's alley. A pretty solid tag thanks to an energetic heel performance from the Funks, but a 50 minute tag? Even back then Baba was stretching these things out. Maybe it's just me but a tag match should never last 50 minutes. Having four men involved should shorten the odds of a match going broadway, drastically.

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Giant Baba vs. Fritz Von Erich (12/3/66)

 

This is probably the best non-Destroyer bout from Baba's early days. There's a serious lift in intensity from Fritz compared with other Baba opponents such as Kiniski or Bobo Brazil. His singular focus in wearing Baba down and overpowering him the claw is compelling even on a re-watch. Baba's brawling is gangly and exaggerated looking, but the chop vs. claw battle is a simple and effective narrative. It's really only Baba's selling that prevents this from being a sure fire rec. It's not that it's bad as such, it's just a fairly tepid response to Fritz' intensity. That's not the first time Baba has failed to impress due to a lack of fire. Chalk selling up as another weakness in the all-time great debate. The other thing I've noticed is that I'm starting to judge his matches' worth based on the quality of his opponent's performance, which shouldn't happen so often with an allegedly great worker. Then again perhaps Baba's case lies heavily on his 70s work. We shall see.

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Giant Baba vs. Crusher Lisowski (12/6/67)

 

I feel like I watched a totally different match from OJ here. I thought this was a really fun clubbering sprint between two big dudes with both of them showing enough charisma to make a pretty simply worked match entertaining. I thought Lisowski actually looked pretty good here and my favorite part of the match was his reaction when he realized Baba made him bleed. Baba himself gave a good fired up performance later in the match too with his own blade job. I'd definitely recommend it and would even call it a precursor to the 80's style, complete with double juice and cop-out finish. ***1/2

 

Also watched the tags, though it was too long ago to give in-depth comments on them. Off memory, I remember the gaijin team being pretty good vicious heels in the Brazil/Markoff tag, and the Earl Maynard was also fun though a noticeable step down due to it being worked as more of a comedy match.

 

Giant Baba vs. Fritz von Erich (12/19/69)

 

Finally found a torrent with what seems to be an oddly rare match even among hardcore collectors. Thanks so much to whoever put together the All Japan Classics compilation on XWT Classics as this is from episode 100 on that. Anyway, I would call this a pretty masterful old school heel performance from Fritz. The story sees him gaining the lead early on through cheap shots, only for Baba to then make his big comeback and try to ward off the opportunistic von Erich. Fritz is so good here working as a sleezy Memphis style heel, doing a great job with things like stalling, hiding from the ref, and jaw jacking to set up for some vicious strikes and his big claw hold. As far as I could tell, he was just unloading on Baba here without holding much back on his punches, and Baba responded by giving a much more spirited performance than usual, both on offense and in selling. The crowd gets pretty into the match and things builds really well to an epic claw hold finish. ****1/4

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Giant Baba vs. The Destroyer (3/5/69)

This is a really good match and Baba is excellent in it, but it's nothing like Baba's other JWA performances and has probably done more than any other match to mythologize Baba as one of the smartest workers ever, a great worker, or better than average. I don't think it's automatically the best match from the 60s as people had a tendency to call it in the past, nor would I really rate it alongside a classic like Thesz vs. Gagne, but it's a strong bout with solid psychology, and it's easy to see why Baba looked like such a world beater when people first saw it. At the very least it's a feather in his cap that most workers would envy.

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Great that you're back on this. I'd actually agree Baba/Destroyer isn't the slam dunk for best 60's match it was once viewed as in a world where Cesca/Catanzaro has been unearthed. I would still be curious what else you'd put up there with it, though, since you're someone who's seriously dug into footage from France and other territories from the period.

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I would say Billy Howes vs. Jacques Lageat is the best match I've seen from the 60s, but I shouldn't talk about it too much as I'm not able to share it. Chemoul vs. Cesca would be close to that level if it had a better finish.

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Giant Baba/Antonio Inoki vs. Gene Kiniski/Johnny Valentine (2/1/72)

This is indeed the Johnny Valentine show, and he's great in it as the Segunda boys said. It's actually a bit disconcerting the first time you see him in close-up as he looks so much like Greg. Valentine and Kiniski put a solid heel shift here. It was easily the best foreign heel stuff I've seen Kiniski do. He picked his spots well and didn't get in the way of Valentine. Baba and Inoki were serviceable but by no means spectacular. They were serviceable in the same way that the Misawa/Kawada tag team was serviceable against foreign heel teams in the early 90s. The bout was highlighted by Baba and Valentine going toe-to-toe but you got the impression that Baba wasn't using his size to full effect. It was as though he wanted to be treated as a normal athlete. The Japanese team could have shown a bit more fire in general, I thought. The structure was too choppy for it to a classic and it ran out of steam toward the end but that is often the case with these overly long JWA bouts that sacrifice rhythm and pacing for length. Valentine was awesome, though. A must-see if you're interested in the man. 

