AJPW In The 1980s
Nick Bockwinkel vs Billy Robinson 12/11/80
Billy's jacket is both disgusting and amazing. This is announced as a special dream match, so we'll see if it can live up to the hype. The early minutes of this match have the two attempting suplexes, and then working amazingly tight arm bars and holds to prevent that from happening later in the match. No air in those holds. Fans pop big when Billy is able to transition in a standing octopus. Robinson's twisting head-scissors is immense. Just wonderful. His hangman's neckbreaker is no joke, either. Bock sees the momentum going the wrong way for him and goes back to the arm work. The last thing he wants is to get hit with the butterfly suplex. Billy responds by grinding the shit out of a headlock. That will fuck your ear up something FIERCE. For a Japanese crowd in 1980 with two gaijin, they're pretty vocal. Constant cat calls, pops for all the high spots. This is definitely a match of the little things. The way Bock gets out of a headlock and turns that into a chicken wing, the grinding of all the headlocks and arm locks, the counters. This is wonderful. This type of attention to holds is sorely missed in modern wrestling. You don't just grab a headlock and sit there for a while. You grind that shit. You don't just get a toe hold and leg scissors. You twist that foot and ankle as much as you can. Tempers finally start to flare about 18 minutes in, with Bock responding to an uppercut with a slap, and Robinson finding himself flying over the top rope in a rage. Billy injures his knee doing his dope backbreaker, and Bock aggressively tries to end the match with a figure four and other leg holds. The match devolves into a slug fest and then ends in a 30 minute draw.
This was so enjoyable. Two dudes working the shit out of holds for a half hour. Much like anytime I watch a Bockwinkel match, I can't help but thing how the match would be so much less enjoyable if it was a Ric Flair match.
Funk Brothers vs Bruiser Brody/Jimmy Snuka RWTL Finals 12/13/81
I don't know if you guys know this or not, but Japan fucking loves the Funks. I've not seen any Snuka in Japan. The atmosphere for this is crazy. Stan Hansen is at ringside in support of Brody and Snuka. You can just tell shit is about to go down. Terry and Snuka start. Streamers continue to flow in for the opening minutes. Brody doing leapfrogs and dropkicks will never not be weird as shit to me. It's just so unexpected for his size, look, and persona. Oh damn, Dory counters a leapfrog into the spinning toe hold. How dope. Have you ever seen that? I haven't. Things are going to get serious between Terry and Brody by the end of the match. Brody continues to surprise with...mat wrestling against Dory. He's a man of mystery. Dory settles into the FIP role, which, while he's not nearly as good at selling for his life like Terry, he's also not nearly as good of a hot tag kind of guy, so it's the right choice. Although it isn't really a traditional FIP kind of spot, since Japan tags are much different than Southern Tags, even with Southern Wrasslers. Terry does the Flair Flip, taking a header to the floor was with a pretty gross splat. Snuka hits a springboard Superfly Splash, which I'm sure was crazy in 1981. OH SHIT TERRY WITH A TOP ROPE PLANCHA TO THE FLOOR ON SNUKA! Brody incompacitates Terry out in the crowd, leaving Dory to try win the match by himself. When Terry gets back to the ring, he forces Snuka to tag Brody in. Fans get hot for Terry's punches rocking Brody. Lol, Terry hits a blatant low blow on Snuka right in front of the ref, who doesn't react at all. Then DORY comes off the top rope. What in the world is going on here? As Dory has Snuka in the spinning toe hold, Brody assists Hansen on laying Terry out with a lariatooooo on the floor. Dory gets pissed and starts knocking the shit out of Snuka, then takes Brody to the floor and posts him. Brody is busted open! Still, this is a two on one situation, and those two are fucking crazy dudes. Dory kicks out of a Snuka diving headbutt as Terry still writhes around on the floor. Fight as he might, Dory is eventually put away with the King Kong Knee Drop. Snuka and Brody win the Real World Tag League! The Funks try to fight back after the match. Baba and Jumbo hit the ring to join the fun. Hansen gets busted open during this. A lot of fun. This even includes footage from the locker room, with Stan screaming about how he "doesn't have to take this shit" while bleeding everywhere.
I'm down for any and all Brody/Hansen/Funk interactions. Snuka was no slouch, either. A true freak athlete in his prime.
Ted DiBiase vs Genichiro Tenryu 10/23/83
This could be weird. Ted, especially at this point, was known for strong technical wrestling. Tenryu...has never been known to do much technical wrestling at all. Oddly, Ted wears an "Italian Stallion" robe. Things are surprisingly even on the mat for the opening minutes, at least more than what you'd expect from Tenryu on the mat. He works the shit out of Ted's arm, and in a weird inversion of what you'd expect, it's DiBiase who has to throw the stiff strikes to get out of things. Ted immediately regrets his strike approach when Tenryu's chops come out. With some struggle, Ted is able to hit his gutwrench and powerslam. Tenryu get tired of all this technical shit and does a suicide dive, because...fuck technical wrestling, I guess. Ted hits a murderous piledriver on the floor in hopes of getting a count out win. Tenryu essentially no sells it and gets back in the ring to hit an enzuiguri. Ted takes it back to the floor, getting hit with a backdrop, but preventing Tenryu from returning to the ring. The match ends in a double count out.
This was...weird. A big clash of styles, and then both guys working the style of the other made it ever weirder.
Stan Hansen vs Giant Baba PWF Championship 7/31/84
I love Baba's music. His second for the match is a baby Toshiaki Kawada. As much as people love Baba, they were chanting for Stan before his music even hit. Hansen attacks before the bell, ring still full of streamers, people screaming. Baba gives it right back. The chants for Baba are deafening. Baba tries to take out the lariato arm, and Stan gets all tied up in the ropes. Stan Hansen is going to remind you who the fuck he is though. He's not going to let you forget that he can stiff the shit out of you. Stan goes after the leg of Baba in an attempt to keep him grounded. He didn't really factor in that Baba is probably MORE dangerous on the mat at this stage of his career than he is hanging and banging. Baba is able to counter the lariato with a big boot. Stan hits him with a standing version instead, and Baba kicks out. Baba scores a small package OUTTA NOWHERE. New champion! Hansen goes on a rampage after the match, knocking the shit out of all the young boys, picking on Kawada in particular.
Baba was quite limited by this stage in his career. There is no denying it. But here, he was still able to have a rad match due to crazy heat and rock solid psychology. The shortness of the match (under 10 minutes) certainly helped. And being in the ring with a still in his prime Stan Hansen can never be a bad thing. It was perfect for what it needed to be. Very fun.
Tiger Mask II vs La Fiera 8/26/84
I believe this is Misawa's debut as Tiger Mask. I swear I heard a brief "MISAWA" chant. This is, obviously a Misawa Mask showcase. Lots of fast paced, lucha based stuff. Misawa kind of struggles at times, as I assume he's still pretty new to lucha stuff. He does have a dope monkey flip, though. Fiera is actually more impressive here, as he's a great bumper, more fluid with the lucha stuff, and all of his moves look very crisp. He might have been the guy that trained Misawa in the lucha style. Misawa hits a gnarly tope con hilo that probably took a couple of years off of Fiera's career. A picture perfect tiger suplex gets the win for Tiger Mask II. A fun "let the cruisers go fill 10 minutes" type of match.