Matches in chronological order, '50-'89


1950's

1953: Rikidozan in Hawaii, and clips of Thesz vs Rikidozan 12/6/53. Rikidozan debuted in Japan in 1951, but only had a few matches. The '52-'53 stint in Hawaii was where he really got prepared to be a star, and he was heavily protected. He returned to Hawaii at the end of the year and won an 8-man tournament to get a shot at Thesz. We only get a little of the 43 minute match. I wish we got a clearer look at the finish; that sucker is waaaaaay ahead of its time.


Rikidozan vs Masahiko Kimura, JWA 12/22/54, Japan title. The first big Japan vs Japan match. Kimura was a world-class judoka, and the man behind the 'kimura' armbar. This match was supposed to go to a draw so they take it easy most of the way. Then Rikidozan flips a switch and starts shooting, which is obvious because it goes from loosey-goosey politeness to a straight-up beatdown. 112 MB.


Lou Thesz vs Rikidozan, JWA 10/13/57, NWA title. Their match a week earlier went 60 minutes without a fall and drew an 87 TV rating, which is a record. This is much shorter and livelier, with Thesz getting the best on the mat but having to avoid Rikidozan's chops. Thesz vs Rikidozan is probably the most important matchup in the history of puroresu. 190 MB.


1960's

An episode of a wrestling-centered TV drama starring Rikidozan. He contends with a young Antonio Inoki, who I can only guess wears lifts, portraying a evil Native American. Inoki refers to himself as "Razor Ramon". A boy learns to defend himself. I cannot fully express the content of this file.

Gotch vs Yoshimura, JWA 5/1/61, heavily clipped. Somewhat frustrating to watch because of the clips and how it's filmed, but there's still lots to appreciate. Gotch was clearly decades ahead of his time and Yoshimura was possibly the best in Japan at this point. I first heard about Yoshimura from Harley Race, who put him over despite not having wrestled him in over 35 years.


Rikidozan vs Pat O'Connor, JWA 4/24/63. O'Connor, recently NWA champ, was a hell of a talent. He busts out a pin/sumbission combo hold that someone really needs to steal today.


Rikidozan vs The Destroyer, JWA 12/2/63. Rikidozan, the father of puroresu, is hand-led by the ever-awesome Destroyer. This is exactly the sort of match that set the foundation for all things to come. This match drew the second-highest TV rating in puro history, and perhaps the largest in terms of number of viewers.


Destroyer vs Toyonobori, JWA 2/26/65, WWA title. Toyonobori is another major JWA star for Destroyer to guide to a great match; he wound up leaving JWA a month later and retired in '70. Destroyer is as good here as in any other match you'll see, just doing it all. 486 MB.


Baba vs Bruno Sammartino, JWA 3/7/67, NWA International title. I was apprehensive when I started watching this, since both are big guys and given the file size I knew it was a long match. However my fears were misplaced, as they manage to combine a 'clash of titans' feel with lots of sound old-school wrestling. Bruno's bearhug is the main recurring element; Baba seems to have it scouted and Bruno has to keep trying to secure it.


Baba vs Gene Kiniski, NWA International title, JWA 8/14/67. A well-regarded match in Japan, this features the NWA world champ *not* defending his title because of how much the JWA pushed the Int'l title. And this despite it being the first NWA champion visit to Japan in ten years! Kiniski is a bully who roughs up the larger but less-built Baba. Even though Kiniski did little in Japan after '70, he was still considered one of Baba's greatest rivals.


Takeshi Oiso vs Tetunosuke Daigo, IWE 10/29/69. I have no idea who either of them are, other than that they were midcarders. Interesting to see IWE, which was known for brawling, start off with quality old-school technical grappling. The crowd is almost perfectly silent; I wonder how much that has to do with a lack of "native vs foreigner" element like JWA almost always used. There's definitely some spots that could be effectively ripped-off today. Finish somewhat pays off the middle of the match.


Dory Funk Jr vs Inoki, JWA 12/2/69, NWA title. Not only does Dory lead the way through an old-school epic, but Papa Funk and Harley Race are on hand to lend a hand and rile the crowd up to the point where they're throwing stuff at the ring. Part 1, 450 MB.


Part 2.


1970's

Dory Funk Jr vs Inoki, JWA 8/2/70, NWA title. Another classic, and this time we get a young and very blonde Terry at ringside to get the crowd in a frenzy.


Inoki vs Destroyer, JWA 5/19/71. Semi-final of JWA's annual 'World League'. This is the first time we get to see Destroyer in the ring with a high-end legit grappler, and there is a marked difference in the way this is worked. It's much more athletic, and there's much less sense that Destroyer is wrestling for two. Mind you, Destroyer is still awesome, but Inoki's execution is also worth praising. Gotta love Destroyer's vocalizations, sometimes getting clear replies from the crowd! Gotta hate the ref's bad pin counting. Both the figure-four and cobra twist are teased regularly, and only one of them is fully applied! But which?


