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[1977-05-14-AJPW] Giant Baba vs Jumbo Tsuruta


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This is the final match of the 1977 Champion Carnival, whose existence on tape I was unaware of until discovering it on YouTube last night. What you have to know going into this is that, in the semifinal immediately prior, Baba got a DQ win against 1976 Carnival winner Abdullah the Butcher, but weathered one of his postmatch assaults. This of course recalls the circumstance Baba found himself in during the previous Carnival, when he had to wrestle Abby in the final immediately after finishing his semifinal match, and got ambushed by the Butcher. Not only is this Jumbo's first Carnival final, it's also likely the best chance he's ever going to get to defeat his mentor. 

Jumbo works the headlock early on, but Baba gets out of it with a big backdrop and a neckbreaker for a 2-count. Jumbo recovers first and hits a pair of bulldogs before getting a vertical suplex for a 2. He goes for the butterfly suplex, but ultimately compromises with a piledriver and takes it to his mentor with stomps. When Baba recovers, Jumbo tosses him out of the ring and slams his head against the announce table. I have to note the bit afterward where Baba stands and exhales, in an expression that just screams "oh, my boy". It's definitely playing to that paternal vibe that his relationship with Tsuruta sometimes had. 

When he returns to the ring, he gets some big moves, but Jumbo hits a jumping knee. He pulls Baba by his leg away from the bottom rope he's clutching, and gives Higuchi a shove or two as he tries to stop him. He gets a Boston crab, but Baba pushes himself up by his arms and gets a pin which is broken up by the ropes. Jumbo then whips him, gets a dropkick, and locks in the spinning toe hold. However, Baba makes a nifty escape.

Jumbo makes his last stand with an abdominal stretch, but Baba hobbles to the rope and throws him off of him through them. Jumbo recovers and gets an over-the-rope sunset flip for a two, but as he recovers to whip Baba once more, the Giant shoves him instead, and Baba hits the falling neckbreaker drop on the rebound to end it. 

This works best if you watch it in sequence with the Baba/Abby match beforehand. If you want the best Baba/Jumbo match, though, I would direct you to their encounter during the previous year's Carnival. Still, I appreciate this as a snapshot of Wakadaisho-era Jumbo. He didn't have a shot at winning this, of course, but this is still early enough in his career that his failures haven't yet come to define him as they would in the early 1980s (in other words, the Zensenman era). And I have to wonder whether Baba was drawing on how the 76-7 Carnivals had been booked when it came time for Kawada to get his first Carnival victory (and first singles pin on Misawa) in 1997.

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