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[1988-06-24-NJPW] Tatsumi Fujinami vs Riki Choshu

Superstar Sleeze

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Tatsumi Fujinami vs Riki Choshu - NJPW 6/24/88 Vacant IWGP Championship

Fujinami was the IWGP Champion going into their May match but lost match to Choshu on a referee's decision based on being hobbled with a bum wheel by Choshu's attacks. Rather than award the title to Choshu, the title was declared vacant and this is the rematch.

Choshu dominated this match but did not target the leg at all. Really nice Fujinami armdrag/Choshu headscissors sequence. I always like how New Japan incorporates the headscissors into the match, there is something more manly about their execution. Fujinami escapes and establishes control with a Cravat but is met with two stiff kneelifts and then a thunderous powerslam by Big Match Riki. Choshu figure-4s the head. This is the rhythm of the match. Choshu hits some big slam bang moves and then hits a hold. Fujinami gets the Bow & Arrow out of it, a common New Japan reversal of the time. They reset on stand up looking for a test of strength Choshu CRACKS Fujinami with a slap relentless on the stomps then executes a strange cross-armbreaker with a Figure-4 around the shoulder. Fujinami makes it to the ropes and powders. Upon coming he fires up with some kicks to knot up Choshu's thigh but it is not enough as Choshu executes a Kneecrusher which naturally leads to the Scorpion Deathlock of course. Fujinami breaks free of that and Choshu clamps on a headlock which is the perfect setup for Fujinami's Robinson Backbreaker, which was the real big move executed by Fujinami. Fujinami applies his patented Dragon Sleeper the first one looked good, second one he kinda lost control of. Choshu slams him off the top and Fujinami ends up on the outside. On the apron, Choshu smokes with a Lariat and Fujinami comes up bleeding, must have the "impact of the fall". Big Match Riki is winding up for the finish. I love how Choshu really gets you pumped for the finish. A bloody Fujinami valiantly attempts a dropkick counterattack but Choshu holds onto the ropes. Fujinami closes the gap and nails the dropkick before Choshu can Lariat him. OCTOPUS STRETCH! Cant hold it! Backslde! Enziguiri! Fujinami truly Inoki's disciple! On the second small package, Fujinami wins and regains the IWGP Championship. 

I liked the May match better, I thought it felt bigger and more dramatic. This was still great and a joy to watch, but it felt smaller and more standard. Slam Bang Move->Hold->Escape->Slam Bang->Rinse lather repeat is a rhythm I enjoy a lot truly and Choshu has a knack for making his matches really sticky. I didnt take a single solitary note watching the match and yet the match was wicked easy to remember because of the rhythm and the very natural progression which I appreciate a lot. I think what this match was really missing to put it over the top was Choshu getting a big nearfall with a Saito Suplex or Lariat or really building the drama to the Scorpion Deathlock without that I dont think the match reaches the all--time classic level, but definitely a great match worth watching. ****   

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