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Stan Hansen v Antonio Inoki


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Stan Hansen v Antonio Inoki - NJPW 02/08/80


While this is a good match, I think my favorite thing about it has to be Antonio Inoki's entrance music. It's no different than what he used at late as 1996, which is the most recent match I've seen from him, which makes it all the more entertaining, because it's 70s cop music at its absolute worst (read: best). Anyway, now I'll talk about the match. While Hansen has had far better matches in his career, this match is possibly evidence that he can do anything, as we see a nice mixture of wrestling, brawling and carrying here, and this is all before he hit what would be his peak. The ongoing story here is that Hansen tries to outwrestle Inoki and fails, so he switches gears and tries to brawl, but can't connect with anything. No matter what route he takes, Inoki repeatedly takes him back to the mat.


In fact, the same thing that makes this match so good also keeps it from being great, as Hansen takes little for himself, which isn't really customary for him at all. He lives to put over Inoki in every way he can find here -- bumping big for all of his offense, portraying his opponent as the better worker and in the process seeming like a large, really threatening-looking buffoon. Inoki is cool in his role, and with everything being laid out for him the way it is, that doesn't surprise me in the least. He works over Hansen's neck for most of the match until Hansen finally has enough of this shit and starts reversing the momentum. Inoki is in the ropes and Stan doesn't really care at all. Again, the story comes through that Hansen is far down the totem pole from Inoki, as he throws Inoki out of the ring and he comes right back in. Hansen does take over briefly, but not before the point has been made that he's lucky. Nonetheless, his offense is great fun, dropping some awesome-looking knees and elbows and a butterfly backbreaker. Hansen's maniacal stares into the crowd are as fun as any of the wrestling sequences, and in a cool spot, Stan is absolutely determined not to get suplexed and drops completely to his knees. Inoki's octopus attempt gets turned into a crucifix and he nails the lariat, which the crowd buys as the finish before Inoki kicks out, and it's not like Inoki sells it over the long term at all, which is a problem, as he pops up like he's Hulk Hogan. He comes back a backdrop driver, which sees Hansen kick out, which I guess you could call redeeming, since it means everything is fair game at this point.


The problem, however, isn't the attitude, as that would have been fine here, but rather that they took the gloves off in the final few minutes of the match, and when things were really starting to simmer, it was time for the match to end. Despite the flaws in the presentation of what they were doing, what they were doing was actually pretty good. This was sort of the Japanese version of an American Ric Flair match, with Hansen as Flair and Inoki as Lex Luger, only Hansen has more stuff to do when he's in control and Inoki has more moves that can conceivably end the match. The countout finish was customary for the time, and there is definitely a big match atmosphere, if only because of all the suspense in the end. They build things well and they tell the exact story they're wanting to tell with the best of precision, but all said, I'm not so sure I liked the story so much; not because it's a bad story, but because this is the wrestling equivalent of Lisa Simpson bringing home a B.


***1/2, 17:12

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