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Anybody familiar with the All Japan product of the early 90s knows that foreign talent still had a very important and prominent role during this period; for one, it wouldn’t be until 1996 when the Triple Crown switched hands between native competitors for a third time, after the two Jumbo/Tenryu switches of 1989. Baba was upfront in this period about his “absolute confidence” in the exports he hired, and in an interview around the time of the AJPW/NJPW/WWF Wrestling Summit had stated his ambitions to gather a crop of foreign talent for the 1990 Real World Tag League that would be comparable to the WWF Superstars that worked the Dome. Baba wasn’t just talking about the superheavyweights, either; the way that he saw “bright, fun, and intense pro-wrestling” being fulfilled in gaikokujin vs. gaikokujin matches was through teams such as the Fantastics, Midnight Express, and Can-Am Express intermingling with the big beefy boys. He had clearly learned the lesson that the Bulldogs/Malenkos tag of January 1989 had to teach him.

Some were simply not cut out for AJPW’s ideas of “new intense pro-wrestling”. There was, of course, the case of Scotty the Body, the future Raven, who worked the Summer Action Series II tour and never returned, having been driven to tears by Kawada’s stiff kicks during a tag match. But there were also those whose ethos ran counter to the ideals that All Japan now embraced. During a university talk in November 1989, in which he had also disclosed the reason for his estrangement from the NWA, Baba also claimed he had notified American promotions that any wrestler who committed a foul would not be invited to return.

On October 10, 1990, somebody dared to defy Baba. In the semi-main event, Stan Hansen & Danny Spivey wrestled Abdullah the Butcher & Giant Kimala II, and Abby threw the match out with an assault upon referee Joe Higuchi. The next day, Tokyo Sports printed Baba’s furious comments. Foul play was unacceptable, no matter who performed it. Abdullah would not actually be banned; although he would leave mid-tour after participating in the following show he was just put on “probation”, and would even enter the RWTL. Ichinose saw this incident as a way for All Japan to tighten the reins ahead of October 18, the date of SWS’s first major show, and indeed, Baba directly mentioned that SWS would be able to call All Japan out on this in his press comments.

The 1990 RWTL consisted of 13 teams: 3 Japanese, 8 foreign, and two mixed. Misawa & Kawada and Jumbo & Taue, representing Chosedaigun and Tsurutagun respectively, were joined on the Japanese front by the ex-IWE team of Rusher Kimura & Mighty Inoue. Giant Baba would join forces with Andre the Giant to fulfill an old dream team, while Kenta Kobashi teamed up with Johnny Ace. Finally, the foreign contingent consisted of: the Miracle Violence Connection, Hansen & Spivey, the Funks (making their final joint appearance in the tournament which they had won three times), Abdullah & Kimala II, Dynamite Kid & Johnny Smith, The Land of Giants, and Dick Slater & Joel Deaton.

Baba & Andre went on a tear in the tournament’s early goings. The two won their first six straight matches, which included encounters with the Tsurutagun team and the eventual runner-up MVC (where Baba pinned Gordy). As they won their seventh match against Misawa & Kawada by forfeit (due to Misawa having injured ligaments in his left knee during his tournament match against Hansen & Spivey), a tournament win seemed a real possibility. On November 30, however, their match against the Funks would end in double countout when Baba fractured his left femur. Not only was he out of the tour, he would be absent from the company entirely for months. As Baba was hospitalized in Tokyo, Tsuruta would fill in for him on commentary on the following night’s television taping in Sapporo, and would also take over the autograph-signing service that Baba had done for every show. At the commentary desk that night, Tsuruta made remarks about the progress that his partner had made, and about his intentions to teach Taue “the Jumbo Tsuruta style” so that he would be able to fight Hansen and the like on an even footing.

The New Year would see Taue begin his seven-match Trial Series, as Baba recovered in the hospital. It would also see an angle begin between Taue and Kawada.

On the first show of the New Years Giant Series, a Korakuen date, Taue began his Trial Series with a loss to Danny Spivey. Therefore, he was not directly involved in the de facto main event before the annual battle royal, a tag between Misawa & Kawada and Tsuruta & Inoue. He would become involved, though, after Mighty grabbed an umbrella from the crowd and used it on Kawada, who took the object and returned in kind. Taue intervened, and Kawada kept his temper under control until the match ended, but they began to brawl afterwards, bleeding into the battle royal in which both participated. At the Korakuen show the next day, during Kawada’s entrance for an untelevised Kawada/Kikuchi vs. Tsuruta/Fuchi tag, Taue ambushed him. Kawada would return in kind by storming Tsurutagun’s waiting room after the match, throwing a chair at Taue. This was old-school Showa puroresu shit, absolutely unacceptable under the ideals of “bright pro-wrestling”, but when mothers are away and all that.

The two would wrestle on January 7 in Osaka, for the third match of Taue’s Trial Series. (There is a handheld recording in circulation, but it was taped from a doorway and is mostly obstructed by the heads of other audience members.) Kawada would win in 14:24, but after the match, Tsuruta came out and demanded that they have another go at it. So, as an extra match in Taue’s Trial Series, he would face Kawada again for the January 15 Korakuen show. And he made the most of it, exploding as Kawada was about to enter the ring. Finally, Taue found the gumption which Kawada, like Tenryu before him, had accused him of lacking. Taue lost again, and in nearly three minutes less than in Osaka, but Ichinose did not feel he was lacking. Upon Kawada’s return to the dressing room, he acknowledged Taue’s strong performance, and stated that “he should always fight like that”. On this night, Taue began to develop his own style of “intense pro-wrestling”, but Ichinose notes that he still had a lot of growing to do. In a March 1992 interview Taue himself would acknowledge what many considered an inconsistency in his performances, comparing his fluctuating temperament to the high waves of the Genkai Sea.

Taue would end his Trial Series, not counting the Kawada rematch, with a 3-4 record, defeating both Johnny Ace and Kobashi in his next two trial matches before losing to Abdullah, and finally, to Misawa. In the latter match, he would lose to the debut of Misawa’s Tiger Driver ’91.

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