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Tatsumi Fujinami vs Bret Hart

Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Bret Hart  

21 members have voted

  1. 1. Who is better? Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Bret Hart

    • Fujinami
      12
    • Bret
      8
    • Draw
      1


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I've been thinking about these two recently. Both are very high level for me, top-10/top-5 types (had Bret at #3 and Fujinami #5 in the GWE poll). I could go either way depending on the day.

Very similar in terms of career paths by age, position on card, their versatility, and style within their respective promotions.

Both were also basically ranked right next to each other during the GWE with almost identical voting statistics. Although somehow I suspect on average the people who were high on Bret weren't as high on Fujinami, and vice-versa. Curious where the board stands 5 years later.

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Have to go with Fujinami, who has had one of the longest, most complete career arcs I have seen. A genuine GOAT contender

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I chose Fujinami because I think his 70s and 80s stuff is better than what Bret did in the 80s and 90s. I also think Fujinami's NJPW vs. WAR and MUGA stuff is better than Bret's final run in WCW. If you were to offer me a newly discovered Fujinami match over a newly discovered Bret match, I would take the Fujinami match any day of the week. I love Bret. He was one of my heroes growing up, but I feel like I've closed the book on him. It's difficult for me to imagine a new Bret match that would excite me. Perhaps a newly discovered Owen match or something with Hennig. I guess an Austin match, but less so. 

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I went Brent. I watched a whole lot of Fujinami matches, and I enjoyed it, but at no point did he establish himself as a compelling character. Bret Hart the worker never did anything that Bret Hart the character wouldn't do, if that makes any sense, and I always wanted to watch that character.

Fujinami probably has the better CV in terms of volume of good work (in large part because Hart got Goldberged out of having a late career), but Bret was better at being a pro wrestler. I think Bret could have done what Fujinami did, and I don't think the reverse is true. Put Hart in there with Kimura, Hirata, etc., and he'd be perfectly capable of wrestling good matches with them. Could Fujinami have pulled off the double turn with Austin or the feud with Owen?

And I use those examples because, while there were promos involved, the storytelling was largely physical. That is exactly the kind of thing Fujinami wasn't any good at.

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No, Fujinami couldn't have pulled off the double turn or the feud with Austin, but he had equally famous rivalries of his own with Inoki and Choshu. If you put Bret in a Japanese match, it would suck. I have no faith in the idea that Bret would be interesting in Japan. 

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9 minutes ago, ohtani's jacket said:

If you put Bret in a Japanese match, it would suck. I have no faith in the idea that Bret would be interesting in Japan. 

He failed miserably against Tiger Mask Misawa.

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Why is that one bad match his fault and not Misawa's? The idea that Bret Hart couldn't have a good match against Kengo Kimura beggars belief.

He wrestled Choshu a bunch of times. Maybe I missed it, but nothing in Fujinami's work suggested any progression in his character or his attitude toward his rival. The one time he's supposed to show anger, getting himself disqualified for being too vicious, he can't muster the fire he needs to make it convincing.

In his matches with Choshu and Inoki, the other guys are a lot more memorable than Fujinami. For a top guy, he was too often a bystander in his own matches.

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A match against Kimura would have taken place in the 80s. Outside of the WWF, how many good matches did Bret have in the 80s? I've never seen a good 80s Bret Hart match from Calgary, WoS or Japan. From memory, Bret started to have good singles matches against the likes of Steamboat and Savage in '86-87 and then started to break out in '89 with matches against Hennig and Dibiase. It's possible that he could have had a good match with Kimura around that time, but I wouldn't bet on it. Bret didn't really come into his own until his IC runs where he really started developing the Hitman character. Bret Hart the worker, with no Hitman character, was pretty boring. Calgary Bret Hart. on excursion in New Japan, is gonna have an exciting match with Kimura? I don't see it. Ironically, the best Calgary match I've seen was Dynamite Kid vs. Fujinami. Even if you're talking about Bret in his prime vs. Kimura, it's still far removed from the WWF environment that Bret was so entrenched in. We used to have these discussions back in the day about whether Bret would have been great in WCW if he'd jumped in '92 and I have my doubts. I think he was a real dyed-in-the-wool WWF worker. 

I've never had a problem with Fujinami's fire or character work. He's always been a pretty emotive worker dating back to his juniors days. I can see it being boring for folks, I guess. Bret wasn't hugely emotive, either. He was more subtle and nuanced than a lot of acclaimed workers. Sometimes it felt realistic, sometimes mechanical. It's not like we're coming Fujinami and Terry Funk. 

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Kimura wrestled into the 21st century, but I was thinking more prime Hart time-traveling into prime Fujinami's position. 

I'm always surprised at how many people on PWO think so little of Bret. He did pretty well in the GWE voting, but the thread about him is a lot more negative than I would have guessed.

I'd be interested to hear some detail on what you mean by dyed-in-the-wool WWF worker. He worked fine with Flair (I want to say better than Fujinami did, but it's been a while since I've seen Hart vs. Flair); he wasn't out of his element when Hakushi was doing Space Flying Tiger Drops on him.

I can understand that Hart's character might not land for someone (I have a similar block with Kenta Kobashi), but your comment that he was subtle and nuanced gets to why I prefer him. I don't find any nuance in Fujinami's work. He does a pretty good fighting spirit babyface, and that's the extent of it.

