Yeah, so I do these over at rollinggermans.8m.com and while I realize the demand for wrestling reviews from Japan in the 1970s and 1980s is roughly the size of the Bill DeMott fanclub, there might be some young kid out there disillusioned by the WWE who might be seeking an alternative or some older fan who remembers "the way things ought to be". At any rate, here it is. Hope you enjoy. ____________________________________________________________ ALL JAPAN CLASSICS #5
After one of the worst stretches bad luck that I’ve had in some time, things are back to normal and I celebrate coming back through the looking glass by continuing to spread the gospel of puro, my brethren.
SHOEHI BABA/JUMBO TSURUTA vs. BOB BACKLUND/BOB ROOP (7/25/74) Baba and his young padawan, Tsuruta, are back at it again. You know what’s cool about Japan? Baba helped bring Tenryu and Tsuruta along who in turn brought along Misawa and Kawada (and to a lesser extent Taue and Kobashi) leading to All Japan’s most profitable run. It’s no surprise that once that cycle was severed All Japan fell off the face of the earth. The NOAH split may just have been the final straw but there were problems long before that. I digress. Backlund you probably know as the crazy old guy who seems to come back to the WWE every couple of years. Bob Roop was Ted DiBiase’s partner for a long time in Mid-South before turning on him. He’s pretty good, but honestly, would YOU ever pay to see a guy named “Bob Roop”? He starts out with Baba and they fight over a wristlock with Roop finally reversing to a headscissors. Backlund comes in and it’s like switching from plain vanilla to French vanilla (or am I supposed to say “freedom” vanilla?). Tsuruta tags in and battles over a backdrop/bridge sequence with Backlund. The Japanese dominate Backlund from there with Roop constantly coming in to make the save. Roop opens up the Heel Psychology 101 textbook and looks under the appendix for “sucker moves”. In this case, he selects to beg off and draw Baba in and then kick him low. He follows that up with a boot to the eyes cementing his heel status. Backlund comes in and stomps Baba’s leg into dust but can’t keep him from making the tag. Backlund is really being made to look like the weak link of his team for some reason. He was not yet WWWF champ yet so maybe he’s supposed to be “green”. Backlund tries a Butterfly suplex but Tsuruta backdrops into a pincover á la Ricky Steamboat. He actually has to roll off of a dazed Backlund to avoid getting the pin. Baba and Tsuruta take turns beating the crap out of him until Jumbo finishes him off with the Butterfly suplex. What you had here was a group of good wrestlers who decided to brawl and the match suffered as a result. **
JACK BRISCO vs. JUMBO TSURUTA (2/3 Falls, NWA Heavyweight Title, 1/30/74) Just to prove that he does, in fact, rule the universe at this point, Jack Brisco defends the NWA Title a mere six days after his legendary epic encounter with Dory Funk Jr. Jumbo starts out trying to snatch Brisco’s legs out from under him, but Jack is too quick. They run the ropes with Tsuruta getting an armdrag out of it. He holds Jack down in the armbar. They run the ropes again and Jack comes out of it with a body slam. Tsuruta pushes him away and gets another armdrag. It’s easy to see where Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels got so much of their iron man match moveset. Tsuruta underhooks him in anticipation of a Butterfly Suplex (his finisher) but Brisco backs into the ropes. Jumbo pulls him back in and continues to work over the arm with a wristlock. Jack tires of that and rolls him up off the ropes for a tight two. Jumbo armdrags him right back down. He brings the Viciousness by trying to rip the shoulder right out of the socket. Brisco is bleeding hardway from the lower lip. They wind up in an overhand wristlock fight and Jack forces him into a bridge. Jumbo powers out but Brisco goes full heel and