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The Bob Backlund vs Antonio Inoki series

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So, one of the goals I've had in the back of my mind for quite some time now is to watch every match in this series. I may be the only person on this forum interested in this series, but I'm not the only one on earth judging by some recent uploads. 

Here's a quick recap of the matches I've seen so far:

The 7/78 bout with Backlund is another excellent Inoki match. Backlund was pretty fantastic in it. He does that weird thing where he sticks his ass out and looks like a duck, but aside from that I thought his selling performance was nuanced and rather good. Tons of fantastic action and work. Definitely in the running for best Inoki match ever.

Finally found another Inoki vs. Backlund match online and it didn't disappoint. This time it was their 12/6/79 match. It wasn't really worked as a Strong Style match but it wasn't quite a traditional JWA style match either. For the most part, it was finisher heavy as it was a compact one fall bout and both guys were trying to land the 'knockout' punch, so to speak. Backlund's feats of strength were impressive -- the deadlifts and the suplexes -- and his selling was brilliant as always. He did some goofy punch drunk selling from repeated headbutts, which I can imagine people disliking, but when more beloved wrestlers like Hansen or Terry Funk do it then it's considered gold. The finish was a piece of shit and I imagine this is one of the weaker matches in their series, but I liked the work. The continual struggle to apply the octopus hold was cool and the effort was there throughout. Not an Inoki Classic but better than 90% of Inoki vs. foreigner bouts.

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First up is their 11/30/79 match. I adored the beginning with both guys jostling for position. I imagine for some people it's like watching paint dry but it's exactly what I want from a heavyweight title match in this era. Inoki is ridiculously underrated when it comes to working holds. There are plenty of guys who were better mat workers but how many of them were heavyweights? When you look at it from that standpoint, Inoki is fairly skilled to me. Of course, it's the 70s so you can either view the mat work as either time killing or wearing each other down, but I prefer to view it as the contest within the contest and I enjoy the moments of oneupmanship. The stand-up portions of this were decent but because it was a title change they had to get screwy with the booking and there was a bunch of bullshit with Tiger Jeet Singh involved. The finish was anticlimactic considering it was meant to be a major title victory for Inoki but there seemed to an effort made to have Backlund save face instead of letting Inoki bask in the moment. This seemed somewhere in the middle of what they were capable of against each other. 

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I really liked their 12/18/78 match. Instead of wrestling to a stalemate on the mat, they worked a really physical, gritty match. Mr. Saito and Ueda ended up attacking both wrestlers and busting them open and the closing stanza was a bloody brawl. After the match, Inoki had a towel wrapped around his head and kept screaming into the mic for one more chance at Backlund's bout. I definitely think their '78 matches are superior to their '79 matches. 

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I wasn't really a fan of what I saw six or so years ago, which was the 78 Broadway, the two matches from late 79 and the Florida match from 80. I'm a huge Backlund fan and have enjoyed Inoki from time to time. I remember seeing clips of another match that looked really interesting, likely one of the 78 matches I haven't seen, so maybe I'll give that one a watch one of these days. What are the dates for the 78 matches besides the Broadway? 

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Are these easily accessible online?  I haven't checked NJ World or other places that might have them, but curious how much digging is involved.  Sounds like a fun little rabbit hole.

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Most of the matches are accessible. There's a couple where you need to be resourceful.

The 6/78 match is excellent. You can tell it's their first time wrestling each other. They try all sorts of strategies, feeling each other out, looking to get a feel for what works and what doesn't work There's a creativity to it that's missing from their 1979 matches. I think those matches are marred by the dodgy title switch. The 1978 trilogy has some hokey non-finishes (the 'ring out' being a popular cop-out instead of a pinfall or submission), but the matches follow the chess match strategy of old-school title matches and are highly enjoyable. I wouldn't call them historic matches or anything you should drop everything to track down but they were worthy successors to Thesz and Dory Funk Jr's title defenses in Japan albeit for a different heavyweight title. 

 

 

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On 6/8/2019 at 6:39 PM, ohtani's jacket said:

So, one of the goals I've had in the back of my mind for quite some time now is to watch every match in this series. I may be the only person on this forum interested in this series, but I'm not the only one on earth judging by some recent uploads. 

OJ, I may not post on here as frequently as I used to. But lets not act like I dont exist anymore. :P

I have really been getting into Inoki recently so it is on my list to watch all their matches. I love their 7/78 match. Their 1980 Florida match is a bit of a letdown. I will add my thoughts in here as I watch them. 