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Giant Baba vs. Fritz Von Erich (12/19/69)

Good ol' Fritz sure brings out the best in Baba. This was a nasty little fight that pitted Fritz' claw against Baba's chops to the face and throat. There wasn't a moment's peace for the referee as it threatened to get out of control right from the referee's instructions. And it was Fritz vs. Baba, so it ended with an epic claw struggle, a mad glint in Fritz' eye, and a Baba bladejob. Fritz really was the master of the DQ finish. 

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Giant Baba vs. Gene Kiniski (12/18/70)

This had a real corporate feel to it with all the Mitsubishi suits at ringside. A decent return match. Kiniski was a pedestrian heel but he had at least one woman at ringside riled up. Some nice legwork as you'd expect from a Baba title match (a sensible strategy, I suppose, when you're taking on a giant.) Baba had to work for his victory. Both falls were hard earned. The title victory felt like an achievement and often that's the thing you're looking for -- something with a bit of meaning to it. It was fairly reserved compared to the emotional title matches you'd see later on in All Japan but a rock-solid part of Baba's resume. 

Giant Baba vs. Dory Funk Jr. (12/3/69)

This didn't disappoint. It's been a long time since I watched the Dory vs. Inoki matches so I won't make any comparisons between the two, but I was super impressed with Dory. He looked good on the mat early on but it was his selling that bowled me over. He was channeling his father with his punch drunk selling and did a wonderful job putting over Baba's strikes. He ramped up the heel work in the second fall and pulled off a convincing Texas wildman performance as time ran out. He even threw a table in the ring! For a guy not known for his range, he put on a tour de force in this bout. Baba was good but it was Dory's performance that stood out. To some extent that it's because of how theatrical and over-the-top the touring champ's actions are when they go the spectacle route but honestly you don't expect Dory to be this good at being a Funk. 

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Giant Baba vs. Dick the Bruiser (2/28/68)

I expected a different sort of Dick the Bruiser here compared to his 50s stuff, and sure enough, this had a lot of brawling and cheating. I still kind of liked it even if it was bare-bones wrestling. I've seen enough 50s Bruiser that he's become likeable to me. It's interesting that I'm always talking about Baba's opponents in these matches. It seems as though Baba's performance never really changes from one match to another. You plug him in there and he either does leg work or retaliatory chops. To be fair, these matches are predominantly about the foreign heels so it's no surprise that their cheating takes the spotlight but does Baba come across as a great babyface? If he did these matches might be better.

Giant Baba vs. Dick the Bruiser (4/10/75)

It's interesting to me how much wilder these mid-70s All Japan bouts are than the late 60s JWA bouts. I wonder if that reflected some sort of cultural change in Japanese society. At any rate, Baba was rocking longer hair here and working a rougher style. There was a ton of carnage, a double bladejob and the match broke down completely. Worth watching to see Dick raise a little hell but not memorable otherwise. 

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Bobo Brazil vs. Giant Baba (6/27/68)

Well, this wasn't terrible. You'd have to be insane to think it would be good but it didn't put me to sleep. I would've preferred them to beat the shit out of each other for 10 minutes and bleed but I understand there were loftier expectations when it came to title matches. I wish Baba would remember that he's a giant and stop working like a light heavyweight. Okay, maybe you want to show that you're a good seller and that you're quicker than a regular big man. And maybe you want to prove that you're an athlete and not some freak show. I get that. But the gentle giant stuff only goes so far. You're a big guy! Use your size. Kick some ass when you need to. It's no surprise that the best Baba looked at this was when he fired up for the second fall finish. The fans loved him no matter what. There were a lot of salaryman types and they were cheering and hollering and throwing cushions in the ring at the end. But I really want to see Baba take the fight to someone. It's hard because it's not like he was ever a heel. He doesn't have the sort of edge that comes with being an on again, off again bad boy, but fire up Baba!

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I'll have to check that out.

Giant Baba vs. Bobo Brazil (5/16/69)

Baba brought more intensity here but his brawling looked like shit. Poor guy can't catch a break with me right now. 

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