pulls him by the hair down into a chinlock. Ric Flair was just starting out at this time remember. Brisco takes him down again and goes to work on the left leg in preparation for the figure-four. He really cranks on that ankle lock too. Jumbo manage to reach back and stretch Brisco until his foot dangles under the bottom rope and the ref breaks them up. Jumbo counters a snapmare into a backslide for a close two count. Yikes! Brisco almost ate one there. Tsuruta slams him down and drops an elbow for two. A second elbow attempt finds nothing but canvass and Brisco pops up, nails an Atomic Backbreaker, and finishes the first fall at a little over 12:00. Winner of the first fall: JACK BRISCO
Second Fall: Tsuruta is already spryly going after Brisco unlike many of the finishers these days where a guy has to play dead for three or four minutes. Brisco slows him down with a headlock, though. Perhaps he’s thinking of forcing another draw if it comes down to that? Tsuruta creates some distance with a pair of elbows and lofts Jack up into a kneebreaker. Jack sells it like he just got stabbed with a penknife or something. Tsuruta locks in a reverse Indian Deathlock which I thought would end it. No dice. Tsuruta tries a spinning toehold but Brisco shoves him out over the top rope. You’d think that would be a disqualification under NWA rules. A sunset flip back in nets two and Tsuruta goes back to working the leg. A Boston Crab fails to get a submission. Ditto a reverse chinlock. Jumbo is ya hookup? BUTTERFLY SUPLEX! He follows that up with a delayed belly-to-belly which he pretty much wound up doing himself. One, two, three. Winner of the second fall: JUMBO TSURUTA
Third Fall: The score tied at one apiece. The most prestigious title in the wrestling world hanging in the balance. One gladiator, a proud and fluid technician from the great state of Oklahoma; the other, a young behemoth who is just now writing the preamble to a tome that will no doubt one day spell “legend”. ...Ahem. Sorry. Channeling Howard Cosell for a moment there. Both guys take a moment to rinse and spit. Brisco is barely able to stand and begs off at the sound of the bell. Jumbo is fired up with the throngs of Japanese behind him. It is obvious that Jumbo was meant to one day be a champion, they just want it to be tonight. He stomps on Brisco’s back over and over again. A body slam nets a two count. Another reverse chinlock and the crowd erupts. See, that’s what good psychology can do. The crowd erupted for a reverse chinlock. Think about it. Brisco manages to power out of that predicament and rams Jumbo into the turnbuckle. JUMBO WITH THE COBRA TWIST!!! Okay, it’s really just a glorified abdominal stretch, but people bought it. Brisco looks to be fading so Jumbo falls back into a pinning maneuver. ONE, TWO, TH--FOOT ON THE ROPES! Brisco sits up and stretches across Jumbo for his own two count. It changes into a double-hand knucklelock but Brisco can’t break Jumbo’s bridge to pin his shoulders to the mat. A third attempt finds the Oklahoman getting caught in a body scissors. Brisco gets out of that one but gets monkeyflipped and Tsuruta grabs a bearhug. Feeling it slip away, Tsuruta instead drives the champion’s back into the turnbuckle. Jack fights out of that one and hits a Butterfly suplex of his own. ONE, TWO, TH--KICKOUT BY JUMBO! ATOMIC BACKBREAKER BY BRISCO!!! ONE, TWO, TH---NOOO!!! The ref changed up his count a little on that one. The champion tries to put it in the deep freeze and just settle things down with a headlock but Tsuruta backdrops him right on the back of his head. Brisco pushes him off a headlock and the collide mid-ring. Double KO. Jumbo “hits” a dropkick but misses a second. Brisco charges him and Jumbo rolls him up off the ropes (a Brisco moveset staple). ONE, TWO, --- BRISCO ROLLS THROUGH FOR HIS OWN COVER. ONE, TWO, THREE!!! Crowd is stunned. Winner of the match and still NWA Heavyweight Champion: JACK BRISCO.