Inoki vs Jack Brisco, NWA UN title, 2/3 falls, JWA 8/5/71. Two of the best legit athletes in the '70s scene go at it. This point is driven home when you see some of the early grappling exchanges, to say nothing of the often-intense struggle over holds and takedowns. That intensity and realism is what makes the first fall finish credible, where 99% of the time it would seem weak. Brisco's selling and desperation also add a lot. You can see why Jack was soon to be on the short list of potential NWA champions, and why he ended up getting the belt. Clean finish!


Sakaguchi & Michiaki Yoshimura vs Dory Funk Jr & Dick Murdoch, All Asia tag title decision match, JWA 12/12/71. A younger, not-so-tubby Captain Redneck! NWA champion Dory Funk! But most of all is Yoshimura, who made a name for himself as a role-player and a hard-working midcarder. I first heard his name from Harley Race, who said Yoshimura was his favorite Japanese opponent from this period. Yoshimura held the titles with Inoki for 2 years until Inoki left the company. Is Sakaguchi a good enough replacement to handle a double-shot of rough-and-ready Texans?


Andre the Giant, Ali Bey & Franz van Buyten vs Rusher Kimura, Teranishi & Thunder Sugiyama, IWE 5/2/72. Andre rules so much in this match.


Animal Hamaguchi vs Mighty Inoue, IWE 9/26/73. Way too fun. One might call this a 70's workrate match, but their personalities are just as important as their athletic ability.


Andre vs Sakaguchi, NJ 3/19/74. Sakaguchi is FIT! He's got GOOD CHOPS! Andre doing the courting hold is exponentially more compelling than anyone else would be, since you can't throw him off at will (or possibly at all). Sakaguchi's eventual counter is thus suitably impressive. Andre applying almost any hold looks like he can break a dude in half, so even a somewhat random one 2/3rds in is interesting. Crap finish, because that's how it was in days of yore.


Inoki vs Sakaguchi, New Japan 4/26/74. More good stuff from '70s Sakaguchi. He GIVES INOKI THE BUSINESS early, and tempers flare a couple times after that. This is kinda exhibition-y in the sense that they don't really go anywhere, but it's ~30 minutes of sound old-school technical wrestling. Sak busts out a couple things I wouldn't have expected. Also: BIZARRE stuff from the ref, especially towards the end. It's clear the crowd is just as confused about it as me.


Gagne vs Robinson, AWA title, IWE 11/20/74. I was enjoying the first 10 minutes, and then Verne deliberately pisses Billy off in order to make a comeback and it goes from good to great. Rock-ribbed technical wrestling plus some good psychology plus lots of little touches equals Ditch support. Verne looks like a boring middle-aged guy, but he was a decades-long star for a reason.


Antonio Inoki vs Billy Robinson, New Japan 12/11/75. Billy Robinson by himself equals must-watch. Then throw in the fact that this is maybe the biggest match of his career, and one of the best Inoki matches. Yeah.


Inoki vs Andre the Giant, New Japan 6/1/77. It occurs to me that Andre was big to Americans, but he must have been an absolute behemoth to the Japanese. The size disparity between Andre and Inoki is enough to create a David-and-Goliath effect that didn't come close to happening with the likes of Hansen and Brody. That effect wouldn't mean much if Andre was incompetent, but in fact at this point he was capable of being a giant WRESTLER as opposed to just a giant like most men his size and up. You don't even need to like old-style mat wrestling to be interested in how Inoki avoids being snapped like a twig. As with so many legends there just isn't nearly enough footage of prime Andre.


Inoki vs Andre, NJ 11/9/77. Even basic holds and moves become dramatic when done by someone with the size and *intelligence* of Andre. He knows how to use his size to make the matwork interesting. Inoki's execution and skill level are such that he's credible against the behemoth, which is an issue because the vast majority of wrestlers simply aren't.


Animal Hamaguchi & Mighty Inoue vs Akihisa Takachio & Samson Kutsuwada, 2/3 falls, IWA tag titles, IWE 11/30/77. Takachio is the to-be Great Kabuki. Kutsuwada is a big guy who is pretty much forgotten but was reasonably competent. This is part of IWE's ongoing cooperation with All Japan, so we get Joe Higuchi as the ref, Jumbo in the stands, and Onita as a ring attendant. The match drags in parts but they do mix it up, especially the Mighty vs Takachio matchup. And there's even three clean falls! One last thing to watch for: Ashura Hara is on commentary and is a TOTAL PIMP.


