wrestling / Video Reviews

Furious Flashbacks: New Japan Battle Satellite in Tokyo Dome

February 17, 2015 | Posted by Arnold Furious
The 411 Rating
Community Grade
Your Grade
Furious Flashbacks: New Japan Battle Satellite in Tokyo Dome  

NJPW Battle Satellite in Tokyo Dome (also known as Super Powers Clash)


24th April 1989.


Seeing as New Japan have their own delicious online streaming service it’d be rude to not use it as a reviewing tool. So I’m taking a look back at some NJPW Classics, starting way back in 1989. A time when I was watching WWF at my neighbours house and had no exposure to Japanese wrestling at all. Don’t blame me though, folks, there was no internet. There was barely any tape trading. Thanks to the majesty of New Japan World we can now experience the same wrestling that the Japanese public were enjoying at the time.


We’re in Tokyo, Japan, as the show’s title gives away. 53,600 in attendance, for those who think New Japan is booming nowadays. This is back when wrestling really was a hot commodity.


Young Lion Cup Final Match:

Naoki Sano vs. Hiro Saito


This is how goddamn old this is: Hiro Saito is a Young Lion! You might not even be able to put the name Naoki Sano to the current face of this youngster. Sano is now Takuma Sano! I only really know them both as surly older gents so this is kinda mind-blowing as they work their young socks off. Saito pretty much works the same way he does now only taking bigger bumps. I guess that’s the secret of a long career. Sano on the other hand throws himself into everything. Saito does live up to his Young Lion tag however by having an actual MANE of a haircut. Good lord, he’s majestic. More chuckles when Sano gets caught in a sleeper and actually looks like he does now. So if you want to see your face as an old man just get someone to photograph you getting choked out. Saito has a size edge and can power out of Sano’s submission attempts. That’s the basis for the match. Then Saito goes for a dive and SANO MOVES. That’s a sickening bump as he flies into the rail. It genuinely made be scream “OOOOOOOO” at the screen. This switches Saito to the roll of underdog and the crowd gets really excited with him almost winning. The timing here is great with both men aiming for epic IN THE OPENER! I keep having to remind myself this match is from 1989. They start busting out planchas, German suplexes and powerbombs. IN THE OPENER! In 1989! Sano sneaks out of a powerbomb pin and flips Saito’s shoulders down to get the duke. Cracking opener.


Final Rating: ***1/2


Tangent: Sano’s NJPW career was cut short after he defected to Super World of Sports in 1990 (hey, it sounded like a good idea at the time) so he’s not held in the same regard as he would have been if he’d stayed there. If he had stayed put his best years as a wrestler would have been in New Japan. Who knows how great he might have gotten. As it stands he was just getting into his groove as a junior when he left. Now he’s better known as a veteran in NOAH. Saito stayed put and continued to be a surly youngster until 2005 with NJPW when he left for Dradition so he could be a surly old guy.


IWGP Championship Tournament 1st Round:

Big Van Vader vs. Masahiro Chono


The IWGP title was put up for grabs during this big Dome show to give it greater legitimacy. Tatsumi Fujinami, the incumbent champion, simply gave the belt up for this honour. And what a fucking awesome first match in the tournament! Vader, at his badass best against Chono, who just doesn’t give a fuck. They get into a massive ruck before the opening bell with the crowd going crazy. Sadly the pace screams to a halt once we get underway as whoever wins needs to work two more matches tonight. Vader just owns poor Chono. Mr August wasn’t really a big deal until the 90s rolled around and his attempts at counters go wrong here. This includes a terrible German suplex where Vader falls on him. The crowd seem to enjoy the brutality of it, and Vader’s vicious striking helps that. Vader wins with a splash off the top. So Chono is dead and everyone is now terrified of Vader.


Final Rating: **


IWGP Championship Tournament 1st Round:

Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Vladimir Berkovich


Former champion Fujinami’s first round opponent is a former Soviet amateur, part of Inoki’s constant attempts to legitimise his company, and this is his second match, ever. He only wrestled for a few years and is a footnote in NJPW history. Fujinami meanwhile is one of the greatest wrestlers to ever set foot in the ring. He’d already been a star for ten years by this point and some of his best work is lost to the mists of time. Berkovich’s inexperience means the crowd pop HARD for anything approaching a high spot. He’s hopeless when it comes to the Strongstyle and after taking a few leg kicks tries to finish on the mat. Fujinami is having none of it, throws kicks, punches and suplexes until Berkovich quits to a sleeper. I’m amazed he lasted a few years in wrestling because he didn’t look happy in there at all.


