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Superstar Sleeze

[1987-04-27-NJPW] Antonio Inoki vs Masa Saito

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Antonio Inoki vs Masa Saito - NJPW 4/27/87

The year 1987 saw the return of New Japan's Original Cool Heels, Masa Saito & Riki Choshu. Choshu is in the crowd for this match while Fujinami is Inoki's second. This is towards the beginning of the Inoki/Saito feud that would lead to the infamous Island Death Match. Long before the Final Deletion, Inoki had the idea to shoot a feature-length Death Match on a remote island. For someone who worshiped legitimacy, Inoki was the master of the spectacle and this match is a testament to that. It us a simple match but it builds to an incredible crescendo. It begins as a strong fundamentals-based wrestling match. Saito being an Olympic wrestler contends well with Inoki on the mat. He gets a leg whip and leads to the best Scorpion Deathlock I have ever seen. Saito just mauls him. Three Saito Suplexes, two clotheslines and another Scorpion Deathlock. This is a squash match. Inoki has some moments of good selling like deadweighting after the first Saito Suplex. Or how he stumbles on the outside when he tries to get up. These little things mean a lot because Inoki is such a Superman. I think the match would have been more enhanced with a better more traditional seller, but then we wouldnt have gotten the insane ending. Saito after third Saito Suplex decides he is going to drop Inoki throat first across the top rope a bunch and then decides hey lets have real fun and drop him balls first on the top rope. Inoki is now pissed and hits a Kappo Kick that stuns Saito. He immediately tries to dismantle the top rope. Great psychology! I would be like "Fuck the top rope" too. So the ref rules the rest of the match to be a no ropes match. Instantaneously this match is special and wicked memorable. Inoki is keyed up wins the stand up battle and then busts Saito wide open with repeated slams into the metal post. Inoki is targetting that cut with punches and kicks. This is one of those bladejobs where it is so grizzly that Inoki ends up totally covered in Saito's blood. Saito gets some handcuffs and starts punching Inoki with those and then punts him in the balls to cuff him. Inoki fires back! Then in one of the most dramatic and gripping stand up battles Inoki vacillates between punches and headbutts to the cut to finally knock Saito down. It was the perfect blend of fire from Inoki and staggered selling by Saito. Inoki beats Saito literally to bloody pulp so that Hiroshi Hase has to throw in the towel. Then the drama kicks into overdrive. Inoki is mad with bloodlust and is attacking Hase. Fujinami is trying to pull Inoki off. Choshu is trying to storm the ring to save his mentor, Saito, but is being held back. In the fracas, Choshu takes a swing at Fujiami and connects. Everybody is laying the badmouth on each other in Japanese and it is mayhem. Just one of those great Inoki spectacle matches, Saito kicks ass and Inoki makes a helluva comeback and the no ropes element makes this an instantly memorable classic. ****1/2

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Weird and wonderful spectacle. They start out wrestling straight, with lots of cool amateur style grappling. Saito gets the advantage when he looks in his awesome Prison Lock. He continues focussing on Inokis legs, with Inoki resisting against the Scorpion Deathlock with all his might. Saito proceeds to take a few pages out of Choshus playbook and destroys Inoki with lariats, backdrops and Scorpion holds. Inoki looks badly beaten up and is seemingly done, so Saito proceeds to punish him some more by dropping him crotch first on the ropes. This humiliation wakes up Inoki again, he catches Saito with the abisegiri. Now things get really whack as Inoki has the ropes removed (he is the boss after all) and starts beating down Saito. A brutal posting later and Saito is gushing blood and eating punches and Ezugiris left and right. Sneaky Hiroshi Hase who is seconding Saito hands hima pair of handcuffs and he and Inoki are chained together. The good times don't last long for Masa Saito though as Inoki is soon back to brutally beating him down with punches, headbutts and elbows. Both guys are coated in blood by now and Inoki is pounding away at a motionless Masa Saito until Hase throws in the towel. Quite the epic spectacle as this was a mix of quality wrestling and a violent bloodbath, altough the handcuff/rope removal stuff felt a little forced.

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One of the most intense, hate driven matches I've seen, and it has a whole side of awesomeness to it as well. There is basically two parts to the match. The first part was the back and forth between Saito and Inoki. Saito keeps going for the Prison Lock (when it's locked on, it looks great - really tight) and using his power to keep Inoki at bay, while Inoki keeps on the defensive and relies on his fury and superior wrestling skills. Th second part is when Inoki has enough of Saito using the ropes to his advantage and has them taken down. That's when this match reaches a whole new level as Saito gets busted open and Inoki punches the life right out of him. It was great. The heat was off the charts, along with the crowd's reaction to it all. The post match angle was done extremity well. All round excellent match with a huge big fight feel to it. Blood and a whole lot of fire. ****1/2

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Very interesting match. Slow build but psychology wise it was sound. But then it escalates into a fight as Saito unleashes Inoki's fury. Inoki snapping and pounding a handcuffed Saito into a bloody pulp was quite the finishing stretch. ***1/2

 

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