Animal Hamaguchi & Mighty Inoue vs Great Kojika & Okuma, 2/3 falls, IWA tag titles, IWE 1/2/78. Great atmosphere, with an in-house band at Korakuen Hall. Okuma's mutton chops are the stuff of legends. This is a bit more 'action' focused than the November '77 tag. Note a young, afro-sporting Kohei Wada at ringside. There's an unusual intrusion between falls that maybe was supposed to happen before or after.


Fujinami vs Ryuma Go, WWWF junior title, New Japan 7/27/78. Ryuma Go recently passed away. He's mostly known for taking part in sleazy indies, generally against guys in monster costumes. Imagine my surprise when Dave Meltzer mentioned that early in his career he was a quality wrestler. So I decided to track down some of the matches, expecting it to be decent but nothing that special; we are talking about 30+ year old juniors wrestling. Imagine my even greater surprise that this is REALLY good stuff. Fujinami is the better athlete, but Go is no slouch and he brings a bunch of charisma to affair. Give it a try!


Inoki vs Bob Backlund, New Japan 7/27/78. More hearty old-school goodness. At one point Backlund does something that's half shoulderbreaker, half thunderfire powerbomb. Oh and Inoki rocks the armscissors like a FIEND.


Fujinami vs Ryuma Go, WWWF junior title, New Japan 11/30/78. Good like the first one. Big finisher, but the way it ends the match is... unusual.


Inoki vs Hoshino, "Pre-Japanese" Tournament, New Japan 12/5/78. The diminutive Hoshino, who is the 3rd highest ranked JUNIOR in the company on a good day, gets in a ton of offense and punches Inoki directly in the face. Sure, Inoki could not possibly lose, but the fact that this isn't a thirty second squash is a minor miracle. Hoshino rules so much.


Kotesu Yamamoto & Hoshino vs Animal Hamaguchi & Mighty Inoue, 2/3 falls, IWA tag titles, IWE 1/29/79. The "Yamaha Brothers" won the belts a few days earlier. They have a big reputation as workers from their time in the US, and this was their last big run since Yamamoto retired from competition a year later. Oh by the way, they're FRIGGING AWESOME. Ahead-of-their-time moves, swank matwork, quality brawling, and Yamamoto has some serious hopes. All that and three clean falls! Let's hope more Yamaha Bros. footage is uncovered. And more of Animal & Mighty while we're at it.


Kotesu Yamamoto & Hoshino vs Animal Hamaguchi & Mighty Inoue, 2/3 falls, IWA tag titles, IWE 2/23/79. Even though this has a bad finish, up to that point I think it's even better than the first match. Hoshino dishes out the most brutal suplex you'll see in an old-school match.


Andre vs Kido & Eigen, NJ 5/25/79. Nobody does a handicap squash quite like Andre in Japan. Really, 3-on-1 of guys that size would be necessary for this to be competitive.


Andre the Giant vs ???, New Japan MSG League 6/1/79. It's supposed to be Andre vs Fujinami, but that doesn't happen and instead we get a bigger name opponent. Andre in his prime was a thing of beauty.


Fujinami vs Rocco, WWF junior title, NJ-in-LA 6/15/79. Fujinami is in tremendous shape and at this point is one of the great all-around athletes in puro history. Rocco heels it up. Rock-solid technical work before a couple minutes of action to go home, and the US crowd is appreciative.


Fujinami vs Ryuma Go, WWWF junior title, New Japan 10/2/79. Go gets his final shot at the title, and makes the most of it.


Fujinami vs Hoshino, New Japan 10/5/79. This takes place in Seoul, and is quite the decent juniors match. But then we are talking about Hoshino here, how could it not be good?


1980's

Fujinami & Hoshino vs Steve Keirn & Dynamite Kid, 2/3 falls, New Japan 1/18/80. Lots to enjoy here. Good action, good pacing, sparks fly, and the Skinner/Dynamite team meshes better than you'd expect.


Fujinami vs Dynamite Kid, WWF junior title, NJ 2/5/80. I like this more than any of the Dynamite vs Tiger matches, and I'm far from the only one who feels that way. 156 MB.


Animal Hamaguchi & Mighty Inoue vs Kengo Kimura & Eigen, IWA tag titles, IWE 3/31/80, JIP. Plenty of fire, and an unusual finish that's either legit or very well done by all involved. It certainly looks credible.


Gran Hamada vs Babyface, New Japan 4/3/80. When one mentions revolutionary high-flying in the '80s, one is led to think about Dynamite Kid vs Tiger Mask. Well, here's something that predates them and is every bit as revolutionary *if not more so*. The only knock on this match ends up being the ref, and even then only at the end.


