A history of NJPW with New Japan World

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A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Sun Aug 23, 2015 8:52 pm

Call me batshit insane, but I've decided to watch pretty much every match in the New Japan archives (may skip out on some of the non actual NJPW stuff, especially if it's stuff featuring wrestlers I've already watched an endless amount of videos of) from the earliest match up to and including anything from 2011 and post my observations and opinions on the match I've watched.

For each match, I will doing a pen picture on each of the participants, that is relevant to the wrestler's standing in NJPW and the wrestling world in general at the time. I won't repeat the pen picture's for every match, and will do updated one's every few years.

I will then write up my observations on the match. I'm not one for star ratings but you should be able to tell from reading my 'review' whether or not I liked the match to some degree. For matches I think are really worth seeking out on NJPW World, I will add a Recommended tag, though I can't see this coming into effect until I've managed to grind my way through the 1970s.

I know there will be points where this project will die a death, and I can't guarantee that I'll complete but I hope this will be a fun read for everyone, and feel free to add your own contributions in regards to the history of the wrestlers and/or the matches themselves.
14th October 1973- NJPW World's Strongest Tag Team Match (Kuramae Kokikugan-aka the original Sumo Hall, Tokyo)
2/3 Falls Tag Match: Antonio Inoki & Seiji Sakaguchi vs Karl Gotch & Lou Thesz

Antonio Inoki: Inoki began his wrestling career in 1960 with the Japanese Wrestling Association, where he spent the majority of his early career, save for an excursion to the United States and a run with the short lived Tokyo Pro Wrestling between 1966 and 1967. He then went on to form a dominant tag team with fellow dojo graduate, Giant Baba (the man who would go on to become a rival in a business sense) .

In 1971, Inoki planned a takeover of JWA but got fired for daring to do so and subsequently went on to form New Japan Pro Wrestling the next year. Meanwhile later in the same year, Inoki's former tag partner/generational rival Giant Baba would go on to form the rival AJPW promotion, whilst the declining JWA with it's top draws departing for newer pastures closed it's doors just a year later in 1973, bringing forth a new era in Puroresu.

Seiji Sakaguchi: Prior to becoming a wrestler Sakaguchi was a Judoka, with the height of his Judo career, being a bronze medal in the 1965 Judo World Championships in Rio de Janeiro in the over 80 Kg class.

Sakaguchi would begin his wrestling career two years later, where he would work for the JWA promotion (whilst also taking regular excursions to America to work for the NWA) until it closed it's doors in 1973. After the JWA's demise Sakaguchi joined NJPW, one of the promotions to effectively put the JWA out of business.

Karl Gotch: German born Karl Gotch began wrestling in the 1950's and then moved to the United States in the late 1950's, but was unable to rise above being a solid midcarder due to his lack of showmanship.

In 1962 Gotch was involved in a backstage incident with the then NWA Heavyweight Champion 'Nature Boy' Buddy Rogers- that lead to him being alienated by American Promotions. That lead to Gotch, working more in Japan, where his wrestling style, got over better in a country that treated pro wrestling more like a legitimate sport.

Gotch would go on to become one of the most influential figures in Puroresu, with many of his moves (notably the German Suplex) becoming staples of the Japanese Wrestling style.

Lou Thesz: Thesz began wrestling as far back as 1932, when the National Wrestling Alliance was formed to bring all the different territories under one banner, Thesz went on to become the biggest star in wrestling throughout the 1950's, that included two runs as NWA World Heavyweight Champion, with his first which began in 1949, lasting a whopping 1941 days!

In 1957 he had a series of 60 minute time limit draws with the godfather of Puroresu Rikidozan, that helped popularize pro wrestling in Japan. In the 1960's the aging Thesz went into semi retirement, but still managed to win a third NWA World Heavyweight Championship in 1963 from Buddy Rogers, which he held for a further three years.

He would continue to wrestle a part time schedule throughout the 1960s and 1970's, well past his prime but still respected as a special attraction by wrestling fans across the World.

The Match: You would think, that we would be starting with the very first match in NJPW or at least the first main event, but perhaps no archive footage exists of NJPW's first event......

So the earliest match we have from the archives on NJPW World is this tag match, approximately 18 months into the history of the promotion, between two of it's biggest native stars (including it's founder) and two of the most respected Gaijin in the history of Puroresu.

This match is effectively only a 'tag' match in name only, with no sign of the tropes and teamwork that have become par for the course in today's tag matches. What we have here is a near 45 minute contest that consists primarily of grappling and submission work, worked at a pedestrian pace in front of a restrained and polite crowd.

Many, that are used to today's quicker paced and harder hitting wrestling, will find this a chore to get through but there will be those out-there will be fascinated and drawn in by this kind of wrestling, where the focus was on holds being applied and the competitors finding a way out of their predicament.
Last edited by Tigerkinney on Mon Aug 24, 2015 10:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Sun Aug 23, 2015 9:12 pm

OK quickly onto the next couple of matches.....
10th December 1973- NJPW World Title Challenge Series 1973 (Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium) 2/3 Falls Match for the NWF Heavyweight Title: Johnny Powers (c) vs Antonio Inoki

Johnny Powers: Canadian wrestler Johnny Powers, began his career in 1960 and worked for various promotions across North America- with notable career landmarks that included challenging Bruno Sammartino six times for the then WWWF Heavyweight Championship, and inciting an incident called the 'Cleveland Riot' following an incendiary heel turn on Ernie Ladd.

In 1970 Powers, co-founded his own promotion with Pedro Martinez (no relation to the recently inducted Hall of Fame Baseball pitcher), the NWF. However the promotion failed to compete in a crowded market and the promotion and it's assets were sold off to New Japan three years later.

The Match: This match would effectively transition the NWF Heavyweight Title from being an NWF belt to being the fore-runner to the IWGP Heavyweight Championship during the early years of New Japan.

The match here is still lengthy and slow paced, and will still test the attention span of many wrestling fans today, but unlike the tag match with Gotch and Thesz- they mix in some brawling with the lengthy spells of grappling, and there's a clearly defined face/heel divide.

Powers is good value here as the gaijin heel, using stalling tactics and throwing closed fist punches to get under the skin of the crowd. The deciding fall is pretty dramatic stuff with Powers in control, having weakened Inoki's legs with focused offense- with the crowd willing Inoki on to fight through the pain and find some way to snatch victory from the jaws of impending defeat. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 19th March 1974- NJPW Big Fight Series 1974 (Kuramae Kokikugan-aka the original Sumo Hall, Tokyo) NWF Heavyweight Title: Antonio Inoki (c) vs Strong Kobayashi

Strong Kobayashi:
A big powerhouse of a wrestler with a background in Bodybuilding, Shozo 'Strong' Kobayashi began his career primarily working for the International Wrestling Enterprise (an early competitor to the JWA and then the 3rd wheel when NJPW/AJPW became the dominant forces in puroresu), whilst also making excursions to the IWE's partner promotion in America, the AWA. In 1974 Kobayashi would jump across to NJPW, whom he would remain with until retiring from in-ring competition.

The Match: I guess we are going to have to get used to seeing a hell of a lot of Inoki matches, during the early portion of this project. Anyway apart from a dramatic final few minutes, where Inoki somehow gets busted open (I'm really not quite sure how, I think I was beginning to nod off before Inoki stepped back into the ring with blood pouring from his face), the match is pretty an overlong snorefest, consisting of lots of grappling and rest-holds. Occasionally the match would threaten to spark into life, with the occasional bit of tetchy brawling but then they would just go back to the status quo. This 70's stuff is going to be a chore to get through, if it's going to be all long grappling matches, as I'm already having my fill of that kind of contest.

Apparently this match was a major deal, because it was very rare at the time for Japanese wrestlers to be pitted against one another (especially in big matches), but though the match may have been important in a historical context, I honestly found long stretches of the match mind numbingly boring. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 26th April 1974- NJPW The 1st World League 1974 (Hiroshima Prectural Gymnasium)
World League Tournament Match: Antonio Inoki vs Seiji Sakaguchi

The Match: This match is from the first edition of the World League Tournament, one of several round robin tournament predecessors to the G-1 Climax.

This was yet another overlong grappling match, served up on Inokiworld. If you feel all nostalgic for this sort of slow paced wrestling and/or can't get enough of Inoki already, then you may want to check this match out, as for me who has been stupid enough to do take on this project I'm begging for the overlong grapple/snore fests to end. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 8th May 1974- NJPW The 1st World League 1974 (Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium) World League Tournament 1974 Playoff Matches:
Seiji Sakaguchi vs Killer Karl Krupp
Antonio Inoki vs Seiji Sakaguhci
Antonio Inoki vs Killer Karl Krupp

Killer Karl Krupp: Beginning his in-ring career in the late 1950's the well travelled Killer Karl Krupp, was a Dutch born wrestler that worked a theatrical evil German gimmick.

The Matches: This was to decide the winner of the first World League, which followed a long drawn out format of having the field split into two round robin blocks, and then the top four from each block fighting it out again in a single round robin block. Anyway the top 3 Inoki, Krupp and Sakaguchi ended up tied on the same points, and went on to have a three way tie-breaker (3 different singles matches- not a triple threat)

First up in the round robin is Sakaguchi vs Krupp. Krupp's signature move in German villain tradition, is the Claw and is basically all cartoonish heel gimmick and not a lot else. The bulk of the match is taken up by basic brawling and Sakaguchi enduring Krupp's 'Eye Claw', but this at least made a change from another dose of pedestrian grappling and rest holds.

Inoki vs Sakaguchi, as expected is a much more technical affair with a strong emphasis on submission holds, however it is worked at a more urgent pace than Inoki's drawn out NWF title defences- which makes for a more engaging match. The match gets spoiled in the end however when Krupp (aided by masked heel The Invader) storms back in and attacks both men. Sakaguchi ends up being busted open with the chaotic ending to Inoki vs Sakaguchi leading into the final showdown between Inoki and the evil German.

