AJPW In The 1970s
Dory Funk Jr. vs Jumbo Tsuruta 8/29/74
The Funks helped train Jumbo, so this has a bit more of a backstory than the average gaijin vs native match. After a friendly handshake, Jumbo hits two dropkicks as soon as the bell rings, showing his trainer that this isn't just some match. Jumbo is only a year into his career here. Dory was in his 11th, and had finished a four and a half year reign as NWA Champion about a year before this. Jumbo is obviously quite green, so it will be interesting to see if his trainer can bring him to something more than what you'd expect of a rookie. There is about 10 minutes straight of tight mat work to start the match. Things start getting a bit faster, with Dory hitting a dope backslide counter straight out of the Smackdown games. Jumbo focuses on Dory's arm, which takes away a lot of his technical moves, as well as his famous uppercuts. He didn't work it enough, though, as Dory hits some nasty uppercuts that sound like they're breaking Jumbo's jaw. Jumbo starts throwing them back, but his are more just straight up elbow strikes. Texas butterfly suplex puts Jumbo down for the first fall about 15 minutes in.
The second fall starts with Dory in control, trying to go for the kill on his student. I've seen Dory, Karl Gotch, and Billy Robinson do that move where the guy is sitting up and they just fall full body weight on a dude's neck. Seems so dangerous. Due to Dory's arm work, Jumbo is unable to hit a butterfly suplex of his own, but he is able to score a fall after a mid air collision and big leg drop.
OH NO. THE SPLADLE! Fuck off, Dory. That's just a dick move at that point. This has turned into the trainer trying to stretch his student, and the student getting sick of that shit. Dory does that weird "sit on the ropes and flip the other guy over" that all lucha dudes/cruiserweights do. So strange to have it be a former NWA Champion in 1974 doing that. Dory appears to attempt to smash Jumbo's orbital socket with a knee drop, then does a Lion Tamer. Jumbo is able to reverse it twice, one sending Dory over the top rope. Jumbo hits both a dead lift gut wrench suplex and his dope as shit dead lift belly to belly. Dory is able to kick out, but those moves are legit as fuck. Dory wins the third fall and match after Jumbo is unable to continue bridging out of pins.
Pretty dope match. While Jumbo is still obviously very green, he just had a completely even match with the second longest reigning NWA Champion ever, and he was only a year into the game. Dory is a dude who I've seen more of when he was old as shit, yet every time I've seen him, he does something that I wouldn't have expected. He's certainly drier than Terry, but he's still quality.
Giant Baba vs Jack Brisco 12/2/74 NWA World Championship
This should be interesting. Jack Brisco was a dope wrestler. Baba at this point was still quite good, and the idea of Brisco trying to mat wrestle that big fuck around sounds dope. Obviously, Brisco is going to have to keep Baba on the mat, but Baba's reach is so big that he can reach the ropes from damn near the center of the ring. Jack has the right game plan, as he's able to get Baba on the mat and keep his leg wrapped up. He's very dogged on it. Any time there is any space, he goes for an ankle pick and grapevines the leg. Baba clearly gets frustrated and gives Jack a nice pop in the nose. Unsurprisingly, Baba has the advantage when they stand up. It's so interesting to me that Baba went with the traditional technical style despite his much bigger size. He didn't really work as a big man, as much as he worked a technical wrestler who was a big man. Jack similarly gets frustrated at getting stuck in the same hold, throwing the first punch of the match nearly 10 minutes in. He follows that up with a rad 70s knee lift. Then he just starts blasting away with elbow strikes. The technical respct seems to have gone out the window. And these elbows fire Baba up, who hits his chop/dropkick/Russian leg sweep combo to win the first fall.
Jack's neck/head are in bad shape at the start of fall 2, and Baba wastes no time at all attacking it. But here's the thing: As soon as it heads back to the mat, Jack is back in control. That's why Baba was doing his submissions while standing in the first fall. He can not compete with Jack on the mat. Baba attempts a big boot that basically turns into a head kick. I thought he would get the win with that, but Jack kicked out. Giant atomic drop! Jack kicks out again. Just as it seemed like Baba was going to win his second straight fall, Brisco hit a...giant...back drop and slapped on the figure four. Baba is forced to tap, leading to a third fall.
Jack continues to leg work in the third fall. Baba avoids another figure four. Very near fall that Jack got his foot on the ropes at the last possible moment. Fans thought that was the match. Hooking lariato OUTTA NOWHERE. Oh shit. New champion! Giant Baba has become the first Japanese NWA World Champion! Both men need help returning to the locker room.
A big match for Japan. Granted, Baba lost the title a week later, but for the first time a Japanese wrestler became the champion of the world. As if Baba already wasn't treated like an idol in Japan. And it was a good match to boot. Baba is very underrated in the scheme of things. I assume most people in America only saw him at the end of his career as a full time guy doing some stuff with AWA/JCP. While he was never a top tier guy, he was very good at one point, especially for having such an interesting style to go with his look. Jack Brisco was no slouch, of course. The handful of his matches from the 70s that I've seen are all pretty rad.