Hansen vs Inoki, NWF title, New Japan 4/3/80. Hansen won the title by countout, but Inoki was counted out after eating a lariat so it was a good win. Hansen brings the stank-tastic offense, Inoki works his stuff in smartly, and the crowd laps it all up. And there's a real finish, albeit not one you'd expect.


Fujinami vs Tony Rocco, WWF junior title, New Japan 9/11/80. Rocco is Italian by birth but he brings the sweet, sweet British-style matwork.


Inoki vs Hansen, NWF title, New Japan 9/11/80. They get chippy with one another, and Hansen does a remarkable job of mixing it up with his Irish whip moves.


Fujinami vs Tony Londos, WWF junior title, New Japan 9/19/80. Fujinami versus Europe, only this time it's faster.


Backlund vs Hansen, New Japan 9/30/80. Backlund... duking it out? Hansen... trying to take it to the ground? A bizarro world match that's enjoyable in its unpredictability.


Tiger Mask vs Dynamite Kid, New Japan 4/23/81. Countless wrestlers owe a lot to this series of matches, and this was one of their better ones.


Stan Lane vs George Takano, New Japan 7/24/81. Sweet Stan has all sorts of cool stuff up his sleeve.


Fujinami & Tiger Mask vs Pete Roberts & Solitario, New Japan 9/4/81. Lots of 'weird' here, like Fujinami and Tiger Mask during the couple months before Fujinami became a heavyweight, and Brit-style Roberts tagging with a luchador. Fujinami and Roberts mesh really well.


Andre vs Hansen, New Japan 9/23/81. Normally I try to come up with my own description of a match, but "real-life Godzilla battle" is too accurate not to use. The irresistable force versus the immovable object has never been so fully realized in a wrestling ring.


Fujinami vs Isamu Teranishi, New Japan 10/8/81. Hm, a match with stiff strikes and interpromotional hate. Odds I was going to like it: high. What puts the cherry on top is some swanky technical moves.


Inoki & Fujinami vs Andre & Rene Goulet, tag league final, New Japan 12/10/81. Non-stop greatness when Andre is in, and there's a finish (!) which Goulet isn't on the wrong end of (!!!).


Inoki, Fujinami & Tiger Mask vs Abdullah the Butcher, Dynamite Kid & Babyface, New Japan 1/8/82. This works because of the matchups. Abby versus Tiger Mask is all kinds of fun, Kid vs Tiger Mask is a known quantity, Babyface can go (as we learned in his match with Hamada), '80s Fujinami can go, and Inoki... well he isn't in much but it doesn't hurt when he is. Keep in mind that over the guardrail is a DQ, which affects any brawling (Abby) and suicide dives (everyone but Abby and Inoki).


Tiger Mask vs Steve Wright, WWF junior title, NJ 4/1/82. Steve is the father of Alex, and despite what you might think from looking at him he's quite the top-flight wrestler. This match is no less cutting-edge than Tiger Mask vs Dynamite.


Andre vs Killer Khan, MSG League final, New Japan 4/1/82. This match is brilliant. I could talk about all the little touches you'd never expect, from what Andre yells at the ref to how Khan sticks with a gameplan, but I think straightforward praise is the way to go. This is quite possibly the smartest match from New Japan in the '80s. What it lacks in grace, it makes up for with intelligence and making the absolute most out of simplistic offense.


Tiger Mask vs Dynamite Kid, New Japan 8/5/82. There are clear plusses and clear minuses in the matches between them. On one hand, the highspots and athleticism are something else, especially by 1982 standards. On the other hand, the structure and transitions often leave quite a lot to be desired. In many ways this is a prototype for countless juniors matches to come. The balance between impressing the crowd and maintaining the basics of pro wrestling is something many talents struggle with. Of note: despite 99% of the spots in this being re-used a billion times, there's one nasty move towards the end I haven't seen before or after.


Inoki vs Rusher Kimura, Animal Hamaguchi & Teranishi, elimination-style handicap match, New Japan 11/4/82. Some slow patches, but more than enough entertainment value and heat to make up for it. Rusher throws harder shots than I thought he was capable of. 204 MB.


Tiger Mask & Hoshino vs Kuniaki Kobayashi & Hamada, New Japan 2/10/83. Kobayashi, whose obsession with beating the first two Tiger Masks defined his career, looks to do damage to the original. He's got a skilled assistant in Gran Hamada. Hoshino punches both of them directly in the face a bunch because HOSHINO IS THE MAN.


Choshu, Masa Saito & Khan vs Rusher Kimura, Animal Hamaguchi & Teranishi, NJ 3/18/83. Choshu's new hotness heel group battles the old and busted IWE heel group. Fast pace, crowd heat, crappy finish: it's an '80s Choshu tag.