Inoki pissed off about how things went down in the last match, wants to lay into the 'Nazi' wanker right away, but Krupp being a full card carrying member of the heel society does a lot of stalling by refusing to get back into the ring. Anyway once Krupp does get in, he finds a way to gain and advantage through dirty tactics and from then on we have a pretty dramatic back and forth brawl, with the crowd fully behind Inoki in his efforts to beat the snot out of Krupp. This wasn't a wrestling classic by any means, but was a fun watch, and they managed to pack some smart in-ring storytelling into what was effectively a sprint, with Inoki stomping on Krupp's hand to weaken any attempt at the Brain Claw, being particularly notable.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Mon Aug 24, 2015 10:52 pm

More from 1974 and Tony Knock is as omnipresent as ever.....

June 26th 1974- NJPW Golden Fight Series 1974 (Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium)

2/3 Falls Match for the NWF Heavyweight Title: Antonio Inoki vs Tiger Jeet Singh

Tiger Jeet Singh: Indian born Canadian wrestler Tiger Jeet Singh began his wrestling career in the mid 60's and through a crazed heel gimmick quickly became one of Maple Leaf Wrestling's (the Ontario based NWA territory) most prominent stars, culminating in being part of the main event to draw the first sell out to Maple Leaf Gardens for a Wrestling show, when he battled The Sheik in 1971. Singh would also tour the U.S wrestling circuit, fighting the biggest names of the era such as Andre The Giant, Gene Kiniski and Bruno Sammartino.

In 1972 legend has it, that whilst on a trip to Japan Singh got into a brawl with the NJPW owner and star draw Antonio Inoki in a shopping centre. Singh would then join New Japan the following year, with the shopping centre incident between Inoki and the unpredictable Indian invader, sparking a feud between the two.

The Match: Whilst Tiger Jeet Singh had an effective gimmick (that of turban wearing Indian madman, that carried a sword to the ring), his 'wrestling' pretty much consisting of lowest common denominator garbage brawling. But perhaps because he was such a disgrace to the 'sport' of wrestling, is what made him such an effective heel.

Anyway this match is almost entirely a garbage brawl, with more of the match spent brawling amongst the crowd than in the ring itself, that ended up with both Inoki and Singh being busted open.

From a 'work-rate' viewpoint this was a dreadful match, but the crowd were into the drama of the match, and it did deliver a really satisfying finish, where Inoki starts to bring actual 'wrestling' moves into the match and begins destroying Singh's arm with armbreakers and you get the impression he doesn't want to just chalk up the win over this Indian annoyance, he wants to put cripple Singh and put him out of commission permanently. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________ October 10th 1974- NJPW Toukon Series 1974 (Kuramae Kokikugan, Tokyo)

NWF Heavyweight Championship: Antonio Inoki vs Kintaro Ohki

Kintaro Ohki: Korean born Kintaro Ohki left his homeland to follow in the footsteps of another Rikidozan (the Korean born Japanese wrestling legend). He illegally entered Japan in 1958, and was arrested but ended up being released and taken in by Rikidozan, where he was able to train with the JWA.

Seeing Ohki's promise, he was marked out as part of a rookie trio along with Kanji Inoki (later Antonio Inoki) and Shohei Baba (later Giant Baba) that would lead the JWA when Rikidozan retired.

When Rikidozan was shockingly murdered in 1963 by Yakuza, Ohki returned to his homeland to try and raise the profile of pro wrestling there, but soon returned to the JWA, where he remained one of their top stars until their closure in 1973. Ohki then became a 'freelancer' initially competing in AJPW, before moving on to find fresh challenges in New Japan.

The Match: Maybe someone more informed can fill me in, but there appeared to be legitimate heat between Inoki and Ohki, or did they just do a good job of creating that impression. Before the match has even begun Inoki goes to deck Ohki, and the opening few minutes are a rather tetchy affair with the ref desperately trying to keep things civilized.

The tubby Ohki, didn't look to be in the most athletic shape and at times the match grounded to a crawl (despite not going all that long), with Ohki probably gassing at points. However the closing stretch is a captivating display of fighting spirit from Inoki, who has to endure a barrage of vicious headbutts from Ohki, that eventually bust him open, but Inoki being Inoki refuses to wilt under Ohki's pressure. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ December 12th 1974- NJPW Toukon Series II 1974 (Kuramae Kokikugan, Tokyo) NWF Heavyweight Championship: Antonio Inoki vs Strong Kobayashi

The Match: Lou Thesz is the special guest referee for this re-match between Inoki and Kobayashi. I wasn't looking forward to seeing this match-up again, especially as I found their first contest a chore to grind through, however this ended up being a much more engaging affair than their first outing.

The match still goes too long, and could still do with having 5-10 minutes shaved off, but they fill the match with more variety (mixing it up with more brawling and power moves), whilst the submission sequences feel more focused, and look less like thinly disguised attempts for the wrestlers to catch their breath.

* Decided to forgo the pics, as they were showing up as broken links from Cagematch, when I used a different browser from the one I originally posted on.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Mon Aug 24, 2015 10:57 pm

It's 1975, and guess who is in virtually every match again?......

20th March 1975- NJPW Big Fight Series 1975 (Kuramae Kokikugan, Tokyo)

NWF Heavyweight Championship: Tiger Jeet Singh (C) vs Antonio Inoki

The Match: Prior to this meeting between Inoki and the insane Indian, the title had been held up and made vacant after a double count out draw, before Singh defeated Inoki to claim the vacant belt in Hiroshima, a week prior to this match taking place. Here Inoki is trying to win 'his' belt back and avenge a rare defeat.

This one starts out, as you expect with some brawling, as a cheesed off Inoki looks to make Singh eat a bunch of fives. So it comes as a slight surprise, when it is the psychotic brawler Singh and not Inoki, who is the one to slow things down and take things to the mat.

Perhaps I was a bit harsh in the first match by calling Singh just a garbage brawler (but that is all he showed in the first contest), but to be frank his attempts at 'wrestling' are of the kind you typically find from a low 'work-rate' wrestler, with lots of basic submission holds, such as chokes. He does pull off a brainbuster late in the match, but is one that is executed in rather awkward and sloppy fashion.

Anyway the match does eventually descends into the chaos you would expect when these two lock horns, with Inoki 'snapping' in the closing stretch and leaving Singh a bloody mess. Hot tempered 'I want to kill my opponent' Inoki, is just so much more entertaining than 'grappler' Inoki. ___________________________________________________________________________

16th May 1975- World League Tournament 1975 (Nippon Universal Hall, Tokyo)

2nd Annual World League Playoff Match: Kintaro Ohki vs Seiji Sakaguchi

The Match: The 2nd annual World League, featured 16 entrants competing against one another in a round robin format, before the top 5 went into play-offs. Killer Karl Krupp who topped the block went straight to the final. Inoki who finished 2nd would face off against Strong Kobayashi in the first 'quarter final', whilst Ohki and Sakaguchi contested what was the '2nd quarter final-the winners of Inoki/Kobayashi and Ohki/Sakaguchi would then meet in a semi final, before taking on the round robin stage winner Krupp to crown the 2nd World League Champion.

The first match not to feature the omnipresent Inoki from the NJPW World archives, is an ultra short wild brawl, that ends with the entire NJPW roster (which includes Shibata's Dad) desperately trying to keep them apart post match, before they literally tried to kill one another.

All in all though, this is a strange choice to be plucked out of the archives and it seems odd to show all of the playoff matches the first year, but just show what amounted to the shortest portion of the World League Playoff series the following year. ___________________________________________________________________________ 26th June 1975- NJPW Golden Fight Series 1975 (Kuramae Kokikugan, Tokyo)

2/3 Falls Match for the NWF Heavyweight Championship: Tiger Jeet Singh (C) vs Antonio Inoki

The Match: This match is exactly one year on from their first match against one another, except this time the roles are reversed with Singh as the defending champion.

This is one of those matches, that definitely benefits from watching the previous contests in the feud. The story of the match here, basically revolved around Inoki keeping his short-fuse temper in check and going back to relying on defeating Singh with his superior wrestling abilitiy in the face of the Indian Psychopath's relentless heel tactics.

Frankly these two trying to kill each other, than trying to wrestle one another is a million times more entertaining, and a good portion of the match unfortunately drags, but the closing stretch (which includes Brainbusters and Backdrop suplexes) manages to amp up the excitement factor.
I still stick by my observation, that Singh is all gimmick and very little wrestling ability, though in his defence he did manage to show a bit more than being just a messy brawler with each passing match.

And whilst I wouldn't go as far to put a 'Recommended' tag on any of the Inoki vs Singh matches individually, the series is worth watching as a whole, with each part being distinctive from the other and able to make up an interesting narrative, that ended up being better than the sum of it's parts.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Wed Aug 26, 2015 4:05 pm

The remainder of 1975, and a certain someone is still all over this project like a rash that won't go away....

October 2nd 1975- NJPW Toukon Series 1975 (Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium)

2/3 Falls Match for the NWA North American Tag Team Championship:
The Hollywood Blondes (Buddy Roberts & Jerry Brown) vs Antonio Inoki & Seiji Sakaguchi

The Hollywood Blondes: The first team to use the Hollywood Blondes name, Buddy Roberts and Jerry Brown formed their team in 1970 , when working for the NWA Tri-State territory. There arrogant 'Hollywood Superstar' gimmick soon got them over as one of the top heel acts in the promotion and claimed their first title when won a tournament to crown NWA United States Tag Team Champions.

The Blondes then dominated the NWA Tri-State tag scene for the next three years, earning two more reigns with the NWA United States Tag belts, before taking their act south to work for Championship Wrestling from Florida- where they had a reign with the NWA Florida Tag Team Championship.

The Blondes then moved cross country to work for the NWA Hollywood promotion based in Los Angeles, and then found themselves working in Japan, to be part of an angle that saw the NWA North American Tag Team Championship be brought into NJPW (where they would remain as the primary Tag Team championship in New Japan until the end of the decade).

The Match: Inoki and Sakaguchi won the NWA North American Tag Titles from the team of Karl Von Schotz and Kurt Von Hess, on an excursion to NWA Hollywood and brought them back to Japan. Inoki and Sakaguchi, then fought to a new contest with the Hollywood Blondes which saw the titles held up, before The Blondes won the belts in Nagoya.

