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[1979-12-06-NJPW] Antonio Inoki vs Bob Backlund

Superstar Sleeze

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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 that 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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