And as far as the actual work goes, I cannot imagine the guy who wrestled Owen at WM10 having a bad match with any of the more technically-minded NJPW guys. I'm thinking Hase as the dream opponent, and Hashimoto as the worst case. I don't know that I've ever seen a Hart match built around him getting potatoed, which is an area where Fujinami excelled.

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I thought Bret’s matches with Tiger Mask in ’82 were safely good, probably as good as anything Fujinami had done in the Garden in those early years. But Bret in New Japan or Fujinami in the US strike me as more hypothetical than anything. There’s not a fair sample size to answer either question definitively. Fujinami had a less than stellar match with Flair at Superbrawl but I wouldn’t necessarily use that as evidence of Fujinami being unable to adapt to US style.

Regardless, I’m not sure those type of questions are even relevant. Would Tenryu or Misawa be able to have great matches in mid-90’s WWF? I don’t see it, I think they would have really struggled. But I doubt anyone would hold that hypothetical against them when ranking them. Similarly, Jerry Lawler working Fujinami in Japan wasn’t pretty but that doesn’t seem to hurt his standing either. I think these type of comparisons ultimately come down to how each wrestler worked in their respective style/promotion, and then choosing between them is probably at least somewhat of a reflection of personal preference for a particular style or promotion.

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As I did not realize that there is more than one Bret Hart vs. Tiger Mask that made tape I quickly looked them up on cagematch and among the four singles matches they had, two were in fricking Dubai. That's wrestling trivia for you.

Re: Tenryu & Misawa in mid-90ies WWF: Misawa would have struggled for sure, Tenryu would have done fine, I think.

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Re: Tenryu, I don't know if I agree with that. Every time I've seen him in a US ring, he seemed like just a guy. Take away his stiffness and violence and what do the matches look like? I can't see a Tenryu/Luger match on Action Zone being noteworthy in any way.

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Tenryu was in not one but two Royal Rumble. I remember a Tenryu vs Kimchee (I guess Brooklyn Brawler) match actually too in 1993. Little did I knew then...

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1 hour ago, Frankensteiner said:

Re: Tenryu, I don't know if I agree with that. Every time I've seen him in a US ring, he seemed like just a guy. Take away his stiffness and violence and what do the matches look like? I can't see a Tenryu/Luger match on Action Zone being noteworthy in any way.

The Tenryu stuff in the US (at least the WWF stuff, to be honest I have not seen earlier US stuff of his and (1) I am not sure how much of 81 Mid Atlantic or 70ies Amarillo is even around and (2) that was so long before his prime that you cannot count that anyway) was not meant to be anything special. Those matches were photo ops to get a picture of him at Wrestlemania into Weekly Pro or whatever and nothing more. Tenryu had very good matches against early 90ies Randy Savage, I am sure he would be able to go with guys like Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels or the British Bulldog toning his style down a notch. Yokozuna is a guy he probably he would have done better against than anyone in WWF did. I would guess the biggest name around than he might have had problems getting much out him would have been Kevin Nash. That match-up probably would have stunk.

Obviously still all is under the assumption that Tenryu would not have had a stereotypical evil Japanese gimmick (which he would have had).

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Just now, Robert S said:

Yokozuna is a guy he probably he would have done better against than anyone in WWF did.

 

Just now, Robert S said:

Obviously still all is under the assumption that Tenryu would not have had a stereotypical evil Japanese gimmick (which he would have had).

You know he would have used the Orient Express music theme. You know it.

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I really like the 5/9/94 Tenryu vs Yoko match when I saw it a few months ago:

This was great. Totally great. The opening exchange: Tenryu can't chip away at Yoko. Yoko slams him. Tenryu chops him right in the face. Yoko's retaliation in this was the stiffest I've ever seen him and this is a guy who'd crush jobbers in the corner on the regular. Likewise, Tenryu's back brain kicks were able to hit in a way that would have just been impossible against a normal opponent. Obviously, Yoko knows exactly what to give and what not to at this point and the two or three kicks just stagger him so Tenryu can hit the first Russian Leg Sweep I've ever seen him do. Later on it's three clotheslines with the last one flying, etc. Anyway, I'm used to these things going an extra 5-10 minutes and this doesn't. Once they hit the floor and get the weapons involved, it's over, right when it was getting good. Excellent match up though.

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Tried organizing my thoughts but still too close to call in my mind.

If I had to make a case for each, I’d say Fujinami’s junior heavyweight period was better than Bret’s early Hart Foundation run, and the periods from the Sekigun/Ishingun feud through the UWF invasion were better than Bret’s run with the Intercontinental Championship. And just looking at them from a traits standpoint, I think Fujinami was the better and more graceful athlete so his matches could be seen as more exciting just based on athleticism. Not that Bret was a bad or uncoordinated athlete, but Fujinami is one of the smoothest athletes ever in wrestling.

For Bret, I’d say his main event run from ’92 – ’97 is better than Fujinami’s ’88-’94 run on top with the IWGP belt. And although the difference between their main runs probably isn’t as great as their undercard runs, I’m inclined to weigh their peak years on top more heavily. I would also argue Bret showed more versatility through his work as a subtle heel/heel against other babyfaces and as a brawler against Lawler or Austin, or even Owen. It’s just a side that Fujinami didn’t get a chance to showcase as much given how and where he wrestled. 

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