The Destroyer vs Giant Baba 3/5/69
This technically wasn't an AJPW match, but in the precursor promotion to both AJPW and NJPW. Rikidozan, the father of puro, started it in the early 1950s. It was the first pro wrestling company in Japan. He was booked as a super babyface, defeating American challengers in the years directly after WWII. He trained both Inoki and Baba, who would both form their own promotions in 1972. Even in the 60s, Japan had random English words and Arabic numbers on their graphics. Baba always had a weird body, but when he was young, he really did look like a giant, especially in Japan. Some great top wrist locks to start out. Better looking than any top wrist lock you've seen in 25 years. Baba does some sweet arm drags while still being locked in a collar and elbow tie up. And the collar and elbow is used as an actual hold, which is interesting. Destroyer is able to slip out and work the arm himself. That fucker is such a shit bird. Biting the hand, then choking with the other hand/foot while the ref is admonishing him. NASTY finger work. This is some great arm work. It's varied, but more importantly, it's mean. This hand work is amazing. Baba finally gets free and does some chops, but Destroyer immediately bails to the floor. Baba gets a wishbone/toe hold and works it hard. Destroy is able to roll through and almost squat Baba off of him. Big hip toss from Baba and some more tight arm work. Baba does almost a rolling cross arm breaker. Destroyer is so good at stooging while trying to get out of the hold. Baba turns the hold into a head scissors with an arm bar. Destroyer is able to nip out of it and slap on a headlock take down, only to immediately get put back in the head scissors. Destroyer is again able to get out, this time by grinding his knee into the shin/ankle of Baba. Then gets put right back in the hold. Destroyer is able to get out a few more times and finally figures out doing a headlock take down isn't going to work for him, so he does an arm drag. He still got put right back in the head scissors. Destroyer rolls through into a pinning combination trying to use the ropes. He then fights for a figure four, only to get shoved off, taking a bump over the top. Crisscross spot ends with Destroyer dodging a chop and doing a Fargo strut. He also dodges a big boot and gloats. Destroyer gets a head scissors of his own applied. The triangle kind. And it's on fucking tight. Baba rolls out and does a pretty hardcore death lock type hold. He then turns it into a form of the Regal Stretch. Destroyer bites his way out. Half crab. Destroyer is able to get under the ropes. Back to the early STF. Destroyer bails again to take a breather and stall. He puts something on his thumb before thumbing Baba in the face. What is does is lick is thumb, then quickly rub it on the inside of his trunks and people 100% buy it. He hits a body slam and goes for the figure four, only to get slapped. Big boot! Big chop. Baba tries to take the mask off. He does some eye pokes of his own. Baba hits a slam and knee drop. Destroyer tries something and is locked in a body scissors. When Destroyer tries to roll out, Baba slams him back down on his ass with just his legs. Destroyer finally figures it out, lands on his feet, then dives over Baba to prove his smarts. He couldn't get away from headlocks, though. Baba hits some throat chops, but Destroya hits a strong drop toe hold and keeps going with it to apply a submission out of it. Then he puts his foot on the back of Baba's knee and starts wrenching. I did that hold once while wrestling with my friend and made him cry. He uses the ring apron to bust Baba's knee up some more. He still can't lock on the figure four. They trade hip tosses with Destroyer doing an interesting short arm scissors before sitting down on the move properly. Baba gets out by going back to the wishbone. Huge Baba slam. The mask is nearly off. Baba does chops and turnbuckle smashes. Back to the body scissors. He turns it into a crucifix/inverted arm bar. Or a Rings of Saturn with his legs, if you will. Destroyer breaks it by forcing Baba under the ropes, which is a pretty interesting way to break a hold. Destroyer is sent to the floor. Oh shit, headbutt with something in the mask! They fight for a bit on the floor and Destroyer is using his phantom weapons. Baba is busted open! This fires Baba up. He hits a big boot and those big knee smashes he did. Destroyer blocks a big boot and rolls into a pin, which Baba rolls through to get the pin. Baba wins the first fall! The Americans with Destroyer hit the ring to argue with the ref. One of them looked like Larry Hennig, but I can't be certain on that. As the second fall starts, Destroyer misses a knee drop. Baba takes advantage. Atomic drop. Dropkick from Baba. He misses the second. Loaded headbutt. Destroyer hits a second rope knee drop, but Baba kicks out. Mid ring collision. After an hour, Destroyer still can't get the figure four on. He finally gets it applied and Baba gives up. The Americans again get in the ring, with Antonio Inoki keeping them away from Baba. The ref is punched. For this, Destroyer was disqualified, giving the win to Baba. This was so good. Destroyer is amazing at everything. Baba, much like young Andre, was very capable in the ring and definitely held his own. But The Destroyer is excellent. I'm sad that his style is completely gone in modern wrestling. I'd love to see Daniel Bryan and Cesaro work an hour long match like this at a house show or PPV.