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WWF Heavyweight Champion Bob Backlund vs Antonio Inoki - NJPW 11/30/79

I have seen their July 1978 (amazing) match and their April 1980 Florida match (underwhelming). I love Bob Backlund like it is my fucking problem. :P

I could watch these two shoot in on each other all day long. Great struggle and rhythm. Look how hard each man works to stay upright on those hipblock takedowns. When is the last time someone blocked a hipblock and went full Greco-Roman wrestling? That's the shit missing. You have earn even the most basic takedown here. Backlund has two spectacular bridges early on. Inoki looks to control with the headscissors. Backlund has to fight hard to get out of it and finally get a headlock. Backlund hits a kneecrusher, but it is a red herring besides a toehold, it does not stick. Tempers flare on the ropes. I love Backlund reaching around and slapping Inoki in the face. He was going to get his receipt. No one will confuse Inoki with Steamboat firing up on Flair, but the energy does pick up for a hot second when Inoki starts unloading, before settling back down. Inoki applies a short arm scissors, a hold I love and of course allows Backlund to his feat of strength. He not only places Inoki on the top rope, but slaps the taste out of his mouth and causes him to tumble back to the mat. Inoki looked astonished that he was disrespected like that. I love Bob Backlund like it is my fucking problem. Backlund then sells on the subsequent lock ups by retracting his left arm because of the short arms scissors. He is the best. 

Inoki gets a flying headscissors takedown that spikes Backlund on his head and Backlund powders. From here, the match turns into a wicked bombfest. They are throwing suplexes out like candy. They tease a vertical suplex to the outside but Inoki brings in Backlund the hard way. Backlund is thinking atomic drop but hits a back suplex instead. Inoki too close to the ropes. BACKLUND PILEDRIVER! Inoki too close to the ropes. Now it is Backlund's turn to be too close to the ropes after an Inoki Bombs Away Kneedrop and an atomic Legrdrop. I love how they tussle over an abdominal stretch. Backlund is working hard not to let it becomes the Octopus Stretch. It is all about how you sell it even the abdominal stretch can be fearsome and epic down the stretch. I loved the side salto suplex and Butterfly suplex each hits out of the move. OCTOPUS STRETCH! Backlund is in deep trouble! But he makes the ropes. Tiger Jeet Singh effectively runs the Entrance Music Distraction finish of the 21st century. The Japanese wrestlers hold him back, but Inoki is distracted. ATOMIC DROP! 1-2-3-No Kickout at 3. I think Backlund thinks he has won!?! Inoki hits a backdrop driver for the 1-2-3-Kickout. Backlund did the whole kickout at 3 to protect himself and the title. 

Baba had won his second NWA Championship just a month prior. I don't know if this was a case of keeping up with the Jones' but Inoki did manage to get that big World Championship title victory over an American on Japanese soil and even if it didnt stick and it was controversial it was another feather in his cap to continue his mystique and legacy. As far as controversial finishes go, I thought this was pretty ok. I am not a huge fan of "I thought I won, but I didnt", but Inoki's kickout was kind of late so it was sold well. I thought the match started out great as a catch wrestling contest. My complaint would be there was not much sense of progression in regards to the narrative it was just great wrestling filled with struggle. Neither of these guys will be confused for Ricky Morton, but I thought down the stretch could have used more selling or at least more move consequence, there was a definitely a lot of bomb throwing. It was the tale of two matches, the wrestling at the beginning and the more All Japan style suplex-heavy ending. I think was did make the home stretch really good was how well the abdominal stretch was used. ***3/4

 

 

 

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WWF Heavyweight Champion Antonio Inoki vs Bob Backlund - NJPW 12/6/79

Inoki was presented as the champion so he will be given that designation in this review even though WWE disputes his title reign. 

There is something therapeutic to me about watching championship style wrestling. It can be sat and enjoyed. You can process it and look for details and watch for facial expressions. I really enjoy the human game of chess as Larry Z would call it. A great example of this game of body positioning was Backlund looking to grab a leg while in the midst of a side headlock. Inoki dropped to his back and executed a monkey flip to discombobulate Backlund and then reassert his dominance with a side headlock. It is fun bits of strategy like that that I love. I like the organic nature of how they arrive in the first abdominal stretch. This being championship style the touchstone hold is a side headlock controlled by Inoki. Inoki controlled most of the first 15 minutes by working in and out of the side headlock. Backlund got a takedown here and there focusing on deathlocks, but Inoki always reclaimed control. Around the 15 minute mark, Backlund hit a Back suplex out of side headlock that rocks Inoki and kicks off the suplex heavy portion of the match. I like how it was a counter to the headlock that caused this. 

Backlund immediately pressed his newfound advantage with a legdrop for two. Inoki responded to a Backlund headlock attempt with a back suplex of his own. There are many great spots that ensue: Backlund teasing suplexing Inoki out of the ring only for Inoki to hit a suplex, Inoki missing a big kneedrop from the top, only to still cover because Backlund was still selling. In typical Backlund fashion, he deviates from conventional norms and hits a gutwrench suplex instead. I liked their awkward 1979 take on the 90s workrate of countering pinfalls. Inoki's dropkick scores him the advantage after he was forced from the ring. Inoki goes for the win early with an abdominal stretch. Backlund bounces Inoki off the mat with a butterfly suplex. Undeterred Inoki presses for a figure-4, he has to fight through a stout Backlund defense to apply it. 