Choshu vs Fujinami, WWF International title, New Japan 4/21/83. Choshu took the title from Fujinami earlier in the month after working on his legs and hitting a rather cheap lariat. Fujinami doesn't just want his belt back, he also looks to put a hurtin' on his rival. Good action, meaningful submission holds, drama down the stretch; there's a reason why these two became such big stars.


Inoki, Fujiwara & Maeda vs Choshu, Yatsu & Hamaguchi, New Japan 2/9/84. Blood, intensity, and a terrible finish. It's the 80s!


Kuniaki Kobayashi vs Takada, New Japan 3/9/84. Kobayashi represents Choshu's Army, while Takada is part of the overall babyface stable. Thus, they show some fire. Takada does gymnastic juniors spots! A foreign object is used! Nearfalls! Other things! And a bit of a letdown on the finish because "it's the 80s".


Choshu, Yatsu, Hamaguchi, Teranishi & Kuniaki Kobayashi vs Inoki, Fujinami, Fujiwara, Kengo Kimura & Takada, gauntlet, New Japan 4/19/84. One of the all-time great crowds from Japan, and plenty of good action. Finalie is somewhat of a letdown but some of the sub-matches are stellar, including Yatsu vs Takada that was previously hosted here by itself, a reprise of Fujinami vs Teranishi, and some good in-match continuity. Part 1.


Choshu, Yatsu, Hamaguchi, Teranishi & Kuniaki Kobayashi vs Inoki, Fujinami, Fujiwara, Kengo Kimura & Takada, gauntlet, New Japan 4/19/84. Part 2.


Fujiwara vs Super Tiger (Sayama), UWF 9/7/84. Such a great matchup thanks to the contrast in styles and the immense skill both men had at the time. Fujiwara > *. 225 MB.


Maeda vs Super Tiger, UWF 9/11/84. Maeda has a reputation as a shoot-style wizard, but Sayama totally outclasses him here.


Takada vs Yamazaki, UWF 12/5/84, JIP. This took a long while to get going, but 'get going' it did! Yamazaki's trickery and the "there are pinfalls in UWF 1.0" rule makes this interesting.


Inoki & Fujinami vs Murdoch & Adonis, NJ 12/5/84. Finals of the last MSG Tag League, which was part of the then-ongoing relationship between NJ and WWF. Here we have the best WWF tag team, and almost certainly the best team in the world at this point, taking on two of New Japan's biggest native stars. Adonis and Murdoch do everything you want from a heel tandem, balancing shady tactics and credible offense with great selling and bumping. Inoki and Fujinami are effective faces. Hot crowd too, making this a hell of an old-school battle.


Fujiwara vs Yamazaki, UWF 1/7/85. Yamazaki has just 30 months of experience at this point, so being competitive with 12 year pro Fujiwara is a big accomplishment by itself. Not to mention the size difference. Yamazaki establishes himself early with strikes, which is of vital importance given Fujiwara's lordship of the submission game. MAN there are some stiff kicks. A spot just over halfway through demonstrates that these two are busting out cutting-edge stuff. Keep an eye out for a nifty, if not entirely practical, figure-four counter. I don't understand the last transition, but that's a minor quibble when the rest of the bout is high-quality.


Hogan vs Fujinami, WWF title, New Japan 6/11/85. Fujinami looks like a child in there with the Hulkster. Speaking of Hulk, he's all about pulling out things you'd never expect. Fun to see Hogan in the position of being the guy fans pop to see get bodyslammed.


Andre & Tony St. Clair vs Sakaguchi & Hoshino, New Japan 6/13/85. If you watched matches with Andre or Hoshino in them from before this, you know how much fun this match is. If you don't, download those, then this. Trust Ditch.


Fujiwara vs Takada, UWF 7/8/85. Here's a rarity: something I intended to post and forgot. For years. As for the match: Fujiwara Rules part 959 of 2,371. Tight, has a nice balance between shooty-ness and worked-ness, and so forth.


Cobra vs Don Arakawa, NWA & WWF junior titles, New Japan 8/1/85. Don Arakawa, who is both over-the-hill and a life-long undercarder, delivers the performance of a lifetime in front of a crowd that all but wills him to victory. He delivers a must-see move and some other really fun offense. And... a bad finish. *sigh*


Chigusa vs Masami, AJW 8/22/85. One of two absolute gems on the night. This one has uber-babyface Chigusa against monster heel Masami in an epic that, like the match which followed it, was ages ahead of its time.


