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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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