I would say that this is the first proper tag team match on NJPW World. The Blondes are a proper tag team that use rely on quick tags and double teams, and though there 'stuff' looks dull and basic in comparison to future tag team specialists, it is enjoyable to see what would become typical tag team tropes implemented.

But it's not just the Blondes who bring proper 'tag team' wrestling to the table here, in comparison to the match against Gotch & Thesz from two years earlier, Inoki and Sakaguchi operate as a team here, pulling off double teams of their own, in comparison to looking like two individuals randomly thrown together.

The match exceeds half an hour and as expected is a tad overlong, but for the most part it remains a relatively engaging tag team contest, especially when the Blondes suddenly ramp up their heelishness by introducing the good old 'foreign object hidden in the trunks' trope. ______________________________________________________________________________ 9th October 1975- NJPW Toukon Series 1975 (Kuramae Kokugikan, Tokyo)

NWF World Heavyweight Championship: Antonio Inoki (c) vs Lou Thesz

The Match: Antonino Rocca whose star was at it's height in the 1960's, particularly with the WWWF is the special guest referee here. Rocca would sadly pass away two years later, due to complications following an infection.

The match begins with Lou Thesz taking Inoki by surprise with a backdrop suplex, but that proves to be a false dawn that this is going to be worked at a snappier pace than expected, as it quickly settles into the pedestrian grapple exchange one would expect from a match involving a near 60 year old Lou Thesz.

Thesz clearly still had the wrestling accumen at this stage of his career, but he was at that age and physical condition, where the match for the most part has to be worked at a snails pace, so we get lots of things like headscissors spots whilst lying on the mat.

I feel like a wrestling neanderthal for not fully appreciating the pure 'wrestling' served up here, but to my eyes apart from a few bursts here and there, this match was pretty boring. ______________________________________________________________________________ 11th December 1975- NJPW Toukon Series II 1975 (Kuramae Kokugikan, Tokyo)

2/3 Falls match for the NWF World Heavyweight Championship: Antonio Inoki (c) vs Billy Robinson

Billy Robinson: Robinson began his wrestling career in the 1950's in his native Britain, becoming the British National Wrestling Champion in 1957. Robinson also attended the notoriously tough 'Snake Pit' training school, headed up by Billy Riley, where he managed to survive the unforgiving training enviroment and teachings of Riley for eight years.

Robinson would travel to North America in 1970, where he became a fixture in Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association, who had a reputation at the time for hiring wrestlers with a legitimate 'shooter' background.

Robinson then began to make excursions to Japan in the mid 1970's, where he immediately got over with his legitimate wrestling skills. Japanese wrestlers learned the art of 'hooking' and 'shooting' from another Snake-Pit graduate, Karl Gotch and the arrival of Robinson in the Mid 70's was another component in the rise of the 'Shoot Style' movement that wouldn't only come to strongly influence Puroresu but perhaps also sow the seeds for Mixed Martial Arts.

The Match: When this match took place it was billed as a 'Match between the World's top two technicians' by the Japanese press.
If you don't like extremely long matches, then this probably won't be the match for you (mind you there is a way round the problem of a short attention span). The first two thirds of the match, are well executed but on the whole rather dull grappling, but then the match truly kicks into gear in the final third.

Sorry to spoil things (for those who haven't seen the match or aren't even aware what happened), but Billy Robinson scores a pin on Inoki, to go 1-0 up- this sets up the story of the final third of the match, where Robinson is desperately trying to defend his lead by using defensive 'rope a dope' tactics, whilst Inoki is frantically trying to tie the match up, so that he can retain his championship.

Honestly the final third of the contest, is like watching a completely different match to what went before, and is packed with not only a tonne more drama, but also faster paced and harder hitting action. From what started out as the wrestling equivalent of watching paint dry, ends up being a thrilling contest with nail biting, down to the wire drama.

Recommended (But unless you're a fan of slow paced technical wrestling, skip to around the 40 minute mark in the video).

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by InYourCase » Wed Aug 26, 2015 10:54 pm

I applaud you for doing this. I could never sit through some of these matches. Like the reviews a lot. Keep it up!

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Thu Aug 27, 2015 9:17 am

InYourCase wrote:I applaud you for doing this. I could never sit through some of these matches. Like the reviews a lot. Keep it up!
I must admit, some of this Inoki obsessed 1970's content is a bit of a 'slog' to get through. I'm expecting things to pick up, once we move into the 'Tiger Mask era'.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Thu Aug 27, 2015 8:08 pm

It's 1976 and Inoki not only thinks of himself as a great wrestler, he also thinks of himself as the greatest fighter in the universe......

January 9th 1976- NJPW New Year Golden Series ( Fukuoka Kyuden Memorial Gymnasium)

Antonio Inoki vs Tiger Jeet Singh

The Match: Ugh this again?! :roll: So it turns out the beef between Inoki and Tiger Jeet Singh, hadn't gone away.

In this non title match, Singh does a lot of stalling at the start, but it's a trap, as he lures Inoki into stepping out of the ring, and engaging in another bloody brawl. The whole thing ends in chaos, both men end up being busted open and about 0.0000000000000000000000000000001% of actual wrestling happens. Totally skippable, unless you really enjoy watching these two try to (pretend) kill each other. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 6th February 1976- NJPW New Year Golden Series (Nippon Budokan, Tokyo)

'Different Style Fight': Antonio Inoki vs Willem Ruska

Willem Ruska: Ruska was a Judoka from The Netherlands, won gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics in both the +93 Kg and openweight categories, and decided to retire from the world of Judo whilst on top. Four years later he would step into the world of professional wrestling, answering Antonio Inoki's challenge to test himself against fighters of various backgrounds.

The Match: Inoki was in the midst of what would be a lengthy and dominant reign as NWF World Heavyweight Champion, but he felt a strong pull to prove pro-wrestlers as the strongest fighters of all, and began to arrange what were called 'Different Style' fights, which basically amounted to worked MMA fights, before the term Mixed Martial Arts was even thought up.

The most famous, or rather infamous of these 'Different Style' fights would occur later the same year, when Inoki answered a challenge to face off against Boxing superstar and legend in the making Muhammad Ali- the 'fight' is of course infamous for being a dreadful affair that basically saw Inoki on his backside the whole match, kicking out at Ali's legs, whilst the frustrated boxing legend barely landed a punch to culminate in a farcical 3-3 draw.

I went into this contest thinking it was going to be bloody awful, and the sight of Ruska wearing a Judo Gi, didn't exactly allay those fears. But though Ruska, wasn't exactly what you would call great in the ring, he wasn't as bad as I thought he would be. Then again once you've bore witness to the Gracie's dire attempt at Professional Wrestling, then any Tom, Dick or Shinji can look reasonable stepping into a wrestling ring. To Ruska's credit he did 'try' and he was willing to endure a few bumps, such as taking a series of backdrop suplexes from Inoki, but for the most part the match was as you would expect a rather awkward affair.

One has to wonder how much Inoki was paying these fighters with strong reputations from other combat sports to make him look like a 'fighting God', but I'm guessing the money must have been good at the time. Besides Ruska was also 'retired' at this point and the damage this could have done to his reputation would have been minimal at most, with Pro Wrestling barely registering a blip in his native Holland. ______________________________________________________________________________________ October 7 1976- NJPW Toukon Series 1976 (Kuramae Kokukigan, Tokyo)

Real World Martial Arts Title: Antonio Inoki vs Andre The Giant

Andre The Giant:
Andre Roussimoff, began his wrestling career in his native, France working under the name of Géant Ferré, before wrestling all across Europe and Africa.

In 1970, he made his debut in Japan (under the name of Monster Roussimoff) for the IWE promotion, before then moving on to Canada, where he became an immediate success regularly selling out the Montreal Forum. However once promoters struggled to find plausible opponents for the gigantic Roussimoff and once the novelty of his size wore off- gates dwindled.

Andre then moved onto the AWA promotion, before then moving onto the WWWF, where he was encouraged to work even more as a giant immovable monster. The subtle change got Roussimoff, who was now working under his most famous moniker 'Andre The Giant' over even more, and he was soon on track to become the premier 'Special Attraction' in all of professional wrestling.

The WWWF then began loaning Andre The Giant, to many promotions across the world (including NJPW), to increase Andre's global appeal. The strategy (which saw Andre only stay a short time in each promotion/territory to counter overexposure) worked, as by the mid 70's Andre's star had soared to the point, where he was by some distance the most famous wrestler in the world.

The Match: Inoki was in the midst of what would be a mammoth reign with the NWF World Heavyweight Title. However in order to stroke his own ego even further, following his infamous 'match' with Muhammad Ali, he also awarded himself this new this new 'hokey' title to go alongside the one he already had, but just what Andre The Giant and 'Martial Arts' have in common, is anyone's guess.

Andre The Giant to his credit is surprisingly both relatively mobile for a man of his colossal size (at least he was at this stage in his career) and also had a pretty solid grasp of wrestling skill. However working on the mat, and exchanging grappling holds, isn't exactly the best to accentuate Andre's positives, and this match which goes far too long (over 20 minutes) only comes alive in fits and bursts, notably when Inoki and Andre are engaged in David vs Goliath, brawling exchanges.

The match ends in 'controversial' fashion, clearly designed in such a way to protect both men's reputations- Andre erroneously headbutts a ring post, resulting in him being busted open (which at the time appeared to be the wrestling booker's go to method to add some drama) leading to the referee hastily calling for a stoppage. Andre of course, isn't happy with this BS, and continues to engage Inoki with some post match brawling.

Andre wasn't the only one left unhappy with the way things ended, it appeared a fair number of fans weren't too pleased with the hokey ending either, with several bits of debris being chucked into the ring, during the post match trophy presentation.