Final Rating: *1/4


IWGP Championship Tournament 1st Round:

Buzz Sawyer vs. Victor Zangiev


Zangiev is another Soviet Union shooter and by far the hairiest. He looks like a Middle Eastern dictator. Buzz is in no mood to let him dictate on the mat and tries like hell to test him, which leads to Zangiev showing off his freakish ability with a throw that almost takes Sawyer out of his boots. If there’s a guy who deserves that treatment it’s Sawyer. By all accounts he was a bit of an ass. The Undertaker isn’t a fan. Sawyer agreed to train him and after Taker paid, Sawyer showed him a lock-up and then skipped town. With the money. Zangiev makes him look like shit here, perhaps on purpose. They trade on German suplexes and Zangiev puts Sawyer away clean. You can put that up top of a list of things you would never have seen in the WWF during the 1980s; a Russian pinning an American clean. Sawyer didn’t have much time left and died of a heart attack in 1992 although notorious bullshitter Billy Jack Haynes claimed it was a mob hit. Zangiev worked about 50 matches for NJPW before retiring. He came back to work for UWFi in 1994, putting over locals before retiring for good.


Final Rating: **


IWGP Championship Tournament 1st Round:

Riki Choshu vs. Shinya Hashimoto


Choshu has already run his angle in AJPW where he ‘invaded’ and he’s seen as a dangerous shooter. Hash is just brilliant. He doesn’t need any gimmicks. He has one though; he looks like a fat Japanese Elvis. An awesome fat Japanese Elvis. As he got older he’d get more Elvis-like. He works like a motherfucker here, just destroying Choshu with slaps, headbutts and kicks. Then Riki hits his lariat and Hash casually kicks out. Choshu tries the Sharpshooter and Hash rolls him up for the win. Choshu’s look of ‘you’re fucking kidding me’ is brilliant but he just got his ass handed to him in less than four minutes. Hash looks very happy with himself. This was a massive upset at the time with Choshu established as one of Japan’s top tier guys and Hashimoto had only just come back from a learning excursion to Puerto Rico. This is how you make a star. Pay attention, WWE.


Final Rating: **1/2


Shinya Asuka vs. Benny Urquidez


Benny The Jet is a movie star, who you probably recognise from Jackie Chan films (Wheels on Meals springs to mind). Jackie claims most of his best onscreen fights were against him. This is an actual fight with both guys wearing boxing gloves and throwing kicks. Elbows and headbutts are banned. Benny hasn’t fought an actual competitive fight in six years at this point and had it stipulated in his contract that if the fight went the full five rounds it’d be declared a draw. Which is exactly what happens. It doesn’t surprise me that Inoki tried to force this onto the show and it’s one of the main reasons I didn’t much care for New Japan while he was in charge of it.


Final Rating: N/R (but avoid)


IWGP Championship Tournament Semi-Final:

Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Big Van Vader


With Choshu eliminated it makes the emphasis on this match all the more important as the winner is the clear favourite. Fujinami had held the belt for almost a year and was only the second champion after Inoki. The crowd fully expect him to win but are scared of Vader because of his power and resilience. He shrugs off the same leg kicks that rattled Berkovich and imposes himself on the match. Fujinami gets massive reactions for everything he lands from dropkicks to suplexes. This probably should have gone on last but then this is all part of New Japan’s new strategy. Big venues, big upsets, new stars. Vader gets into big trouble though as Fujinami takes his arm and looks for a submission. It’s only a combination of Vader’s stubbornness and toughness that keeps him in it. Fujinami is relentless but after a couple of armbars, it looks like Vader won’t quit unless his arm is torn clean off. Fujinami goes from gleefully taking the limb apart to realising Vader won’t ever quit, ever. He sells this realisation so well to the crowd they can sense the tide change. Vader takes a few cool looking bumps for a big man but everything Fujinami has can’t stop him. Fujinami’s best shot at winning comes when Vader accidentally lariats the ring post, with his bad arm and almost gets counted out. Fujinami changes tactic and tries for flash pins but Vader sits on him to block a sunset flip and finishes with a big splash. This stuns the crowd as Vader had been dominated but just wouldn’t quit.


Final Rating: ***


IWGP Championship Tournament Semi-Final:

Shinya Hashimoto vs. Victor Zangiev


The crowd responds well to Zangiev, who clearly won a few people over by beating Sawyer. The crowd, driven to believe in legitimacy, probably think Hash’s win over Choshu was a fluke and don’t really bite on him here. This is a theme that continues as Zangiev impresses on the mat, even though he looks like a walking carpet. Is he a Wookie? Hash looks outclassed in the technical stakes. He can’t seem to take Zangiev down and the sneaky Russian takes Hash’s arm to pieces. Zangiev’s throws scare me. He just hurls Hash over his head and hopes for the best. Hash responds by cleaning him out with a spin kick and submitting him with a Figure Four. Zangiev looks like a cross between Saddam Hussein and Cheech Marin when he’s hurt.


Final Rating: **1/4


Masa Saito vs. Wahka Eveloev


Eveloev is yet another Soviet wrestler (Inoki had a show in Moscow lined up for later in the year). They were in vogue at the time. Saito had recently returned to New Japan after a stint with the AWA but if you’ve watched practically any promotion over the last 30 years you’ve seen him wrestle somewhere. He worked in the WWF, NWA, WCW and AJPW as well. Saito had a big feud with Inoki about two years before this, including that ridiculous 2 hour match on an island (if you’ve not seen it, don’t bother). Eveloev looks like he has a vague understanding of what’s happening here. Very vague and his idea of how to bump a clothesline is either revolutionary or shit. He’s not the best wrestler to cross over from the amateurs. He beats Saito with an armbar in about 5 minutes. Not Inoki’s best idea.


Final Rating: ¾*


IWGP Heavyweight Championship:

Shinya Hashimoto vs. Big Van Vader


This is probably not the final that the fans were expecting. They have a wonderful stand-off pre-match where Vader sets his helmet steam off and Hash just stands there staring a hole in him. The NJPW World stream is bordering on HD and Hash’s skin looks like corned beef (thus making him a Corned Beef Hash). Hash decides to carry on where Fujinami left off and works Vader’s arm. Which gets him headbutted in the eye and pummelled in the corner. Vader is just brutal here. A mammoth hill for Hash to climb as Vader just grinds him down. Hash ends up clinging on to Vader’s bad arm for dear life, knowing if he lets go Vader will kill him. Hash’s attempts to tear Vader’s arm off remind me of toughman competitions. Like there’s a line of toughmen trying to tear someone’s arm off and the one who does it quickest wins. Vader isn’t playing by the rules though, the rules that say big men don’t leave their feet, and he hits a running fucking DROPKICK. Hash takes him back down with an armbar and the crowd start to lose their shit. Can Hashimoto slay the monster? No. Vader just bowls him over every time they’re back toe to toe. Unfortunately referee Lou Thesz fucks up the pin, leaving Hash an eternity to kick out after two and making him look weak. Vader wins the belt, shocking the Dome into absolute silence. If that booking wasn’t mystifying enough he’d lose to Salman Hashimikov, another Russian signing, after just a month, denying the natives their chance for revenge. He’d win it back later in the year for a proper reign, which was ended by Choshu. Hash had to wait until 1993 for his eventual title win. Good things come to those who wait.


Final Rating: **3/4


Hiroshi Hase & Shiro Koshinaka vs. George Takano & Super Strong Machine


Hase has only been back from Stampede for a few years at this point so he’s really young and raw. Koshinaka I recently watched wrestle in 2014 and he’s not a young man here, having a decade of experience. Takano is also, and perhaps better known, as Cobra. He gave the mask up in the middle of 1986 and now sports a Jheri curl. Super Strong Machine is still employed by New Japan and has been ever since 1978. Lou Thesz referees this match too with typical awfulness. At one point he can’t be bothered to count a pinfall and just claims there was no tag! What the fuck Lou? Wrestling is rapidly passing the old man by as he mutters about double teams and rope breaks. It’s a pity as the four men manage a decent pace, reminiscent of the opening match, perhaps eager to prove wrestling superior to Inoki’s sideshow stuff. Near falls in this one include piledrivers and superplexes. Lou doesn’t look terribly impressed but stereo missile dropkicks is pretty cool for 1989. It’s weird because you’d probably have called this spotty at the time but now it feels like a normal match. The workrate is certainly commendable and never drops. The decision making isn’t the best, Hase suplexes Super Strong Machine into his own corner during one heat segment. But the effort is always there. Koshinaka even tries a bit of no-selling, which earns him a Takano spin kick to the side of the head. The near falls continue with kick outs from Tombstones, stereo headbutts, powerbombs and dragon suplexes. What is this crazy fucking match? Super Strong Machine puts Hase down with the Devil Windmill suplex to end an absolute belter. By modern standards it’s not that spotty, by 1989 standards they hit ALL THE SPOTS!