Lioness Asuka vs Jaguar Yokota, AJW 8/22/85. Also epic, also ahead of its time, but with a very different dynamic. This is a peer vs peer main event struggle, done a bit tighter than Chigusa vs Masami. 234 MB.


Fujiwara vs Super Tiger, UWF 9/11/85. Final match in their series. Styles make matchups. Fujiwara has the size and the submissions; Sayama has the strikes and athleticism. Both play their roles well and are aided by a crowd that reacts to EVERYTHING. Far more substance in this than the Dynamite/Sayama bouts.


Inoki vs Fujinami, New Japan 9/19/85. A split crowd watches New Japan's best go at it in a technical wrestling clinic. 266 MB.


Fujinami & Kengo Kimura vs Dick Murdoch & Masked Superstar, IWGP tag title creation tournament, New Japan 11/29/85. Superstar is Bill Eadie, who was later Ax of Demolition. Opening minutes are slow, but then each team gets a turn working over the same part on both members of the other. Focused, quality technical work plus Murdoch punches is more than good enough for me, even with the Crappy '80s Finish™.


Maeda & Fujiwara vs Fujinami & Kengo Kimura, Gauntlet match, New Japan 5/1/86. The last parts of a larger 5-on-5 NJ vs UWF bout that essentially resets with the final two men on each side. Fujiwara and Fujinami are off-the-charts here.


Fujinami vs Maeda, NJ 6/12/86. Famous for being intense and smartly wrestled, only drawback is the finish but that's the '80s for you. One of the gems and perhaps the top match from the NJ vs UWF feud. 190 MB.


Inoki vs Dick Murdoch, IWGP league final, NJ 6/19/86. This is the Dick Murdoch Show. He does it all: limb work, match structure, selling, bumps, and his reliably punchtastic... um... punches. Really quality arm work and big-time heat for it. The little touches like Inoki reaching behind his own back to try and escape a front chickenwing, only to have Dick wrench the arm away, are what make this compelling. Murdoch was already a top-notch technical wrestler ten years earlier in All Japan, but this is "applied" technical wrestling rather than chess-match '70s-style that usually doesn't lead to anything. Inoki doesn't get much time on offense, but he makes his openings count in a major way. There's a "big match" feel, including dramatic staredowns and false finishes. The actual finish is initially botched by the ref, but there's a FINISH and it's CLEAN and you are going to be happy with that in 1986.


Takada vs Koshinaka, junior title, New Japan 8/5/86. This isn't particularly juniors-ish, but rather a textbook high-end strong style match. 'Strong Style' in its original meaning isn't about stiffness or head drops, but instead a mix of pro wrestling and MMA techniques. Both of them are technically sound but what makes this match special is the intensity that the wrestlers and the crowd imbue the bout with. Finish is a very subtle but nasty modification on a classic. 167 MB.


1987

Maeda, Fujiwara & Kido vs Fujinami, Takano & Mutoh, New Japan 2/28/87. Reasonably watchable handheld. Korakuen loves them some Maeda and UWF-style. Fittingly enough the shooters outclass Takano and Mutoh, in entertaining fashion.


Maeda vs Masa Saito, New Japan 5/18/87. Maeda bleeds a lot. A whole lot. No no, you don't seem to understand: a WHOLE lot.


Akira Maeda & Nobuhiko Takada vs Yoshiaki Fujiwara & Kazuo Yamazaki, New Japan 5/25/87, IWGP tag titles. Good shoot-style technique is a given with these four. What makes it noteworthy is the pace, action, and a bit of color. My pick for the top IWGP tag of the '80s!


Choshu vs Fujiwara, New Japan 6/9/87. Super-simple, super-heated, fast-paced, oh yeah this rocks.


Inoki, Sakaguchi, Fujiwara, Hoshino & Mutoh vs Fujinami, Choshu, Maeda, Kengo Kimura & Super Strong Machine, elimination match, New Japan 8/19/87. The unusual teams are a result of an 'old vs young' feud, though Mutoh stays loyal to Inoki. Liquid magma crowd heat, pacing that if anything starts off TOO fast, several great eliminations, and a good mix of stars and role-players. It all adds up to a heck of a battle.


Fujiwara vs Maeda, New Japan 8/29/87. Unique in that it's just a hard-camera shot without commentary. Match mostly relies on their respective striking strategies, though Fujiwara does get a lil' bit carny towards the end, much to my enjoyment. A good lead-in to the tag title bout a few days later.


Maeda & Takada vs Fujiwara & Yamazaki, tag titles, New Japan 9/1/87. Not *quite* as good as the first meeting in May, but good in the same ways. If you liked that, get this. If you didn't see the May one yet, do so. If you didn't like the May one then I divorce thee. Or something.