* There's also another Inoki vs Ruska match that took place on December 9th, where he defended his hokey 'Real World Martial Arts' Title, but surely I can be forgiven for skipping out on this one. I would say skip 1976 altogether, the selection NJPW World have to represent that year is pretty dreadful all round.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Fri Aug 28, 2015 9:41 pm

It's 1977- This time 'Inokiworld' is dishing up some faux proto MMA and an infamous 'shoot'.

February 2nd 1977- NJPW New Year Golden Series 1977 (Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium)

2/3 Falls Match for the NWA North American Tag Team Titles: Strong Kobayashi & Seiji Sakaguchi (c) vs Tiger Jeet Singh & Umanosuke Ueda

Umanosuke Ueda: Ueda began his career in the early 60's, with the now defunct JWA promotion. After a decade of working as a forgettable midcard (if that) act, Ueda would dey his hair blonde (considered to be ultra rebellious at the time) and employ a wild brawler style.
In 1976 he would have a brief run as the IWA World Heavyweight Champion in the International Enterprise promotion, before jumping across to New Japan the next year where he would form an alliance with despised gaijin heel Tiger Jeet Singh, effectively becoming one of the first 'traitor' heels in the history of Puroresu.

The Match: At the beginning of 1976, Antonio Inoki decided to vacate the NWA North American Tag belts, in order to concentrate on pursuing his 'Different Style' fights, whilst also simultaneously defending the NWF World Heavyweight Championship.

Sakaguchi, then partnered up with Strong Kobayashi (which saw the next two biggest 'native' stars of NJPW after Inoki himself, during NJPW's fledgling years team up). Sakaguchi and Kobayashi would then win the vacant belts in a tournament, defeating the tandem of Jeet Singh and Voodoo Mulumba in the finals. Sakaguchi and Kobayashi had now held the titles for an entire calendar year, and this match see's Singh attempt to wrestle the belts away from them with a new partner.

You know that tag team Toru Yano had with Takashi Iizuka, for a few years whilst both were members of CHAOS, the Singh/Ueda tandem was basically that team 40 years earlier. Ueda was effectively the Yano role (portly brawler with bleached hair), whilst Singh like Iizuka decades later, was the near uncontrollable psychopath.

As a wrestling match this was pretty dreadful, as it pretty much consisted entirely of rote brawling and the heels being massive dicks, but as a way of getting nuclear heat on the team of the already detested Singh and his traitor friend, this was hugely effective. By the end of the match Kobayashi is left incapicated and Sakaguchi is bloodied- with the situation being so dire, that Inoki storms the ring to try and chase away the evil scumbags. ___________________________________________________________________________ April 1st- NJPW 4th World League 1977 (Kuramae Kokukigan, Tokyo)

2/3 Falls Match for the NWA North American Tag Team Titles: Tiger Jeet Singh & Umanosuke Ueda (c) vs Antonio Inoki & Seiji Sakaguchi

The Match: Kobayashi was put on the shelf by the relentlessly vicious heels and even though Inoki wanted to concentrate on singles, he felt that the situation was dire enough that he would help his old friend Sakaguchi, not only try to win back the belts from the detestable heels, but also gain some measure of revenge for Kobayashi being taken out.

Lou Thesz was drafted in as the special guest referee for this match, probably because 'the board' felt they needed someone who could 'stand up' to Singh and Ueda's shenanigans.

Despite Thesz's presence, the heels control much of the match- with Sakaguchi playing babyface in peril and being busted open once again. Singh was never a great 'wrestler', but he was a superb heel (the fans hated this man so much, they would pelt trash at him as he would make his way to the ring). Things like the constant choking, biting and the deranged facial expressions would make the fans detest him, and not just want to see him lose the match but be sent out on a stretcher.

When Sakaguchi does get the hot tag to Inoki and the babyfaces are able to turn things around, the match picks up. In all due respect to the serviceable Kobayashi, Inoki was an upgrade as a tag partner and though it is easy to knock Inoki's domination of the main event scene at the time, he was league's above everyone else (at least when it came to the native talent) on the NJPW roster during it's early years.

Despite Ueda being busted open worse than Sakaguchi and the faces at least giving one half of the despicable heels their just desserts, the conclusion of the match is a frustrating one for both Inoki and Sakaguchi and the fans in attendance (who would let their dissatisfaction known by following trash into the ring), as the heels somehow escape with the titles intact around their waists.
___________________________________________________________________________ 2nd August 1977- NJPW Real World Martial Arts Championship ( Nippon Budokan, Tokyo)

Different Style Fight: Antonio Inoki vs Everett Eddy

Everett Eddy: 'The Monster Man' Everett Eddy is an American Martial Artist, that was prominent during the 1970's. He got his nickname of the 'The Monster Man' for his relatively large size (6ft, 235 Ibs) for a Karateka.

The Match: The google translate of this match on NJPW World lists it as Antonio Inoki vs The Monster Man, rather than Antonio Inoki vs Everett Eddy, which is kind of amusing.

Speaking of more google translate amusement on NJPW World, when I scroll down past the video, and into the section underneath called news, I can click on an article titled... [Series] tonight o'clock fucking Korakuen Hall. Err what?!! - Well that has nothing to do with this match, but I'm sure this accidentally offensive display of Engrish/mistranslation will be more amusing than one of Inoki's excursions into faux MMA (before it was even referred to as that) with some random martial artist, that no one but a bunch of Karate geeks remembers.

'Monster Man' is wearing boxing gloves and the match is divided into rounds like a boxing match- in fact the infamously bad match with Muhammad Ali used the rounds format.....

Well as it turns out, this wasn't as painful to watch as I thought it would be. It definitely wasn't what you would call a pro-wrestling match and was basically an early version of a worked MMA match, but surprisingly it turned out to be reasonably entertaining.

It worked out better that Eddy wasn't coming in as someone who was trying to pose as a pro wrestler, and just stuck to what he knew which was kicking and punching, and it actually lead to a intriguing clash of fighting styles with Inoki's wrestling skillset. Also unlike Ali, who demanded a set of conditions which basically immobilized Inoki from using his wrestling skills, Eddy to his credit was game enough to take a few wrestling throws and be put in some grappling holds. ___________________________________________________________________________ 25th October 1977- NJPW Toukon Series II 1977 (Nippon Budokan, Tokyo)

Different Style Fight: Antonio Inoki vs Chuck Wepner

Chuck Wepner: Wepner was an American Heavyweight boxer, who began his career in the mid 1960's, as his career went on into the 1970's Wepner had put together a solid, though not exactly outstanding record, that saw him find title success at the regional level but unable to step up to the next level. An eight match unbeaten streak between 1972-1974, saw Wepner get the chance to compete for a World Title, when he took on Muhammad Ali.

It was in the fight with Ali, that Wepner would make his most memorable mark on the boxing world, by knocking down the champion- however Ali went on to outbox Wepner for the rest of match and the win the fight. Following Wepner's plucky loss to Ali, he was unable to string together enough form to earn another World Title shot.

The Match: This another worked 'MMA' bout, using the rounds format. Wepner as expected was wearing boxing gloves, but so this time was Inoki.

This was bad, really bad, and basically resembled a tedious boxing match, where the competitors spend most of the time holding onto one another, and every so often some punches would be thrown and Inoki would use his wrestling skills to take Wepner down to the mat. And this abhorrent contest lasts for nearly half an hour. Half an hour of life you won't go back I hasten to add, if you are foolish enough to put yourself through watching this travesty.

Despite most of the contest being a bad version of a boxing match, it actually ends with Wepner tapping out to a Boston Crab, which of course is there to accentuate Inoki wanting to desperately make the point of saying 'Wrestling Wins!' At least 'Monster Man' Eddy mixed it up with his range of kicks, all Wepner did here was punch and hug.

8th December 1977- NJPW Toukon Series II 1977 (Kuramae Kokukigan, Tokyo)

Antonio Inoki vs The Great Antonio

The Great Antonio: Antonio Barichievich was a Croatian (Yugoslavia at the time) born strongman, who emigrated to Canada in 1945. Barichievich who went by the name of 'The Great Antonio' began his strong man career in the late 1940's, but by the 1970's he had become known just as much his wild look and eccentric demands, as he did for his strength.

During the 1960's and 1970's 'The Great Antonio' would make try to break into the world of professional wrestling- with promoters attracted to utilizing unique combination of legitimate strong man background and eccentric 'wild man' persona.

In 1961 he would face off against Japanese wrestling icon Rikidozan (a bout which is rumoured to have lead to him being beaten up the Yakuza after the event, for 'straying from the script'). Then in 1971 whilst working for Stampede Wrestling, he was penciled into become the Stampede North American Heavyweight Champion- however the Stampede fans did not want him as their champion and the thought of such almost lead to a riot in Calgary.

Despite his previous experience in Japan, reportedly not ending on 'happy' terms, The Great Antonio would be invited back, this time to face off against one of the new icon's of Puroresu since Rikidozan's untimely departure- in the form of New Japan owner and superstar Antonio Inoki.

The Match: You can watch this infamous match on YouTube, but only New Japan World offers you the chance to see Antonio Inoki, legitimately try to rearrange someone else's face in HD!

The Great Antonio to put it bluntly looked like a fat hobo with man-tits, he also had one millionth of the wrestling skill of Giant Gonzalez. Seriously that's how atrocious he was at pro wrestling.

Anyway Antonio, who was probably by all accounts a bit screwy in the head- no sold Inoki's offence and brushed/laughed it off as though he was enduring a few weak punches from a little kid. To no one's surprise Inoki, is getting cheesed off that this clown a) Has no idea how to work and/or b) Is pretty much taking the piss out of the art form of pro-wrestling. Despite all that, probably what sent Inoki off into a blood fuelled rage, was when the (not so) Great Antonio, started pounding him with some sloppy but also legitimately painful, clubbing blows- especially when they started come down hard onto the back of Inoki's neck.

Having no more with this 'clown' taking liberties with both pro wrestling and himself, Inoki clocks the slovenly fat-man with a punch of his own, before taking a dazed Antonio down to the mat with single leg take-down. With the hairy tub of lard now on the ground, Inoki then proceeded to kick and stomp the crap out of Antonio's face, until it's left a mangled bloody mess and the 'beached whale' is struggling for consciousness.