This match was similar to the Funk vs. Brisco MOTD from AJ Classics #2 but with a little quicker pace and not as much cat-and-mouse. I’d certainly rank it up there with the best matches I’ve seen from the decade. ****1/2
HIRO MATSUDA/THUNDER SUGIYAMA vs. TONY PARISI/KING CURTIS (2/3 Falls, 4/28/73) Jeez, I feel like such a tease. I told you last ish that we’d see a member of the Four Horsemen and then I go and pull out Hiro Matsuda. Well, advertising is 9/10 exaggeration anyway. Sugiyama died in late 2002. He’s the Tazzish wrestler from AJ Classics #4. Tony Parisi? Didn’t he get whacked in the Sopranos second season opener for blabbing about Tony’s visits to Dr. Melfi? King Curtis looks like a Samoan or more likely a faux Samoan. A Fauxmoan? He yells a lot at any rate. I think Parisi and Curtis are supposed to be a poor man’s Abdullah the Butcher and Sheik. Curtis is more poor man’s Bruiser Brody, though. Hiro dominates Parisi on the mat to start. Curtis yells a lot and argues with the ref. Sugiyama tags in and gets mauled by the heels on the outside. Curtis delivers a kneedrop right to the crotch of Sugiyama. Wow, classic wrestling! Matsuda gets a false tag, which you never see in Japan. Thunder actually gets the tag moments later as Parisi snapmares him right into his corner. Ha! All of the sharp tactical skills of the Original Sheik too. Parisi gets discombobulated and staggers into the wrong corner. Curtis grabs a chair but it gets used against him because he’s an idiot. The heels gently push Matsuda’s face into a table so he pushes Parisi into on the second try. Thunder comes back in and he’s a house of fire. He takes out Curtis but Parisi comes up behind him on the pincover and punches him in the nuts! A double slam and a King Curtis splash finishes him moments later. Winners of the first fall: TONY PARISI AND KING CURTIS
Second Fall: Okay, no way does this thing need more than one fall to settle whatever “issue” they had. There’s no shame in a one fall job to a punch in the hoobies. Sugiyama actually has to hop like a bunny rabbit over to his corner. He tries my patience by coming out and dominating the next fall. In fact, he jumps up and down on Curtis for a while and pins him as Parisi stumbles into the ring trying to make the save. Winners of the second fall: HIRO MATSUDA AND THUNDER SUGIYAMA.
Third Fall: Parisi rubs the King’s tits to revive him. TELL ME I DIDN’T JUST SEE THAT! I am not making this up! I could have gone my whole life without seeing that. I realize it’s much the same as rubbing the chest of a heart patient, but did he have to flick the nipples too? Okay, I made the nipple part up. With King Curtis sufficiently aroused, we finally start the third fall with a series of bearhugs. Matsuda whips Curtis so hard into the turnbuckle that he rebounds all the way across the ring. Now THAT’S velocity. The heels get whipped into each other sending Curtis over the top rope and Parisi into a Cobra Twist by Matsuda which finishes it around 14 minutes in. Winners of the match: HIRO MATSUDA AND THUNDER SUGIYAMA. This was one of those “so bad it’s funny” Dude Love matches and not one of those “so bad it’s sad” Jackie Gayda matches. 1/4*
THE DESTROYER vs. MIL MASCARAS (U.S. Title, 2/3 Falls) (7/25/74) This makes up for all that came before. We saw these guys match up last time out for the same title. It was a legitimate Match of the Year but had a screwy finish as Mascaras got counted out. This time around, the match is also part of the Destroyer’s “Mask Challenge” series where he wrestled masked men from around the globe to prove he was the best masked wrestler in the world. Well, if he needed validation, all he had to do was as ME. I could have told him he was the best masked wrestler in the world. Of course he would have had to wait for me to be born. Mil is wearing his bad-ass poncho and sombrero. Does a guy that wears a mask really need a sombrero? They start with a ton of mat wrestling to open things up. I won’t go into detail on it but it boils down to the Destroyer trying to keep Mil in an armbar and Mil busting out all sorts of crazy lucha counters to get out. Finally, he does get out and settles into his own strategy of holding a headlock on the mat. A cool chain wrestling sequence follows as Mil monkey flips him out of a knucklelock only to roll over into a bodyscissors. Mil then turns that into a Boston Crab but the Destroyer reverses that into a rollup. Mil takes THAT over into a sunset flip pin