The Destroyer vs Mil Mascaras 7/25/74
AJPW proper. A masked Mexican and a masked American, having a wrestling match in Japan. They have a pretty even opening exchange. Destroyer does that great top wrist lock and takes things to the mat. Mil rolls through and does some cool ground work of his own. Early indie respeck stand off. Some rolling around ends with Mil doing a Liontamer. Mil gets a full nelson octopus. Can't say I've ever seen someone mix those moves together. Destroyer gets out and does various surf boards. A lot of nifty ground work in this. Mil literally headbutts Destroyer in the taint. It was kind of weird. Running headbutt/chop from Mil. Another. He misses one in the corner, going head first into the turnbuckle. Top rope knee drop. This gets Destroyer the first fall. Mil dodges a dropkick in the second fall to get started on the offensive. Suplex slam. Inverted stump puller. Destroyer gets to the ropes. They start throwing elbows and Mil does a bulldog into the turnbuckle. Big suplex and top rope cross body gets Mil the second fall. Mil hits a piledriver early into the third fall. Figure four! They roll to the apron. One of the young boys is Tenryu. Destroyer takes two big falls to the floor. Destroyer allegedly accidentally headbutts Mil in the balls while mil was doing a leap frog, but he gave a quick sly look to the crowd to let them know he did it on purpose. Mil was unable to continue and the match was awarded to The Destroyer. Destroyer is so awesome. God damn, he's great.
Riki Choshu/Yoshiaki Yatsu vs Jumbo Tsuruta/Genichiro Tenryu 1/26/86
Jumbo and Choshu start out and the crowd is amped. Choshu has his ribs taped, which Jumbo has no problems attacking. They go to the corner and Yatsu tags in. He backs Jumbo into a neutral corner and gives him a crazy stiff chop. Jumbo slaps him and demands Choshu come back in so he can slap his shit, too. Tenryu is in and throws a chop at Yatsu on the apron just for fun. He gets trapped and caught in a backdrop doomsday device. Very stiff kitchen sink from Yatsu. Lots of quick tags here. Spike piledriver, right on the perm! Tenryu recovers with some leg work. Yatsu breaks a figure four with a flying elbow. Lariatooo! Tag out to Jumbo, who hits his own stiff kitchen sinks. Yatsu bails. He comes back in and hits a dropkick. Chosu is back in and he and Jumbo go AT it. These dudes hate each other. Beautiful back suplex from Choshu. Double lariatoooo. Tenryu comes in and goes right after Choshu's ribs. Once Jumbo is tagged back in, he goes at them even harder. Abdominal stretch. Yatsu breaks it with an ax handle and head kick. He gets tagged in and hits a dropkick and back suplex. Tenryu hits Choshu with a chair on the floor as Yatsu is doing a spinning toe hold in the ring. Tenryu breaks it with a back suplex. Jumbo lariatooooooo! And another. Seconds rewrap Choshu's ribs as Yatsu is getting his ass kicked in the ring. Choshu gets the hot tag. Scorpion Death Lock! He makes it look like a legit hold that would fuck your knees and ankles up in addition to your back. Tenryu does a slingshot suplex to Yatsu. Falling lariatooo from Yatsu. Running bulldog. Choshu tried to do some work on Jumbo on the floor, but Tenryu stopped that shit, threw him into the guard rail, and hit him with another chair. Jumbo has been busted open and is sent head first into the ring post. Piledriver on Jumbo while Tenryu is trying to stomp Choshu through a table. Back suplex. Jumbo kicks out. Yatsu applies a Scorpion Death Lock, which is broken up by Tenryu trying to get as much momentum as possible to lariatooooo Yatsu's face off. Choshu comes in and starts stomping the shit of Jumbo's head. Enzuigiri! Then a second. Then Yatsu hits a German suplex drivaaaah. Tenryu kicks out. He hits another enzuigiri. He pins Yatsu with a folding powerbomb. This was AWESOME. Everyone should watch it. Besides the ring work being great, the crowd was about as hot as you'll ever find at a puro show and it had a clean finish, which was quite rare anywhere in the 80s.