Mr Barichievich pretty much tried to pull the same shit against Rikidozan, and the Japanese legend he was facing then wasn't going to put up with his nonsense- he clearly hadn't learned his lesson over a decade later, and came away with a rather painful receipt.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Sat Aug 29, 2015 11:01 pm

We step into 1978 and whilst Inoki is still prominent, a future influential Puroresu icon begins his gradual climb towards the New Japan summit.

January 23rd 1978- WWWF live event @ Madison Square Garden, New York City

WWWF Junior Heavyweight Championship: Jose Estrada (c) vs Tatsumi Fujinami

Jose Estrada: Puerto Rican wrestler Estrada, had only made his debut in 1975, but two years into his career found himself as the new WWWF Junior Heavyweight Champion, after defeating Tony Garea to win the title that had been dormant since 1972.

Tatsumi Fujinami: A protege of Antonio Inoki, Fujinami began his wrestling career in 1971, and when Inoki was fired from the JWA in 1972, Fujinami followed his mentor to be part of the fledgling NJPW roster.

The early portion of his career was spent battling other 'young lions' but by the late 1970's, he was ready to move up to a more prominent spot on the roster, but they were not yet ready to put Fujinami over the established older stars, whilst his relatively small size may have also been a factor in holding him back from reaching the upper echelons of New Japan cards quicker.

But Inoki and NJPW were ready to recognize Fujinami's growing popularity and skill as a wrestler, and saw him as the man to spearhead a division of wrestlers, competing within a lighter weight class. After excursions to both Mexico and the U.S, Fujinami found himself in a more prominent position, as the 'ace' of the Junior Heavyweight division.

The Match: WWWF really had no interest of reviving a Junior Heavyweight Division at the time, and the title was re-activated in order for the belt to make it's way to New Japan, who wanted to use the championship to establish a lighter weight class division of their own.

We are some distance away from the sort of high flying athleticism you would expect from a Junior Heavyweight match these days- basically what goes for high octane offence in this match, pretty much extends to dropkicks!

Anyway Estrada (who would go on to be part of the Los Conquistadores tag team in a 2nd spell with the WWF in the late 80's) was at best a mediocre wrestler, and that's probably being kind with an offence pretty much just consisting of base level grappling and brawling. Though to be fair, he is the only one to go to the top-rope, leading to him crashing and burning on a senton splash.

For the most part the match is watchable whilst Fujinami is on offence, less so when Estrada has control of the match. Fujinami for his part had a good look for a man of his smaller size, and had decent athleticism and technical skills, as well as establishing a good looking finishing hold with the Dragon Suplex.

In the end the WWWF probably put the belt on some of Estrada's lowly stature and skills, as they did not really care about having him to do the job- the reactivated title was going to be heading it's way to Japan regardless.
______________________________________________________________________________ April 21st 1978- First MSG Series (Kuramae Kokukigan, Tokyo)

MSG Series Preliminary Tournament Block A: Antonio Inoki vs Seiji Sakaguchi

Antonio Inoki: One man dominated New Japan Pro Wrestling, during it's early years and that man was it's owner Antonio Inoki. His second reign with the NWF World Heavyweight Championship was heading into it's third year, he had a series of notable 'Different Style' fights with competitors of various combat sport backgrounds (including a famous showdown with Muhammad Ali-it was crap, but it did garner a lot of publicity) and his feuds with gaijin invaders such as Tiger Jeet Singh dominated the main event of nearly every major show.

Seiji Sakaguchi: Whilst no one could get near Inoki in terms of popularity and exposure, Sakaguchi had established himself as the 'best of the rest' in terms of the native talent within the hearts and minds of the New Japan fans. Sakaguchi's accomplishments included several reigns with the NWA North American Tag Team Championship, and consistently reaching the final stages of the annual World League, with Sakaguchi actually winning the 1977 edition.

The Match: New Japan had decided to rebrand the World League, the MSG (Madison Square Garden) League but what the tournament had to do with the famous New York arena is anyone's guess, especially as none of the matches were going to take place there.

This one really get's dragged out, as the original contest cannot seperate them, so they go into an overtime period to try and find a winner. The match would flicker into life every so often, but for the most part this was an overlong blur of figure four leglocks, neckscissors and other grappling holds, occasionally interspersed with a bit of tetchy fisticuffs.

Perhaps dragged out wars of attrition are what the 1970's Japanese wrestling fan expected of their main event wrestlers at the time, but from the viewpoint of a 21st Century wrestling fan these affairs do tend to be rather dull. Perhaps I'm being unfair, seeing several of these long grapple-fests in a short amount of time, does tend to lead to a rather jaded reaction.
___________________________________________________________________________ July 27th 1978- NJPW Summer Fight Series 1978 (Nippon Budokan, Tokyo)

WWWF Junior Heavyweight Championship: Tatsumi Fujinami (c) vs Ryuma Go

Ryuma Go: Beginning his wrestling career in 1972, Ryuma Go thus far had spent much of his in-ring career as an undersized lower card wrestler, flitting between NJPW and it's rivals AJPW. The emergence of a Junior Heavyweight Division in NJPW (with the WWWF Junior Heavyweight title as it's foundation) gave the likes of Go something to strife for.

The Match: In comparison to the matches of today, the work here is fairly basic and resembles the kind of contest you would see between two young lions, who've managed to learn a few more moves than how to put someone in a Boston Crab, but in comparison to the slovenly grapple fests and plodding brawls of the day, this contest is worked at a considerably more snappier pace that it feels like a breath of fresh air.

The contest is very much in the vein of a hard fought but fair sporting tussle, between two competitors just trying to prove themselves the better man, as evidenced by the post match show of respect. Starting off with low key mat and chain wrestling exchanges, with Ryuma Go proving to be an equally adept technical foil to the champion- the contest gradually gathers pace, concluding with a hectic final few minutes of suplexes and blocked suplex attempts as both champion and challenger look to keep their equally game opponent down just long enough to eek out the victory.

Mildly Recommended
September 19 1978- NJPW Golden Fight Series 1978 (Prefectural Athletic Hall, Osaka)

Tiger Jeet Singh vs Umanosuke Ueda

The Match: Traitor heel Umanosuke Ueda, had been tagging with the vastly detested Tiger Jeet Singh, since the previous year- in a tandem that brought championship success, having had a run with the NWA North American Tag Team Titles.

By the time this match had rolled around however, the pair had a falling out and wanted to rip into one another, as opposed to the rest of the roster who were sick of the site of both men. With both men being flagrant rule breakers, Antonio Inoki felt the need to step in as the special guest referee to try and keep some sense of order, as the quarrelling tag partners headed into this heel vs heel showdown.

This is a pretty bad match, it's not even a mildly entertaining blood spilling wild brawl (which is the best you could hope for from a singles match between these two), most of the contest is spent with both men sapping the life out of their opponent and the crowd by working snooze worthy choking spots.

Things only get interesting, whenever Inoki gets cheesed off with either man's cheap tactics, and decides to intervene by clocking either Singh or Ueda with a swift punch or kick. Inoki's role in this match, is akin to a stressed out parent, whose had enough of their naughty children.
Predictably the match ends in chaos, with both men fed up with Inoki's physical form of refereering- though both men's shared distain for Inoki, does not necessarily lead to a full on reconcilation. Eventually Tatsumi Fujinami is the one to come in to clear house, and help to bring back some semblance of order, with both Singh and Ueda chased out of the arena. ___________________________________________________________________________ December 16th 1978- NJPW Pre-Japan Championship Series 1978 (Kuramae Kokukigan, Tokyo)

Pre-Japan Championship League Final Match: Antonio Inoki vs Hiro Matsuda

Hiro Matsuda: Matsuda began his in-ring career in the late 1950's under his birthname of Yasuhiro Kojima. However instead of sticking around in the JWA, he decided to pursue as wrestling career in America.

He most notably worked for the NWA affiliate, Championship Wrestling from Florida throughout the 1960's and much of the 1970's, where he would enjoy considerable championship success, having multiple reigns as NWA Florida Southern Heavyweight Champion, NWA Junior Heavyweight Champion, NWA Florida Tag Team Champion and NWA Florida World Tag Team Champion.

By the mid 1970's, Matsuda began to expand his horizons, from working primarily in Florida, and that included excursions back to his native Japan, initially competing for AJPW before switching across to NJPW in 1978.

The Match: As well as holding the newly re-named MSG Series that took place in the spring, NJPW also held another tournament at the end of the year, the Pre-Japan Championship League. However the difference between the Pre-Japan Championship and the MSG League, was that only native Japanese wrestlers were eligible to enter and the tournament was there to put some focus on NJPW's home grown talent, rather than the gaijin attractions, or maybe it was just another title for Inoki to stroke his gigantic ego with.

The format of the tournament was rather convoluted, with a league format, from which the top 7 would move into the quarter finals. The 8th placed finisher would then face Antonio Inoki (who had a bye from the league). The tournament then moved to a knockout quarter final,semi final, final format- similar to today's New Japan Cup.

For some reason Matsuda is competing bare-foot, maybe that was his part of his unique selling point whilst competing in America. The match itself if a blend of slow paced technical exchanges and tetchy brawling, that occasionally seems on the brink of spilling into chaos, with a gaggle of Japanese heels (certainly by the end of the 1970's- there was an increase in 'bad guys' who weren't invaders from another land), looking to interfere on Matsuda's behalf.

On the upside the submission work from both men is focused, with Inoki targetting Matsuda's arm and Matsuda going after Inoki's legs, to set up for a Figure Four. On the downside Matsuda is pretty boring as a wrestler, working a style that looks deadly dull, even for 1978. I suppose whilst wrestling in Florida, Matsuda managed to stand out more as a more unique act, here he comes across, as just a 'guy'- and one who happens to be stuck in 1968 with his wrestling.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Mon Aug 31, 2015 11:03 am

The first half of 1979, as we get two sides of Inoki, two legendary gaijin monsters go to war and Fujinami's WWF Junior title reign continues to be the highlight of the NJPW undercard.

6th February 1979- NJPW Special TV Taping @ Osaka Prefectural Athletic Hall

WWF Martial Arts Title Match: Antonio Inoki vs 'Mr X'

The Match: Inoki had quietly retired the short lived Real World Martial Arts Championship but on his arrival as a special guest performer in the WWF (due to the working relationship the two promotions had going at the time), Inoki was awarded the WWF Martial Arts Championship. Naturally much like the WWF Junior Heavyweight Title that was in Tatsumi Fujinami's possession, the belt spent the majority of it's existence being defended in NJPW.

The match is being contested over the rounds format, whilst the mysterious Mr X appears to be a negro man, wearing a red mask and is competing in a Judo Gi with boxing gloves.

Once again this is pretty bad- I suppose at the time these 'Different Style Fights' would have felt like something new and fresh but now look rather silly, when viewed with the knowledge that real shoot fighting would emerge.

Thankfully this is kept relatively short, the mysterious masked man actually dominates the early going, keeping Inoki at arms length, but then the NJPW icon manages to find a way to get inside, and then wear down Mr X with submissions.
I was expecting Mr X to have to unmask, but this never happens- thus making this contribution to NJPW World even more skippable than it already was.

* There's also another one of these WWF Mixed Martial Arts title defences on NJPW World that took place on April 3rd, against some white boxer with an afro and a moustache going by the name of Left Hook Dayton. I've had my fill of Inoki faux MMA however and decided to skip out on that one. ___________________________________________________________________________ May 10 1979- NJPW 2nd Madison Square Garden Series (Fukuoka Sports Center) NWF Heavyweight Title Match: Antonio Inoki (c) vs Jack Brisco

Jack Brisco: Jack Brisco started his in-ring career in the mid 1960's, and went on to become one of the most decorated wrestlers, both as a singles and tag team performers, winning multiple NWA Championships both by himself and most frequently alongside his brother Gerald Brisco- primarily with the Championship Wrestling from Florida and Mid Atlantic Championship Wrestling.

In 1973 Jack Brisco would reach the pinnacle of his career, winning the NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Harley Race. The next year Brisco would make his first excursion to Japan, where after holding the NWA World Heavyweight belt for more than a year he would lose the title to Giant Baba, only to regain it a year later and have another year long reign with the title.

Though Brisco had been unable to regain the NWA World title, after losing it to Terry Funk in 1975, during the remainder of the 1970's he continued to rack up both regional singles championships and tag team championships under the NWA banner.

The Match: The bulk of the contest see's both Inoki and Brisco work over each others legs- it's a fine enough foundation in theory but the lack of burning hatred for one another from both men leads to the match being a rather drab affair. Inoki was a fine technical wrestler and Brisco was no slouch in that department either, but the NJPW owner shone more as a fiery brawler. Saying that it probably doesn't help that they were competing in front of a sleepy Fukuoka crowd (that city produced half dead audiences back then and it's still producing half dead audiences today), and just as it looks like they are going to move the match into the next gear, they suddenly serve up an abrupt anti-climatic ending.

In their defence, at least the drab mat wrestling exchanges didn't drag on for half an hour or more. In fact the era of the long drawn out 'grappling' epic appeared to be coming to an end, with the tastes of the Japanese wrestling audience gradually shifting towards quicker paced wrestling as the decade wore on. ___________________________________________________________________________ May 18th 1979- 2nd Madison Square Garden Series (Niigata City Gymnasium)

2nd MSG Series Tournament Match: Andre The Giant vs Stan Hansen

Stan Hansen: A burly brawler, that worked a tough cowboy gimmick that would pick a fight with anyone and everyone, Stan Hansen began his wrestling career in 1973. In 1976 he joined the WWWF, where he twice challenged Bruno Sammartino for the World Heavyweight Championship. He would leave the following year, and head for NJPW- where he was soon built up as a feared gaijin bully.

Hansen would primarily work back in the U.S for various promotions, but despite a run as NWA Georgia Heavyweight Champion, found he did not enjoy the kind of push he was enjoying as a 'monster' in Japan. The following year he would shift his focus once again to working for NJPW, and from then on since, though Hansen would still make trips back to America, Japan would become his home.

The Match: Both men are accompanied by their respective managers, Frank Valois for Andre and Freddie Blassie for Hansen.
It was rare to see Hansen outsized, but Andre The Giant practically dwarfs the roughneck brawler, however it was Hansen who would land the most damaging blow off the match, busting The Giant open and then making out that it was the power of his lariat that did the damage.
Anyway this rather short 'slobberknocker' as good old J.R would say, ends in total chaos with the two 'monsters' brawling all around the arena. ___________________________________________________________________________ June 7th 1979- 2nd Madison Square Garden Series (Kuramae Kokukigan, Tokyo)

WWF Junior Heavyweight Title: Tatsumi Fujinami (c) vs El Canek

El Canek: Canek began his wrestling career in 1972, and spent most of that time primarily working for the UWA (Universal Wrestling Association). In 1978 he would get his first taste of championship gold, when he became the Mexican National Light Heavyweight Champion.
The same year he would begin making trips to Japan, due to NJPW's working agreement with the UWA- an agreement clearly put together to boost the ranks of NJPW's newly formed Junior Heavyweight Division and provide a string of challengers for Fujinami's WWF Junior Heavyweight Title.

The Match: A good portion of the match is spent with slower paced technical exchanges, but there would be glimpses of where Junior Heavyweight wrestling would be heading over the next couple of decades, with bursts of faster paced lucha inspired sequences and both men taking several dives to the outside, that are run of the mill by today's standards but would have been considered high-risk back then.

The match really begins to heat up when Fujinami starts slamming Canek's head into a ring-post and rips at his mask, which was rather odd and heelish behaviour for someone that was one of the roster's most notable babyfaces. At the same time Canek hones in on the fact that Fujinami has tweaked his foot- and really begins to target that area, even going as far as to remove the wrestling boot off Fujinami's foot.

Fujinami sells the injured foot, really well down the closing stretch, heightening the drama of the match. This doesn't quite get a full blown recommendation, as there were portions where the contest would lose momentum, and Fujinami's rather heelish act of tearing at Canek's mask didn't sit right, especially as he then switched to sympathetic babyface when Canek targetted his injured foot. However this is certainly worth a look, if you are interested in the embryonic years of Junior Heavyweight wrestling in puroresu.

Mildly Recommended

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Thu Sep 03, 2015 9:59 pm

Inoki faces a pair of American wrestling legends in the making to underwhelming results....

1st November 1979- NJPW Toukon Series 1979 (Nakajima Sports Centre, Sapporo)

NWF World Heavyweight Title: Antonio Inoki (c) vs Dusty Rhodes

Dusty Rhodes: Dusty Rhodes began his wrestling career in the late 1960's, and only a year into his career found himself winning regional NWA championships, both as a singles and as a tag team wrestler, alongside Dick Murdoch as the Texas Outlaws.

Though Rhodes was far from gifted with an athletic body, nor was he a particularly adept ring technician, he made up for those deficiencies with a 'man of the people' charisma, that resonated with the 'blue collar' working class of America.

Having accumulated a string of regional championship reigns, most frequently with Championship Wrestling from Florida, Dusty Rhodes reached the pinnacle of the NWA pyramid when he defeated Harley Race for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, though his reign would only last 5 days, immediately dropping the belt back to 'Race' in a rematch.

Though Rhodes wrestling career to that point had been primarily concentrated in North America (most frequently amongst NWA affiliates in the southern states), he had previously toured Japan, working for All Japan as 1975 drew to a close. Four years later he would return to Japan, but this time to tour with All Japan's fierce rivals NJPW.

The Match: A mediocre match between two wrestling legends- with the combination of base level mat-work and brawling leading to a largely drab and forgettable affair- which is something the messy and controversial finish and a 'crimson masked' Dusty Rhodes are unable to cover up.
Rhodes worked as the gaijin heel in this match, but he was always much better value as the everyman babyface, who looked as though he shouldn't belong in the ring with the 'real athletes' but battled his way to victory through sheer bloody minded determination , than he ever was any kind of heel. That's certainly evident in this match, with Rhodes 'heel' work being delivered with half hearted conviction.
___________________________________________________________________________ November 30th 1979- NJPW Toukon Series 1979 (Tokushima City Gymnasium)

WWF Heavyweight Title Match: Bob Backlund (c) vs Antonio Inoki

Bob Backlund: A former All-American collegiate athlete in both football and wrestling, Backlund began his professional wrestling career in 1973. His early career was spent primarily working for a variety of NWA affiliates (most notably in Georgia, Florida and St.Louis Missouri) where he would pick up several regional title reigns as both a singles and tag team wrestler.

In 1977 Backlund would join the then WWWF, and instantly pegged as a future main eventer for the promotion, who were looking to transition away from the dominance of the ageing Bruno Sammartino. After a lengthy title chase, with then champion Superstar Billy Graham, Backlund finally defeated Graham to win the title on the 20th February in 1978 at Madison Square Garden, and was now in the midst of a lengthy title reign that was creeping towards two years.

The Match: This was like a throwback to 1972, with the majority of the match spent doing 'scientific' wrestling on the mat. I'm sure there will be plenty who will be creaming their pants over how well a headlock is applied here, a leglock is applied there but most of the time this match made me feel as though I could be doing something better with my life and whether or not I had spent most of my existence in this world wisely.
The Tokushima fans of 1979, were just as bored as I was by what I was seeing, most sitting on their hands in depressed silence, the occasional rolls of toilet paper being tossed into the ring. To Inoki and Backlund's credit, they do suddenly switch it up a few gears in the closing stretch, incidentally after two rolls of toilet paper made their way onto the canvas.

Tiger Jeet Singh made his way down to the ring to try and spoil the party- so with him getting involved and with the promotional politics in play, one would think this would end in a pointless no contest, but the matches one pleasant surprise, despite being so depressingly boring it could drive anyone to start thinking about existentialist questions, is that we actually end up with a winner. _________________________________________________________________________________________________ December 6th 1979-NJPW Toukon Series 1979 (Kuramae Kokukigan, Tokyo)

WWF Heavyweight Title Match: Antonio Inoki (c) vs Bob Backlund

The Match: Despite Inoki coming in as the champion, the title change was never recognised by the WWF, and in their view Backlund was still their champion.