attempt. Awesome stuff there. Destroyer goes for the figure-four early on but Mil kicks him away and takes a standing full nelson stretch (Impactante). Destroyer reverses a headscissors into a Wishbone stretch as he softens up the legs in anticipation of the figure-four. The ref admonishes him for getting a little chippy with Mascaras on the ropes. Mil takes him down and goes for his own figure-four but Destroyer rolls out of it and reminds Mil who he’s dealing with here. A flying forearm is Mascaras’ rebuttal. It gets two. A follow-up charge to the corner only finds turnbuckle for the talented Mexican. The Destroyer hits a knedrop off the top rope to finish the first fall with a little over 16 minutes gone. Winner of the first fall: THE DESTROYER
Second Fall: The ref admonishes Mascaras for stalling to start the second fall. When did that ever go out?! How are the big roided up freaks supposed to catch their wind? Oh, I see. These are normal-sized guys with actual skill. Destroyer goes right after Mil’s neck (he tweaked it on the charge into the corner). The Man of a Thousand Masks dodges a dropkick to turn the tide. Destroyer comes back with a sunset flip and they do that goofy little see-saw cradle thing that they pulled out in the first match. Mil shoves him into the turnbuckle and hits a flying cross chop. Destroyer counters a figure-four attempt, but a vertical slam and a Flying Crossbody Block get the 1,2,3, for Mascaras. Winner of the second fall: MIL MASCARAS
Third Fall: Here’s the setup; if Mil wins the next fall he’s the new U.S. Champ, Destroyer gets the first loss in his mask series, and he also has to unmask. To say there’s a lot riding on hit would be a bit of an understatement. Mil stays on him with a battering ram into the turnbuckle followed by a vertical slam and piledriver. It gets only two. Destroyer heel picks him and goes for the figure-four. Mil rolls out of it over and over again until he creates some distance between himself and the champion. Mil locks in a sitting reverse bodyscissors to calm things down. It nearly proves to be his undoing, though, as the Destroyer squirms out of it and slaps on the figure-four. They roll around until both men are under the ropes forcing a break. So much for the apocryphal story of the figure-four never having been broken. Mil pushes him over the top as he tries to work the knee a little more. Again, shouldn’t that be a DQ? Mil hits a springboard bodysplash back in but it only gets two. They both go for flying moves and we get a double KO out of it. Back up and Mil makes the mistake of going for a leapfrog too late. The Destroyer runs right into his crotch and both men fall to the mat. Mil is doubled over holding his testes with both hands. The ref checks him and decides he cannot continue. The ref declares the Destroyer the winner. Match was going great until that. Winner of the match: THE DESTROYER
The Destroyer doesn’t like the decision much. He wants to continue but Mil is still trying to extract his juevos from his own body cavity. Destroyer helps him undo his tights as I have flashbacks to Parisi and King Curtis. Mil swats him away and some guys come in to help massage away the pain. Not on the affected area of course, but his lower back and stomach. Mil did a great sell job here, but I’ve seen guys legitimately miscue a leapfrog and have that happen (notably Ricky Steamboat) and they continued without missing a step so it kind of ruined it for me. Destroyer gets on the mic and thanks Mascaras for a hard fought match and thanks the people of Japan for supporting him. Disappointing finish, but not out of line with the “real sport” feel that these matches have. ****1/4
Final Thoughts: These tapes are really kind of falling into a rut. Bad match, great match, bad match, great match. The Tsuruta vs. Brisco match is a definite keeper even if you’re not a fan of either guy. The Destroyer vs. Mil Mascaras match is very, very good but not quite on the level of their previous classic. Everything else is completely missable. Still two out of four ain’t bad.
Thumbs up for All Japan Classics #5.
Next time: Jumbo Tsuruta and old nemesis Nick Bockwinkle hook it up again. Misawa makes his first appearance as Tiger Mask II. All that and I make fun of Verne Gagne’s kid.
Sorry, we're a full week behind now. This wasn't up on Monday and I forgot to check until today (because FLEA reminded me). I am also still hopelessly behind on episodes myself. I WANT to catch up, but...