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Furious Flashbacks: New Japan Super Fight in Tokyo Dome

February 22, 2015 | Posted by Arnold Furious
6.5
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Furious Flashbacks: New Japan Super Fight in Tokyo Dome  

NJPW Super Fight in Tokyo Dome

 

10th February 1990.

 

Following on from the success of the first wrestling show in the Tokyo Dome, Antonio Inoki booked the Dome again for early 1990. Learning from his MMA mistakes, the show featured nothing but good old-fashioned wrasslin. In order to give the show some importance, he borrowed the AWA title and had Larry Zbyszko defend it against local Masa Saito. He also borrowed All Japan mainstay Stan Hansen for the show and booked him against Vader for the IWGP title. New Japan and All Japan were actually on fairly friendly terms at the time and even cross-promoted the Dome in April, along with the WWF. The card was loaded with cross-promotion here and a host of AJPW talent worked this show, including Genichiro Tenryu and Jumbo Tsuruta.

 

Takayuki Iizuka vs. Osamu Matsuda

 

Those names might not mean anything but it’s actually Takashi Iizuka (yes, the crazy bearded guy with the Iron Glove from CHAOS/Suzuki-gun) against El Samurai without his mask. Iizuka is totally unrecognisable. These guys both broke into New Japan around the same time and are prime examples of how bland young Japanese talent looks with all the gimmick sheared away. Iizuka is the aggressor and although they go back and forth, his spots are way harsher. His kicks are stiff and he cranks away at submissions. He looks tremendously promising. Matsuda has a few tricks up his sleeve though and hits the STUNNER, sitout and everything, as a transition. Toward the end of the match the hard work pays off and the crowd start to applaud a bit. Matsuda almost destroys this with terrible elbow strikes but luckily Iizuka throws him around and hits the Blizzard Suplex to win. Iizuka looked like the prospect to put your money on here. