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Dump or Keep? #2

Pro Wrestling - by - April 13, 2011 - 21:51 UTC - Be first to Comment!

We keep moving on down the random list with a big post, this time featuring a few matches that are faves among old time fans:

All Japan Women’s Wrestling – 8/15/1992 – IWA Championship Match – Title vs. Hair – Toshiyo Yamada (c) vs. Manami Toyota – KEEP

This is an odd match to start the list off with because while I’ve previously talked about Japanese professional wrestling, this comes from a Japanese promotion for WOMEN’S wrestling, and is from a time period where, to some fans, the women outperformed the men. Now, at this time in Japan, All Japan, which was covered in the first Dump or Keep and will be a staple going forward and New Japan, which will be in here a little bit as well, were the two major companies. New Japan was more of a showman’s type atmosphere where All Japan had the more traditional pro wrestling style.

AJW? Well, they were one of the most elastic styles ever. It started in the 80’s when a wrestler named Jaguar Yokota (more on her later on) came back after a trip to Mexico and brought the lucha libre style to the promotion. It promised matches would be at a faster pace and had the chance to be more dramatic, and while the matches themselves weren’t all like lucha matches, the style would allow the wrestlers to craft their own style around a lucha base, which is a much more interesting and exciting style than most. Matches saw everything from judo to karate to submission based wrestling included, along with aerial attacks and agility that would lead AJW into their best period, a four year run that goes from November of 1990 to November of 1994, starting at WrestleMarinepiad ’90 and ending with AJW’s biggest show ever, the Big Egg Universe show at the famed Tokyo Dome.

This match was a perfect example of what AJW had become: Toyota went at 100 miles an hour, running all over the place with dropkicks and high-flying maneuvers while also throwing in creative suplexes and throws along the lines of her trainer, Yokota. On the other side was her best friend and tag team partner in Yamada, who had a more ground based attack centered around her vicious kicks that she liked to throw, much like AJW legend Chigusa Nagayo (more on her in a minute, as well).

While it seemed like two styles that wouldn’t mesh that well, their relationship as AJW’s reigning tag team champions, along with Toyota wanting to get her hands on single’s gold, led this to be one of the best “sprint” matches ever, as both wrestlers went at each other without much interruption for 15 minutes with some pretty insane nearfalls down the stretch, leading to Toyota coming up with the victory following her Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex. After the match, Toyota tried to convince Yamada not to have her head shaved, and was actually held back by other wrestlers before Yamada calmly accepted her fate at the hands of the clippers. The two hugged after the head shaving and went on to be one of the most successful tag teams in company history, being the stalwarts of a tag division that saw perhaps its best battles over the next two years. This is also the match widely regarded as the start of all the “Manami Toyota: Superworker” talk that would make her one of the most highly regarded pro wrestlers not just in AJW, but in all the world for the 1990s.

UWF-i – 5/8/1992 – Exhibition Match – Nick Bockwinkel vs. Billy Robinson – KEEP

While both men were in their 50s in this match, both men are also still highly regarded as two of pro wrestling’s toughest ever. Robinson was well loved in Japan during the 70’s and into the 80’s as well, working against the top native stars like Giant Baba (AJPW) and Antonio Inoki (NJPW) and put on superb technical bouts using his catch wrestling. Bockwinkel was a long-term American Wrestling Association champion, wrestled in Japan during the 80’s against AJPW legend Jumbo Tsuruta, and formed the best tag team of the 1970’s with San Francisco’s own Ray Stevens. They were managed by none other than Bobby “The Brain” Heenan.

UWF-i was a Japanese “shoot-style” wrestling promotion, where combatants were based more in grappling and striking as opposed to theatrics. This was right up the alley of these two veterans, who took their 10 minutes to show that even in their 50’s, they could still go. While not on the level of some of their better matches in the 70’s and 80’s, it’s a great reminder even now that pro wrestling is a bit more than pyro and production values. Of course, this exhibition ended in a draw, with Robinson landing his patented butterfly suplex just before the time expired for some added drama. A good introduction to what catch-style wrestling is all about.

WWF – WrestleMania VIII – Intercontinental Title – “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (c) vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart – KEEP

This or his 1983 Dog Collar Match with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine from the first ever Starrcade is Piper’s best match. Two men who knew each other since Hart was rolling around in his dad’s “Dungeon” in Calgary, they came together as friends with aspirations of winning on wrestling’s grandest stage. While the earlier Toyota/Yamada match was an exercise in tenacity, this was an exercise in gamesmanship. Both men took shortcuts to get ahead of the other simply because they knew each other so well, and once things opened up with Hart trying to outthink Piper and Piper using his hot temper to gain an upper hand, the match got pushed from good to great. In the end, Piper had Hart right where he wanted him after busting him open and was ready with the ring bell to put the match away after the referee got knocked down, but whether it was all the fans in the Hoosier Dome or a sudden change of conscience to win “the right way”, Piper went for his sleeper hold instead, only to see Hart counter with a roll-up that would become synonymous with The Hitman for the remainder of his career: He walked up the turnbuckles to the top rope and pushed himself backward, with the momentum locking him down on top of Piper’s shoulders as the ref counted three, giving Hart his second IC title and Piper his best match in a WWF ring. Of course, the two friends would make amends after the match, with Piper presenting Hart with the belt and raising his hand in victory. If the WrestleMania X ladder match between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon is the best IC title match in WM history, this runs second.

NJPW – 11/22/1985 – Bruiser Brody vs. Dick Murdoch – DUMP

This one hurts because I love Dick Murdoch and Brody can be good when he’s with a wrestler who will force him to sell. Murdoch is one of those people. HOWEVER…even with these two having a wild brawl, I can’t keep it because some jackasses thought it was a good idea to do English commentary over the match and drown out the crowd noise with their incessant babbling. They kept promoting the “Wrestling World Newsletter” and one guy cut promos against posters who didn’t agree with him, I guess. Meanwhile, Brody and Murdoch are killing each other and bleeding all over the place, and I can’t enjoy it thanks to these dumbasses. Go do this crap somewhere else.

AJPW – 1/28/1989 – British Bulldogs vs. Dean and Joe Malenko – KEEP

At this point, I’m not even sure The Dynamite Kid can feel his back. Having threw it out several times to the point where it would leave him debilitated and in a wheelchair, Kid decided that instead of treating it, he’d take more drugs to kill the pain and still be able to wrestle. This would lead to matches like this, where he still bumps and does a lot of his bigger moves, and I watch hoping that it’s not the match where he almost kills himself. Meanwhile, Dean and Joe Malenko were built for an All Japan midcard tag team match much like the Can-Am Express of Dan Kroffat and Doug Furnas, who ruled as AJPW’s best foreign undercard team for the early 1990’s, having one of the best tag matches ever in 1992 with Kenta Kobashi and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi. The brothers had an unmatched technical background, and Dean turned in a fantastic performance here.

While this gets to be like an exhibition at times (the teams pair off with two or three minute segments, tag out, do it some more, tag out, and then work a finish), the work is very good for the most part and the intensity and stiffness allows the crowd to get into it. The Malenkos try to tear apart any limbs the Bulldogs will offer them, while Davey Boy overpowers and Dynamite out-intensifies. These matches in the late 80’s also cemented Joe Malenko as one of wrestling’s lost greats, having really toiled in obscurity in random federations throughout the 90’s and into the 2000’s whereas brother Dean went on to fame in the United States during the same time frame. Four guys not from Japan meet in a Japanese ring and tear things up for 20 minutes. Can’t really beat that.

Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre – 2/26/2005 – Dos a Tres Caidas – Mistico vs. Ultimo Guerrero – KEEP

It was about this time that Mistico became Mexico’s biggest draw, wowing fans with moves not seen since the glory days of Rey Mysterio, Jr. in the early 1990’s, where he and a whole host of wrestlers like Eddy Guerrero, Art Barr and Juventud Guerrera put AAA on the map. Now known as Sin Cara in the WWE, Mistico’s month of February in 2005 was a great example of what he was capable of in big match settings, as this match was a result of an earlier tag match that saw Mistico team with a recently turned Dr. Wagner, Jr. against Guerrero’s Los Guerreros del Infernales and his partner Rey Buccanero. Mistico and Wagner won that tag match, and now Mistico had to ward off a very mad UG in order to save face in the follow-up match.

The interesting booking is what keeps this match on my iPod. Normally, a 2/3 falls match in Mexico follows a pretty predictable formula. Heels take the first fall to establish dominance and put the baby faces behind the 8-ball, baby faces make comeback in fall number two to send match to the deciding fall, and then it’s anything goes to determine a winner. Here, the booking is tweaked to make Mistico look resourceful and take advantage of UG’s overzealous nature. Mistico goes for one of his patented dives in the first fall and wipes out, leaving UG an easy opening to finish him off. But when he rolls him in, Mistico tells the referee that he can’t go on, waving his hands in the air. The referee looks to tell UG that he can’t continue and call the first fall for UG, but instead, UG takes Mistico up to the top for his moonsault slam for what he thinks is a 3 count and an opening fall win, but is instead disqualified for not heeding the referee’s decision.

So Mistico gets checked on after the first fall by the doctor and after getting an okay (somewhat), UG starts the second fall off going to town on Mistico. Now, Mistico makes his comeback, but once again, the booking puts it over the top with Mistico taking a superbomb from UG, only to see UG land awkwardly on his right leg. As the doctors check him out, Mistico remembers what UG did to him in fall one and goes after him, readying to finish him off, but UG recovers in time to inadvertently knock the ref down on a quebradora (tilt-a-whirl) attempt. Mistico slides out, quickly pulls off UG’s mask to stun him, and then rolls him up into a small package long enough for the ref to come to and count three.

Lucha libre matches are usually traditional and by the books, but this was not really by the book at all and it made the match stand out even more. Mistico had steadily climbed the ranks to be one of Mexico’s best, but here, he really turned in a performance that turned him into Mexico’s best babyface.

ECW – Hardcore Heaven 2000 – Tajiri vs. Steve Corino – KEEP

Tajiri had made a name for himself as a flashy, maniacal ass-kicker who could knock someone’s lights out with one kick. Meanwhile, Steve Corino had made a name for himself as a pompous, arrogant jackass who had Jack Victory as a lackey and just enough wrestling ability to get by. That meant that when these two met at Hardcore Heaven in a grudge match after Corino and Victory turned on Tajiri, it was a simple formula: Corino was going to get the ass-whooping he had coming to him by the man who deserved to give it.

But Corino decided that even with that story coming in that it needed a bit more…so he got hit with a brainbuster on the entrance ramp, rolled off the stage and smacked his face on the concrete. One giant cut later, Corino’s bleach blond hair was red. Tajiri took aim at the cut, hitting Corino with kicks, chairs and tables, only to see Corino turn the tables (literally) and mount a run late in the match. However, Tajiri took the aforementioned table and hit Corino with a flurry of strikes, finishing with a buzzsaw kick that knocked Corino out to the point where Tajiri could double stomp him through the table, just for good measure. There were some lulls and a couple of goofy parts (Corino blatantly holding a chair up to his face so Tajiri could dropkick him for starters), but this is a fun match that serves as a reminder that sometimes blood can add a lot to a match, even if the match isn’t that important in the first place.

AJPW – 8/19/1989 – Geni’ichiro Tenryu and Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Jumbo Tsuruta and Kenta Kobashi – KEEP

I love Jumbo Tsuruta. Just going to make the note now that every match of his will be a KEEP. No way it couldn’t be. In this match, he destroys young Ogawa while giving fans a good bit of the Tenryu/Jumbo war that had been going on for the last year. Kobashi hadn’t really caught on just yet, and only when he joined Toshiaki Kawada and Mitsuharu Misawa in the generational war the next year did he start that spunky fireplug act that would turn him into one of Japan’s most beloved wrestlers. Also, you see that Jumbo would give Ogawa just a little bit to show that he wasn’t completely worthless before destroying him, showing that Jumbo knew that in order to help build someone, he could make them look at least good for a little while before putting him away. That’s how wrestlers are supposed to be built up.

AJW – I want to say 1983, maybe 1984 – Crush Gals (Chigusa Nagayo and Lioness Asuka) vs. Jaguar Yokota and Noriyo Tateno – KEEP

FUN FACT: When trying to find the date for this match, I typed in “Crush Gals Toteno Yokota” in Google and saw this link that I did for 411Mania way back when. Pretty funny.

Yokota was the #1 wrestler for the company, the “Ace,” if you will, and this is fresh off her return from Mexico I had mentioned earlier. Tateno would later see some fame as one half of the Jumping Bomb Angels (they wrestled in some WWF matches during the 80’s) and it’s no secret that the reason she’s in this match is because she was one of the few that could keep up with three of the greatest women wrestlers of all time. It was also a nice contrast between the lucha stylings of Jaguar and Tateno against the more martial arts based offense of the Gals. This match is all of about 8 minutes, but there is NO…PAUSE…WHATSOEVER. They literally just whip each other around and fly all over the place, throwing out double teams and throws like they were on 2-for-1 specials, but unlike other spotfests that were all about throwing moves without anything to them, they made the moves mean something with kickouts and reversals for that time. The Crush Gals would get the win with the pin over Toteno, part of their rise to the top of the company that they would carry throughout the rest of the 80’s.

That will be it for now, with another group coming in the next day or two.

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