Akira Maeda vs Dick Murdoch, New Japan 9/14/87. Murdoch is just so good in this, between the selling and paybacks and hate and such. Maeda's no slouch of course but Murdoch is priceless. 168 MB.


Maeda/Choshu shoot incident, New Japan 11/19/87. This is part of a handheld version of the 6-man tag where Maeda shoot kicks Choshu in the face, breaking Choshu's orbital bone. Maeda was eventually tossed from New Japan, which led to the second UWF, which spawned UWFi, RINGS and PWFG. So... this is pretty important stuff.


The end of New Japan's 12/27/87 Sumo Hall show, part 1.


The end of New Japan's 12/27/87 Sumo Hall show, part 2.


Explaining the above.



1988

Yamada vs Masa Funaki, New Japan 1/11/88. Young Liger battles Baby Funaki! 2/3rds or so is the sort of New Japan/shootish matwork one would expect from Funaki, but with pre-Liger involved you know something big will be the finish.


Maeda vs Yamazaki, UWF 5/12/88. Main event for the first UWF return show. This is a big test for Yamazaki, since he was too inexperienced to have much success during the promotion's first run. Now, he's coming off being an IWGP tag champion and was part of many other big matches... but he's still a steep underdog against the promotion's top star. Extra-responsive crowd even by Korakuen standards adds to the big-match feel, and they build to an especially dramatic home stretch.


Fujinami vs Choshu, IWGP title, New Japan 5/27/88. Fujinami's first ever title defense. Interesting to see how many things had changed- and how many hadn't- compared to their first rivalry early in the decade.


"Black Magic" Norman Smiley vs Kazuo Yamazaki, UWF 6/11/88. Smiley and Yamazaki ROCK on the mat. No foolin'. 112 MB.


Fujinami vs Vader, IWGP title, New Japan 6/26/88. Vader: kickin' butt! Vader: doing focused body-part work that's enjoyable?! Why yes, yes he does. He's a threat just doing whatever he wants, but add in some strategy and the champ will be lucky to survive.


Owen vs Yamada; winner vs Koshinaka, IWGP junior title, New Japan June 1988. Two JIP matches that have quite the hot finishes.


Mutoh, Chono & Hashimoto vs Fujinami, Kengo Kimura & Koshinaka, New Japan 7/29/88. TONS of hate, fast pace, rare to see the Musketeers together on one side, Mutoh has a really different look and is jacked, and did I mention HATE?


Fujinami vs Inoki, IWGP title, New Japan 8/8/88. An old-school technical wrestling classic. Inoki's last title shot. Can Fujinami redeem himself against New Japan's icon? 400+ MB.


Anjoh vs Norman Smiley, UWF 8/13/88. Little could I have imagined on my 7th birthday that I would later enjoy a match taking place on the other side of the planet, featuring a Japanese man and a British man doing lots of mat wrestling. At that point my tastes were more about DuckTales as opposed to drop-torholds. Fall under the spell of Black Magic.


Fujinami, Fujiwara, Kengo Kimura, Koshinaka & Yamada vs Choshu, Masa Saito, Super Strong Machine, Kuniaki Kobayashi & Hiro Saito, elimination match, New Japan 9/12/88. My pick for best New Japan match of the decade. One major piece of backstory is that in a past elimination match, Fujinami was left alone with Inoki and Masa Saito, and Saito toyed with Fujinami rather than just beat him. The Fujinami vs Saito part is the big highlight, but the match is really strong from start to finish. The finish itself is a neat in that it's contrary to the way 'wrestling morality' normally works. This match was the top discovery of the DVDVR New Japan '80s vote and it's one I think any puro fan (if not wrestling fan) could enjoy.


Murdoch, Bob Orton & Scott Hall vs Inoki, Choshu & Hoshino, elimination match, New Japan 11/17/88. Best match from a very unique round-robin tournament, where eliminations include over-the-top as with the 5-vs-5 elimination matches. Dick & Bob make a good team, Hoshino is still a great underdog in 1988, and when you combine those two things to get Murdoch vs Hoshino content... oh yeah. Also featuring Scott Hall as "The Beav".


Shiro Koshinaka vs Keiichi Yamada, New Japan 12/9/88. Koshinaka defends the junior belt against a young, maskless Liger. Yamada is GREAT in taking it to the champ.


Backlund vs Takada, UWF 12/22/88. Backlund rules. He's such a great grappler, plus he brings a ton of personality. 225 MB.


1989

Sano & Hirokazu Hata vs El Bello Greco & Sergio El Hermoso, New Japan 1/6/89. A mix of fun spots and comedy.


Fujiwara & Kengo Kimura vs El Bello Greco & Sergio El Hermoso, New Japan 2/3/89. Quite the comedy match.