Jumbo Tsuruta vs Stan Hansen 10/21/86
They start with trading chops. Jumbo tries to take it to the ground, but Stan isn't having any of that. He runs into a boot in the corner and Jumbo starts working the lariatooo arm. They start throwing elbows and Stan goes down. He recovers and does a stun gun. On the floor, he hits a big boot and throws Jumbo into the guard rail. They go back to the floor. Hansen also works over the arm, hopefully preventing a Jumbo lariatooo or back suplex. That didn't prevent a high knee. Lariatoooo sends Jumbo off the apron and into the guard rail. I believe he's busted open. Dropkick from Hansen! Big elbow drop from Stan. Back to the floor. Jumbo is thrown into everything you can be thrown into. Jumbo then throws Stan into the ring post. Now he's busted open. Enziguiri. Jumbo looks like he's trying to set the Muta Scale before there was a Muta Scale. Back to brawling on the floor. Jumbo misses a top rope stomp and Stan goes right after the knee. Western Lariatoooooo. Jumbo wins with a small package OUTTA NOWHERE. Hansen attacked after the match. Very much an American style wild brawl.
Jumbo Tsuruta/Genichiro Tenryu vs Giant Baba/Tiger Mask II 11/28/86
Tiger Mask II is Mitsuharu Misawa before he would unmask. His feud with Jumbo was pretty legendary, but it hadn't started yet. What had happened was he had moved up to the heavyweight division. Tenryu and Baba start out. Baba throws Tenryu to the floor and Tiger Mask does a tope that almost misses. Jumbo gets tagged and starts throwing Misawa around. Butterfly suplex. Jumbo runs into a Baba boot. Baba is tagged in and hits a series of chops before getting double teamed. Enzuigiri. The giant is back suplexed. Flying elbow from Tenryu. Misawa tags in. Misawa's style was much different as Tiger Mask than as the frog man. Jumbo forces him to tag because he wants to chop Baba some more. High knee. Misawa comes back in with a cross body. He applies a head scissors to Tenryu. Tenryu gets out and locks on a camel clutch. Jumbo is back in and does an abdominal stretch. Misawa gets out and hits a great dropkick, then a baseball slide that send Jumbo's head into the guard rail. Flying elbow drop. Baba is back in and gets suplexed. He boots Tenryu and more quick tags. Spin kick from Misawa. Kitchen sink and Flapjack Norton from Tenryu. Misawa blocks the second one and hits an enzuigiri. Baba is tagged back in and Jumbo blindsides him with a lariatooo. Misawa piledrives Tenryu. Big flipping senton. Gut wrench suplex from Jumbo. Baba still has some surprises in him despite his body being in pretty rough shape. Double enzuigiris. Backdrop drivaaah to Misawa. Jumbo follows it with a rough piledriver. Jumbo goes into the ring post. Misawa tags out and Baba hits a neck breaker, big boot, and falling lariatooo. Jumbo kicks out of a German suplex. Jumbo rolls through a Misawa cross body to get the win. Pretty awesome, even with the quite hampered Baba.
Jumbo Tsuruta vs Genichiro Tenryu 8/31/87
Former partners are now bitter enemies. Baby Kawada is Tenryu's second. Tiger Mask II was Jumbo's second. Tenryu dodges the high knee early on. He doesn't dodge a stiff shoulder block. Tenryu gets out of a head lock with a cross arm breaker. Jumbo throws some mean elbows in the corner. Tenryu full force slaps him in the face for them. Jumbo throws some knees and applies an abdominal stretch. When Tenryu gets out of it, Jumbo does an enzuigiri. Tenryu slaps him and does a high knee of his own. Jumbo didn't like that shit at all, so he slaps the shit out of Tenryu and hits the high knee. He hits another one in the corner with his knee pad down. Running bulldog. Jumbo is showing why he's the ace of AJPW. Piledriver. Jumbo procures an octopus. Top rope high knee! Tenryu is able to block the back suplex and hit a German suplex. Powerbomb, but they were in the ropes. They go to the floor. Jumbo does a second rope plancha. Double lariatooos back in the ring. Another knee in the corner from Jumbo. He tries one more time and hits the turnbuckle. Tenryu locks on some half crabs. Back drop drivaaaaaaaaaahhh! A second one. Tenryu was in the ropes. Tenryu takes a hard fall over the ropes. Tenryu blocks a piledriver on the floor. Jumbo kicks him in the face for it. They trade kicks on the apron. Then a double lariatoo, which gets Jumbo's knee tied up in the ropes. Tenryu wins via count out. This is good shit.
I'm a big fan of 70s/80s All Japan. The 90s were great with the Four Corners (and Akiyama), but I can watch the 70s/80s stuff all day. 70s was very much NWA style, and the 80s was that mixed with more strikes and head drops. 90s went more into just strikes and head drops, with the late 90s and early years of NOAH going overboard with them. Jumbo and Destroyer are both amazing pro wrestlers.