Final Rating: ****1/2


Jushin Liger vs. Kuniaki Kobayashi


This is Liger’s DEBUT. As in he previously wrestled as Keichi Yamada and this is his first time wearing the mask. The costume is completely different (it looks cheaper and Buck Rogers level sci-fi inspired) but the reactions are what makes it. He starts hitting dives and the crowd goes MENTAL. Kobayashi is a 16 year pro so he tries to calm Liger down but after that last match the calmness is out of the bag. Bring the craziness! Liger is a touch sloppy, perhaps not quite adjusting to the mask, and some of his wrestling is loose. A headscissors really stands out as he sits back and loses the hold completely. The palm strikes are there but the execution isn’t quite right either. It’s a work in progress. Some spots work, like the Koppou Kick while others don’t. A diving headbutt to the standing Kobayashi could frankly be anything. The finish is a bridging back suplex and Liger wins his first match. This went badly wrong after a hot start. They’d sort Liger’s nerves out and he’d win the Junior title the following month. The rest is history.


Final Rating: **


Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Salman Hashimikov


This is right after Bigelow’s first WWF run. He’d been working up at the top of the card and was being booked as a monster heel. Obviously not on the same level as Vader. Hashimikov is yet another Soviet shooter. Like the others he didn’t hang around in the business for long but unlike the others he won the IWGP title. A typical Inoki ‘strike while the iron is hot’ move. This is Hashimikov’s third match as a pro. In the Inokiest piece of Inoki booking you’ll ever see Hashimikov wins with a judo throw in under three minutes. In his 13th professional match Hashimikov beat Vader for the IWGP title in under 10 minutes. Oh, Antonio, you wacky Ringmaster, you.


Final Rating: ½*


NJPW Martial Arts Championship:

Antonio Inoki (c) vs. Shota Chochishvili


The “Martial Arts” title was actually presented to Inoki by the WWF. So if you’re looking for someone to blame, look no further than Titan Towers. He’d held the belt for some 11 years prior to this match but seeing as they’d booked the Tokyo Dome, Inoki wanted to do something memorable. So naturally he’s picked Soviet judo star Shota, who’s never wrestled a match in his life, to job to. The bizarre setting of the Martial Arts match includes removing the ropes. It makes the setting more akin to sumo and makes Inoki feel like the legitimate wrestler he wants to be perceived as. I’ve seen it suggested, albeit by sources outside of wrestling, that this was a shoot. Seeing as Inoki’s first move is a back suplex, I can confirm that no, it isn’t. Much like most half-baked Inoki ideas it is abysmal however. They spend most of the time grabbing each others wrists and circling. Shota manages a few nice throws, seeing as he IS a judo Olympic gold medallist (1972) but he takes ages following up with armbars. Inoki does a enormous sell-job, which puts most guys to shame, by leaving his arm hanging loose by his side after being caught a few times. Round 5 sees the action get completely mental as Inoki gets planted with a few back suplexes, comes firing back with a spin kick and gets planted with another back suplex, which causes him to be counted out. Thus Shota Chochishvili wins the main event of the first ever wrestling show in the Tokyo Dome and becomes the only guy other than Antonio Inoki to hold the Martial Arts title. He must be a pub quiz answer in Japan all the damn time. This match had moments where I enjoyed it, like Inoki’s selling and the last few minutes but most of it was a gimmicky mess.


Final Rating: *




























You can also follow me on Twitter @ArnoldFurious



The final score: review Good
The 411
It’s certainly a memorable first wrestling card in the Dome. Inoki loses, Vader overcomes Fujinami and wins the IWGP title, Liger debuts, and there’s an entire title tournament. However the best matches have virtually nothing to do with Inoki’s side-show attractions and they’re matches where wrestlers got to wrestle. I was particularly enamoured with the Takano & SSM vs. Hase & Koshinaka match. For the era it’s from, it’s a sensational outing from all involved. It hasn’t aged that badly either. Also the opener between Sano & Saito is a very good junior-style match and the Vader-Hashimoto match is almost essential viewing if you like either one of them. I’d recommend skipping the Benny the Jet match and probably the main event but it’s a tidy snapshot of Antonio Inoki’s thinking at the time and the wrestlers that were involved. I love that the matches with no hype and no gimmick were the best matches. That about sums up Japan at the time and is why I watched All Japan instead.