There's still too much 'scientific' stuff at the start that goes absolutely nowhere but this ends up being a much better match than their previous encounter, as they get to the more crowd popping spots and nearfalls much, much quicker even if the contest does end up being a little dragged out by the end.

Speaking of the end, it's a messy controversial affair, that involves the terminally irritating Tiger Jeet Singh sticking his unwanted oar in, and ends up taking the gloss off what was overall a pretty decent match, even with it's flaws. I guess it's as case of pick your poison in the end with these Inoki vs Backlund matches, do you want a snoozefest with a satisifactory finish, or a decent match with a messy end?

13th December 1979- NJPW Special TV Taping (Kyoto Prefectural Gymnasium)

WWF Junior Heavyweight Title: Tatsumi Fujinami (c) vs Kengo Kimura

Kengo Kimura: Kimura started his pro wrestling career in 1972 with the JWA, when the JWA folded in 1973 he joined NJPW. Kimura's early years were spent as a curtain jerker working under the name of Takashi Kimura, until spending much of 1977 and 1978 out on excursion with EMLL in Mexico (working under the name of Pak Choo) and WWC in Puerto Rico- where he would enjoy championship success winning both singles and tag team gold in both promotions. After a run with the NWA World Light Heavyweight Title ended in April 1979, Kimura would return to regular competition with NJPW.

The Match: As is so often the case with Fujinami's matches during his Junior Title run, a meandering opening and middle of mat based technical wrestling, eventually makes way for a thrilling conclusion, with Fujinami scrambling for survival as Kimura pounds the champion with everything he has in his locker (including a backdrop suplex out on the floor.)

If the build up was as engaging as the conclusion, then these Fujinami Junior title defences would come with a fully endorsed recommendation to seek out and watch, rather than a semi endorsement.

Mildly Recommended

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Thu Sep 03, 2015 11:12 pm

It's finally the 1980's!- Inoki feuds with the future blueprint for gaijin 'monster' heels, whilst a future British wrestling legend (albeit a somewhat divisive one) steps up for to challenge the dominant Fujinami for the WWF Junior title.

5th February 1980 - New Year Golden Series (Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, Nagoya)

WWF Junior Heavyweight Title: Tatsumi Fujinami (c) vs Dynamite Kid

Dynamite Kid: Tom Billington, better known as the Dynamite Kid began his wrestling career in 1975, and by 1977 had won the British Lightweight Title, before going on to capture the British Welterweight Title the next year.

Billington would move to Canada to work for the Calgary based Stampede Wrestling, where he would soon get pushed as an integral part of the roster, winning several reigns with the Stampede British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight Championship over the next couple of years.
In 1979 The Dynamite Kid would expand his travelling further, venturing into Japan for the first to work for International Wrestling Enterprise, and when he would return for a tour of Japan the next year, it would be on the grander stage of NJPW.

The Match: The defending champion Fujinami, came into the match with a plaster over his left eye. They began with plenty of mat wrestling, that was more reminiscent of a classic British 'world of sport' match without the rounds. Eventually though things picked up when Fujinami's wound got busted open, and like red rag to a bull, Dynamite Kid (great value here as the vicious heel) continuously decides to go after it.

As has been the pattern with Fujinami run with the WWF Junior belt, the pace really picks up during the closing stretch, with Dynamite Kid twice going for his signature Diving Headbutt. Whilst the movesets of both men are rather dated compared to today's flippier and flashier super Juniors (this is from 1980 after all), they still managed to pull me in with the 'drama' of the match, with the crowd fully behind Fujinami as he fights most of the match from underneath against his ruthless gaijin heel opponent.

Mildly Recommended

NWF World Heavyweight Title: Antonio Inoki (c) vs Stan Hansen

The Match: The bulk of the match is Antonio Inoki, working over Stan Hansen (the prototype monster heel gaijin) with submission holds and keeping the big man on the mat, before things pick up in the closing stretch with the momentum swinging in Hansen's favour and Inoki 'surviving' the increasing onslaught of the big man. The match ends on a count-out much to the chagrin of the fans in attendance. This match was OK, but would have been better if Inoki's ego didn't dictate that he would be in complete control of the match until the closing stretch.
__________________________________________________________________________ 3rd April 1980- Big Fight Series (Kuramae Kokikugan, Tokyo) WWF Junior Heavyweight Title: Tatsumi Fujinami (c) vs Ashura Hara

Ashura Hara: A former International rugby player Hara (who passed away in April) started out like so many do as a Junior Heavyweight, and one of the last graduates of the soon to be defunct International Wrestling Enterprise (the promotion would close it's doors in 1981). He spent much of his early career splitting his time between the IWE, and going on excursions abroad to the likes of Stampede and the Germany based CWA (Catch Wrestling Association).

The Match: This match was very stop-start, as they would brawl for a bit, then take things down to the mat and then brawl a bit more. Anyway Fujinami eventually gets busted open again, but the finish comes along rather abruptly, just as it looks as though the match is going to move up a gear and turn into something really good, rather than just a passable version of what appears to be the formula Fujinami match during his WWF Junior title reign.

NWF World Heavyweight Title: Stan Hansen (c) vs Antonio Inoki

The Match: They tell pretty much the same story, as their previous encounter two months previous, with Inoki looking to take the big man to the mat and wear Hansen down with submissions, whilst Hansen looked to simply overpower Inoki with his brute strength and take Inoki's head off with the Western Lariat.

However unlike the first encouter, Inoki spent more of the match fighting from underneath and it made for a more compelling contest. The match (as is so often the case) kicks up a gear in the final stretch, as they tease the countout finish from the first match, whilst Inoki busts out a top rope diving knee drop to the floor and musters up the strength to Brainbuster Hansen.

Mildly Recommended

4th April 1980- Big Fight Series (Kawasaki City Gymnasium)

Goro Tsurumi & Katsuzo Ooiyama vs 'Yamaha Brothers' Kantaro Hoshino & Kotetsu Yamamoto

Goro Tsurumi: Tsurumi began his in-ring career in 1971, and spent much of the 70's as a midcard heavyweight splitting his time between the AJPW and IWE promotions.

Katsuzo Ooiyama: Ooiyama had such a memorable career, he doesn't even have a page on 'Cagematch' the wrestling database. A google search, brings up results that he worked for the IWE promotion, prior to joining NJPW.

The Yamaha Brothers (Kantaro Hoshino & Kotetsu Yamamoto): Graduates of the JWA promotion and trained by the 'father of Puroresu' Rikidozan, Hoshino and Yamamato were sent on a learning excursion to America where they formed the Yamaha Brothers tag team.

Though the team was shelved on their return to Japan, they would infrequently reform the team throughout the 1970's, with both now primarily working for NJPW. This would prove to be Yamamoto's final match, however Hoshino would wrestle on until the mid 90's, albeit spending much of the remainder of his career as a lower midcard veteran, no longer in consideration for championships or tournaments.

The Match: Just why this seemingly random tag match has been posted up to NJPW World, comes apparent post match, as this was actually Yamamoto's retirement match (at least it would be as a full time member of the NJPW roster). Just why a match of such importance for Yamamoto, would see his opponents be chosen as a midcard and a nobody from the IWE promotion is rather perplexing though.

The match is pretty much a showcase for the Yamaha Brothers, as they are in control for 80% of the match, using their superior teamwork to keep the larger team at bay for most of the contest.

Unfortunately this match is beset with sound problems, with the commentary suffering from attacks of white noise. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ * For anyone that is interested there is a another Inoki faux MMA WWF Martial Arts title defence that took place in February of 1980, this time against Willie Williams, who was an American Karate practictioner that had the nickname of 'The Bear Killer' due to the fact that he allegedly fought a bear during the filming of the Japanese film 'Strongest Karate 2'. I personally have had my fill of Inoki's worked shoot stuff, and decided to skip out on this one.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Fri Sep 04, 2015 3:20 pm

The remainder of 1980, including the appearance of a future global mega star.

Reason I was able to churn through 1980 so quickly (despite there being a considerable increase in content), is because I was originally going to start things off from there, but then after getting to half way through 1981, thought that I might as well do it properly and start from the very beginning.

9th May 1980- NJPW 3rd Madison Square Garden Series (Fukuoka Sports Center)

WWF Junior Heavyweight Title: Tatsumi Fujinami (c) vs Chavo Guerrero

Chavo Guerrero: Part of the storied Guerrero wrestling family, Chavo began his in-ring career in 1970 and throughout the 70's, Guerrero primarily worked for the Los Angeles based NWA Hollywood Wrestling, gathering up a staggering 16 reigns with the NWA Americas Heavyweight Championship between 1975 and 1980. Guerrero starting working tours for New Japan in 1978 and by the end of the year was challenging Fujinami for his Junior Heavyweight Title.

The Match: This match was a tale of two halves, whilst they managed to have an exciting back and forth during the closing stretch, the bulk of the match consisted of (mostly uninteresting) grappling that had the Fukuoka crowd in a coma.

Fukuoka is a notoriously 'difficult' crowd (difficult as in quiet) and starting with low key mat and limb work, isn't the way to start the match, when faced with such a crowd. In fairness they do manage to get the citizens of Fukuoka on board when the pace picks up, but even I was near to nodding off during the opening portion of the match.
____________________________________________________________ 5th June 1980- NJPW 3rd Madison Square Garden Series (Kuramae Kokikugan, Tokyo )

MSG Series Semi Final: Stan Hansen vs Andre The Giant

The Match: This is ultra short (clocking in at under 2 Minutes) but is a fun 'smash-mouth' brawl whilst it lasts. Hansen who is a pretty big guy himself looks small compared to the literal giant that is Andre. Andre was never a great wrestler, from the work-rate perspective but his matches were always a spectacle due to his size and a charisma that put him above all other 'freak show' giants before and since. ________________________________________________________________ 9th August 1980- WWF Showdown at Shea (Shea Stadium, Flushing, New York, USA)

WWF Junior Heavyweight Title: Tatsumi Fujinami (c) vs Chavo Guerrero

The Match: Taking place at at WWF supercard at Shea Stadium (the former home of the New York Mets) in New York, this see's 'Chavo Classic' get another shot at dethroning Fujinami on 'home' soil.