The Destroyer vs The Spirit PWF United States Championship 7/25/75
Now, Destroyer is dope as fuck. Nothing but praise for that dude. The Spirit is actually Killer Karl Kox in a mask. I think the idea is kind of like Tiger Mask/Black Tiger kind of deal for this. Destroyer in the white mask, Spirit in the black mask. Spirit as like an even more heelish Destroyer. Destroyer gets the first offense, with a dirty break on the ropes. Spirit then pokes him in the eye. Destroyer might be in for a taste of his own medicine in this match. These two get their arms tied up and work the shit out of it, just going back and forth with leverage points and reversals. Working holds like fiends. Destroyer does all the little things so well. Where to grind his jaw or an elbow into a hold, when to put his hand over his opponent's mouth/nose. His matches are a brilliant class on the little things. The Spirit/Kox trained Dick Murdoch, and if you've ever seen Murdoch's punches, you'll see exactly where they came from in this match. Destroyer gets busted open around the eye. Spirit loads his mask with an international object, winning the first fall with a headbutt in about 10 minutes. A Destroyer classic.
Fall two begins with Destroyer still groggy, his white mask now getting progressively more blood soaked. Jumbo Tsuruta is one of Destroyer's seconds, and he slides him a weapon, much to the delight of the side of the audience that saw it. Yes! Destroyer loads up the mask to hit his own headbutt. He then jabs Spirit with it, and places it in his mouth to hide it from the ref. He hits two more loaded headbutts to win fall two, and the fans love his cheating. Jumbo gets the object before the ref can find it. Lol.
Jumbo continues to help Destroyer cheat in the third fall. It's almost slapstick at this point, with Destroyer and Jumbo making the ref look like a fool over and over to cheat against the heel, who also cheats, but the fans get mad at his cheating. It's pretty fun. Spirit misses a knee drop. Sucks for him. The figure four is Destroyer's signature move. After dueling cheating, Jumbo gets physically involved, grabbing Spirit's foot. Destroyer does a tight school boy roll up (with a hand full of tights, of course), to win the match. Spirit and Jumbo get into it on the floor. I believe this was a successful title defense for the Destroyer.
Fun stuff. The dueling cheating, Jumbo helping Destroyer cheat, the crowd loving it. More dudes wrestling need to be watching as much Destroyer footage as possible. The whole story of heel vs heel, but one is OUR heel is always great. Especially with Jumbo right in there to help. Very fun, if a little slow in the opening (but with great hold working during that period).
Dick Murdoch vs Pat O'Connor 12/15/75
Dirty Dick was trained by the aforementioned Spirit/Karl Kox and Pat O'Connor. Pat O'Connor is probably best known for the roll up named after him. He's in his 50s here. He was said to be pretty incredible in his prime, but so little footage of it exists that most people have never seen any of it. Murdoch is the first to take this to the mat, almost immediately. He works a head scissors, which O'Connor works to get out of, only to find himself back in the hold a few seconds later. That's how a lot of these matches go. Guys working one or two holds for the first like...ten minutes straight. Just working working working those holds. Pat is finally able to get out and get a short arm scissors applied. Then he starts rolling with it, which I'm not sure I've ever seen. It's almost 20 minutes in before punches start getting thrown. As it turns out, both dudes have dope punches. What started as a strict technical match has turned into both guys trying to find ways to throw closed fists without the ref seeing. By the end of the match, they were doing comedy spots. The match ends in a time limit draw.
Out of about 30 minutes, 23 are devoted to two guys doing the same two holds over and over. If you can't handle that, shit ain't for you. I'd like to see Pat in his prime, as he shows some flashes of greatness despite being in his early 50s.
Jumbo Tsuruta vs Giant Baba 5/1/76
Tsuruta, now three years in, is clearly the future ace of AJPW, if he isn't already. But Baba is still the icon. Jumbo throws a dropkick about 30 seconds in, just to show Baba what's up. The high knee takes the giant down. Jumbo is clearly here to end this as quickly as he can, possibly due to his wrapped and heavily bruised leg. Oh wow, Jumbo muscles Baba up into a fireman's carry and just walks around with him. Such POWAH. Baba keeps taking it to the mat, which normally you'd think he'd be at a bit of a disadvantage, but Jumbo is pretty known to fuck your world with jumping knees, lariats, dropkicks, and suplexes, so this seems like a good strategy. Jumbo is also skilled on the mat, though, so he's able to control the much bigger man there, as well. He's really showing that he's the new man around All Japan. Jumbo hits an insane dropkick right in the fucking face. That dude put everything into it. God damn. That's your boss, breh. Ease up. As Baba gets pissed, he attempts something of a cross arm breaker, which Jumbo slips out of, leading to Jumbo doing leg work, including the Funk spinning toe hold, taught to him personally by Dory. And they are going AT IT on the mat. Jumbo nearly gets the win with the O'Connor Roll and is trying to up the pace to end this. Baba responds in kind, with a big boot that sends Jumbo through the ropes. Oh shit, deadlift gutwrench to Baba. Flying knee also drills Baba in the face. He gets pissed, shoves off a dropkick, and hits a huge backdrop for the win.
This was rad. Jumbo holding absolutely nothing back against his mentor and boss, trying to show that this company is going to be his soon. Baba gave him everything you could imagine, being thrown around, getting the shit knocked out of him, and controlled on the mat. Somewhat reminiscent of the early Misawa/Jumbo matches, but with Baba being proud of Jumbo instead of jealous. He was SO HAPPY after the match knowing that Jumbo was ready to take over.
I enjoy 70s style puro tinged NWA Championship style matches. They're so wonderful and pleasant to watch. Guys working holds for like 10 minutes, attention to the tiniest of details, 2/3 falls matches where the first fall ties into the second, and the third ties into the first two. It's so enjoyable to me. It's the kind of stuff I go to when I'm sick of wrestling and need a recharge.