From here on out, this is a stellar classic Backlund performance. He does pushups when he has reversed the pressure of the figure-4 to apply more pressure on Inoki. Inoki attacks the leg to destabilize Backlund's base and then Backlund's leg gives way in the most dramatic way possible during a slam. Inoki starts an onslaught of headbutts and Backlund's selling is epic. I loved the errant punch. There was a great Backlund facial expression when he fell down to his ass. Backlund pressed Inoki off him during a cover and onto the floor. That might have been the most useful kickout ever! As Inoki tries to get back in the ring, Backlund channels JYD and hits him with a headbutt from all fours. I love it! BACKLUND PILEDRIVER! IT IS AN EPIC ONE TOO! Backlund goes for another no wait it is an Argentine Backbreaker, but Inoki kicks off and hits backdrop for two (similar to what Inoki did against Andre in '78, good spot). Inoki goes into the short arm scissors, Backlund wastes no time to show off that impressive strength and dumps Inoki on the top rope. Here comes Tiger Jeet Singh. He punches Inoki. It is not that Inoki NO SELLS them, it is that he acts like they never even existed that's weird. Backlund picks him up for an Atomic Drop and ATOMIC DROPS HIM ON THE TOP ROPE! GNARLY FINISH! 1-2-3! 

There are few greater joys than finding another great Backlund match. This one is super ridiculously fun. There are some awkward moments, which are part and parcel with almost all Backlund matches, but that is part of the charm. It is all action in the last 15 minutes and one helluva Backlund performance! ****1/4

 

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WWF Heavyweight Champion Bob Backlund vs Antonio Inoki - NJPW 12/14/78

The action-packed Backlund vs Inoki match! A real false finish, big bombs, run-ins, blood and total pandemonium. 

I loved the beginning so much. Inoki starts off with a fast break of dropkicks that totally catches Backlund off guard. Table tops him. 1-2-3! NEW WWF HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION! Wait! What? The ref says it was 2! I love how they sold this with the bell and everything. Wrestling needs more intentional shit like this. Blown calls and then reversals are apart of pro sports. Sometimes wrestling can be too neat, clean and tidy. This was good shit. 

Restart and Backlund has escaped by the skin of his teeth. Now here comes the hard-fought tussle we expect, but it does not last long. These two had two one hour draws in Japan over the summer. This is wrestled in such a way you know it is not going to a 60 minute broadway. Inoki slaps Backlund. Backlund does not take too kindly to this and slaps him right back. Inoki chops him and Backlund sells it like he chopped high into the throat. Great selling by Backlund. Between this and the early dropkicks, Inoki came to play. Inoki follows up with a choke/sleeper, but Backlund resists enough to turn it into a reverse chinlock. Backlund tries to make this a game of strength which where he will win, but BANG! ENZIGUIRI! ROCKS BACKLUND! Inoki is on fire in this match. Backlund has his bell rung and powders. He comes back in and when Inoki looks to suplex him. He hoists him up into a Fireman's Carry and SLINGS HIM DOWN! Think Wasteland from Wade Barrett! Backlund using his best asset to physical strength to take control. Inoki responds with sliding leg kicks to soften Backlund up for a Figure-4! It really does feel like Backlund is in deep trouble against Inoki in this match. Backlund fights off another Inoki figure-4 attempt, but Inoki kicks him through the ropes. I love how hard fought this is. Inoki is just pouring it on. Backlund looks like a defeated champion in a heap. Inoki big time suplex back into the ring gets a big pop, but cant pin the champion. Nice floating Butterfly Suplex but Backlund bucks him off. Backlund hits a desperation back suplex but misses the leg drop. INOKI BOMBS AWAY KNEEDROP! MISSES! Backlund attacks the leg. This is Backlund's opening! ATOMIC DROP! HOLY SHIT! 1-2-NO! WOW! Backlund almost escaped with the win there. He goes for it again. Inoki evades and hits a backdrop driver. Backlund does the smart thing and powders. 

A bleach blond Ueda and a young Saito attack and bloody both wrestlers. For some reason, the ref lets this continue. They trade dropkicks and then Inoki dropkicks low and Backlund sells it like a nut shot and the ref does not do shit! What the fuck! First the chop to the throat and now this! Where the hell is Arnie Skaaland when you him? :P

They end up tumbling to the outside. Backlund rams Inoki's head into the ringpost, but Inoki goes bezerk and just starts bashing Backlund's head into the post and wins the match by countout. This is unlike any of there other matches. It is pedal to the metal from jump with Inoki dropkicking and almost winning the match in the first minute. There are some awkward moments to be expected. Backlund and Inoki are probably the two most on un-rhythmic wrestlers. There is a certain rhythm a match takes shine-heat-comeback-finish, but these guys totally abscond from that tradition, but while maintaining the integrity of the contest. They just make odd duck choices here and there and sometimes arent on the same page, but this is a lot more hits than misses. I really liked the story of Backlund being in deep trouble throughout the match, which is very unusual in a Backlund match. It makes the Atomic Drop feel huge like holy shit he survived and he might win! I think I would have preferred the No Contest/Run-In finish OR the countount win, the combination was definite overbooking. This is my favorite Backlund/Inoki match so far, but I do remember really liking the July 78 Broadway. ****1/4 

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