To start with this a strange event, because the ring is on the baseball field, but all the fans in attendance appear to be in the stands, with the only people at ringside press photographers and cameramen- giving the event a rather odd atmosphere.

As for the match itself, they pack technical mat work, lucha chain spots, brawling and even a tope suicida from Fujinami into the match, but everything feels random and there is absolutely no cohesive narrative to the match. In the end it's far from unwatchable, as the individual components are executed well throughout the match but due to the strange atmosphere and poor match structure, it's far from compelling. ____________________________________________________________________ 25th September 1980- NJPW Bloody Fight Series 1980 (Hiroshima Prefectural Gymnasium)

NWF Heavyweight Title: Antonio Inoki (c) vs Stan Hansen

The Match: The 3rd time this match-up has featured in the NJPW archives for 1980, as these two once again do battle over the NWF Heavyweight Title.

As for the match itself, it follows a similar pattern to their encounter from April in 1980 (the 2nd match of those featured on NJPW-World)- so you pretty much know what to expect by now from these two. Notable highlights however are Hansen busting out a drop-kick and Inoki planting Hansen with a sort of Attitude Adjustment- that I was ready for him to go into 'U can't C Me' and do a 5 Knuckle Shuffle. Anyway this match will come across better and feel fresher, if you've not watched their other matches.

Mildly Recommended (More so if you haven't already watched the April 1980 encounter)

30th September 1980- NJPW Bloody Fight Series 1980 (Nippon Budokan Tokyo)

WWF Championship: Bob Backlund (c) vs Stan Hansen

The Match:
A match that is good in parts, Backlund plays pretty much the same role as Inoki did in his encounters with Hansen. Despite looking like he's just left a lecture at some Ivy League College and put on a pair of trunks, Backlund manages to pull off some surprising power spots on the bigger man, and despite technically having a 'milquetoast' personality as a babyface, that did translate into a sort of 'everyman' charisma.

Anyway as said, the match impresses in fits and starts, building momentum in places, only to fall flat when Hansen starts to run out of gas, and they go to rest holds. Disappointingly the match also finishes with a non finish, but I suppose these were consistently there in Hansen's matches to 'protect' his monster heel aura. Shave off five minutes, of boring rest holds and this could have turned out to be a pretty good match.
_________________________________________________________ December 10th 1980- 1st Madison Square Garden Tag League

MSG Tag League Finals: Antonio Inoki & Bob Backlund vs Stan Hansen & Hulk Hogan

Hulk Hogan: A young powerhouse brawler, Terry Bollea's early career was spent primarily working for various NWA affiliates under such ring names as Terry Boulder and Sterling Golden. As the 70's, turned into the 80's however, Bollea now working under the name of Hulk Hogan was now primarily splitting his time working for the WWF and NJPW in Japan, though at this point hadn't really risen above being anything more than a midcard 'bully' heel in either promotion.

The Match: As mediocre, as it gets as a tag match- with both teams coming across more as pairings of individuals, rather than as cohesive tag teams. Anyway after the obligatory back and forth start, the bulk of the match consists of Bob Backlund playing 'Ricky Morton' as the big bruiser heels take control of the contest.

The only thing that makes this match an interesting watch from a historical perspective, is watching a pre Hulkamania Hogan, working as a generic bruiser gaijin heel.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Sat Sep 05, 2015 2:10 pm

GO! GO! TIGER! GO! GO! TIGER! - It's the beginning of a new era for Shin Nihon Puroresu.

23rd April 1981- NJPW/WWF Big Fight Series II (Korumae Kokikugan, Tokyo)

Dynamite Kid vs Tiger Mask

Tiger Mask: Satoru Sayama had been wrestling under his own name since 1976, but after an excursion to CMLL (then called EMLL) in Mexico, he returned with a new masked gimmick, that would become an enduring legacy in Japanese Junior Heavyweight puroresu history (most notably in NJPW). The Tiger Mask character was first created for an anime series that ran between 1969-1971. Obviously seeing the characters commercial potential (particularly with kids), NJPW officials decided that Sayama was the man who could bring the anime character to life. At the same time (probably not by coincidence) a second season of the Tiger Mask anime ran between 1981-1982.

The Match: This would be the first match in what would become a storied and influential rivalry between these two. Tiger Mask certainly would have brought something fresh to the Junior Heavyweight ranks, with a style that was more 'Bruce Lee' than 'Karl Gotch'.

This first time contest, is like many a bands first album, showing glimpses of the greatness ahead, without actually being all that great. Dynamite Kid actually does a solid 'carry' job here for his innovative but green opponent, who botches quite a lot of his stuff ( Such as Dynamite selling a drop-kick that sent him to the floor, that actually landed nowhere near him-so much so that you could probably drive a tank through the gap that was between the soles of Tiger Mask's feet and his apparent target of Dynamite Kid's torso).

NWF Heavyweight Title: Antonio Inoki vs Stan Hansen

The Match: Oh woopity doo, this match......again! This is for the vacant NWF belt, after what must have been the one billionth match between these two earlier in the month, ended in a no contest and the belt was upheld (in other words it was just an excuse for Egonoki, to have more reigns with the belt).

Saying all that though, this would prove to be the blow off to their year long feud, not only was the NWF belt on the line, but the rivals also put their entrance gear on the line (Inoki's robe and Hansen's Cowboy Hat, Chaps and Bullrope), whilst at the end the loser finally admitted that they had lost to the better man by shaking their hand.

The match itself, is exactly what you would come to expect from these two and it's on a par with their matches featured on NJPW World from April and September the previous year. So there's nothing new here and it's definitely time that they moved onto something fresh but once again they execute the formula they had against one another pretty well. ___________________________________________________________________________ 24th June 1981- NJPW 10th Anniversary (Korumae Kokikugan, Tokyo)

Tiger Mask vs Villano III

Villano III:
Villano (That's Spanish for Villain!) was a masked rudo gimmick, performed by members of the same family (the Diaz Mendoza family), that always wore purple. Arturo Diaz Mendoza took on the mantle of Villano III, and made his debut in 1970 and subsequently went on to work for the UWA (Universal Wrestling Association) for the bulk of his career. The UWA had a working relationship with New Japan at the time, and Villano III was one of several luchadors to make excursions across the pacific ocean, to bolster New Japan's Junior Heavyweight division.

The Match: Villano III's entrance garb, includes a rather fabulous and extremely camp looking pink and purple headress. Tiger Mask's, mask has also been upgraded from his last match, as it now sports white fur on the edges, bringing it closer to the design of the original anime character and perhaps a show of faith from the booker's at the time, that the character had legs.

Tiger Mask puts in a more confident and consistent performance in this match, though much of it is taken up by well executed but not particularly interesting mat/chain wrestling. The final few minutes though, become a Tiger Mask showcase, as he gets to show off his innovative (at the time) high flying offense. Though when do finally get to the exciting stuff, it's over all too soon, with the match ending rather abruptly, despite going for over 15 minutes.

2/3 Falls Match: Abdullah The Butcher & Stan Hansen vs Antonio Inoki & Yoshiaki Yatsu

Abdullah The Butcher: Abdullah The Butcher, made his wrestling debut in 1958- and since that time the well travelled wrestler had established himself as one of the most feared heels in all of wrestling, with his character of an Arabian sadist (from Sudan). He had a long run with NJPW's chief rivals AJPW between 1972 and 1981 (even having a run as the PWF champion at one point), before making the jump to NJPW, perhaps having out-stayed his welcome in Giant Baba's promotion.

Yoshiaki Yatsu: A young lion, Yatsu spent the first six months of his pro-wrestling career on a learning excursion in the WWF.
The Match: Whilst Inoki and Hansen's feud over the NWF belt was done with, they would continue to face off in tag matches and still weren't on what you would call amiacable terms. Here Hansen has brought along a playmate to bring further chaos and brutality to the NJPW ring in the form of notorious psychopath Abdullah The Butcher.

Either Inoki saw future star power in Yatsu or the young lion was the only one stupid enough to step into the ring with the notoriously stiff Hansen and his fat psychopath friend. Anyway the bulk of the match consists of Yatsu getting the snot beating out of him by the evil gaijin to the point that he ends up with a crimson mask and Inoki being near enough helpless to do anything about it. The match ends in complete chaos with the heels becoming uncontrollable, and a pissed off Inoki brandishing a sake bottle.

All in all not a 'great' match, but an interesting watch that was ultimately there to transition Inoki into a fresh feud with the new monster heel threat in Abdullah The Butcher. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 2nd August 1981- NJPW Summer Fight Series 1981 (Korakuen Hall, Tokyo)

Scorpio vs Tiger Mask

Scorpio: A stocky luchador, with a face only his mother could love (he even had the unfortunate nickname- 'The World's Ugliest Man') , Scorpion was a veteran luchador who began his career in the late 60's and was yet another import from NJPW's working relationship with the UWA promotion.

The Match: They followed the basic formula here with Tiger Mask trying to keep the match at as fast pace, whilst his heel opponent looks to take things to the mat and slow things down. Tiger Mask was in control for most of the match, and they worked at a faster pace, which was a better way to showcase Tiger Mask, than having them doing 10 minutes of mat-work (as in his match against Villano). Unfortunately however the match is blotted by a botched finish, that saw Tiger Mask mess up on a diving sunset flip from the top turnbuckle. Whether this was down to Sayama at the time being an innovative but inconsistent worker or miscommunication issues with his opponents, is something only the wrestlers themselves can answer.

In a lot of ways watching the original Tiger Mask's early matches are quite depressing, as they utterly destroy the myth that this 'godfather' of Junior Division style wrestling was always awesome. The brutal truth, is that whilst both the character and the man behind the mask both had lots of potential, he was still very much an unpolished diamond at this point.

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