Choshu & Masa Saito vs George Takano & Super Strong Machine, tag titles, New Japan 3/16/89, JIP. I clipped a rather slow opening portion out; what remains is really good. The start of a hot streak for George, and one of many great Saito performances.


Choshu vs Hashimoto, IWGP title tournament round 1, New Japan 4/24/89. A very short and VERY heated start to their rivalry. This was Hashimoto's first big singles match, and at the first-ever Tokyo Dome show, so he's got everything to gain and nothing to lose. A bad combination for Choshu.


Fujinami vs Vader, IWGP title tournament round 2, New Japan 4/24/89. Fujinami had a good title reign going, but dropped the belt in order to have a big tournament at the Tokyo Dome. A very risky gambit, especially when you have to go through Vader just to reach the finals. As in '88 they mesh very well.


Hashimoto vs Zangiev, IWGP title tournament round 2, New Japan 4/24/89. For a dude with hardly any pro wrestling experience/training, Zangiev is darn good. He throws a hell of a suplex.


Vader vs Hashimoto, IWGP title tournament finals, New Japan 4/24/89. Hard-hitting AND smart, playing off Vader vs Fujinami a bit. Vader says he got legit hurt by Hash in this, but it's hard to see where.


Backlund vs Masa Funaki, UWF 5/21/89. Funaki got into the WON hall of fame with hardly any exposure for US fans. He was very talented, and here he is against another HOFer. 158 MB.


Suzuki vs Tamura, UWF 5/21/89. Tamura's debut, and it's clear how much talent he has. Suzuki might be young but he can do rookie punishment.


Maeda vs Yamazaki, UWF 5/21/89. One year after this match was a Korakuen main event, it now headlines at a 7,000 seat venue. Both are coming off big wins at a stadium show in Osaka, and Yamazaki seeks an elusive victory over Madeda. This time around, Yamazaki has a lot more self-control and doesn't come across as desperate to win. In fact, he actually starts taking over as the match progresses, aided by the point system. Maybe the real question is how long Madeda can fend off the inevitable.


Funaki vs Yoji Anjoh, UWF 6/14/89. I once described this as "Absurdly good, cutting-edge shootiness". There's a lot of hate and a lot of WRESTLING in this and you should watch. 225 MB.


Vader vs Choshu, New Japan 6/27/89. Two tough dudes who aren't afraid of being violent go at it, so they get... violent. Short and to the point.


Liger vs Naoki Sano, IWGP jr. title, New Japan 7/13/89. Liger in his goofy original costume! The first part of the feud that showed the world just how incredible Liger can be!


George Takano & Super Strong Machine vs Choshu & Iizuka, tag titles, New Japan 7/13/89. Welcome to 90s-style wrestling! After watching over 50 hours of '80s New Japan, this stuck out like a sore thumb. I can't completely place a finger on why that is, but stuff like Iizuka as the spunky underdog trying to hang in a big match, the way it's laid out, and the presence of a clean and SATISFYING finish all add up to a nifty bit o' tag wrestling.


Funaki vs Nakano, UWF 7/24/89. Funaki is good-looking and ultra-talented. Nakano is a slab of flesh. Funaki has cool-guy hair, Nakano looks like he got a trim from his blind mother. Also they hate each other with the intensity of a million exploding suns. SO MUCH HATE. So great a match. You will be glad you downloaded this, I guarantee it.


Fujiwara vs Yamazaki, UWF 7/24/89. Yamazaki had really come into his own at this point. He and Fujiwara are able to work a completely organic match with lots of smart counters, tight execution, and some interesting adaptations on pro-style spots. Yamazaki ends up in a pretty big hole and trying to just survive for quite a while. Can Fujiwara finally put him away, or will Yamazaki's striking bail him out?


Choshu, Kengo Kimura & Liger vs Vader, Manny Fernandez & Buzz Sawyer, New Japan 8/3/89. Fast and fun. Not only does Liger get his music played during the entrance, but he manages not to get squished by Vader. Sawyer also brings the goods.


Liger vs Naoki Sano, IWGP jr. title, New Japan 8/10/89. The rematch, in full, and it's even better than the first. It might have the best arm selling in wrestling history.


Sano vs Liger, IWGP junior title, New Japan 9/20/89. Sadly it isn't complete. Thankfully it's completely good, and a vital set-up to the finalie of their feud.


Fujiwara vs Takada, UWF 10/25/89. Great matwork, great use of the 'downs' scoring system, great match.


Choshu, Chono & Liger vs Vader, Tom Pritchard & St. Clair, NJ 11/1/89. Real real good whenever Vader is in, and passable otherwise. Neat to see Dr. Tom in Japan.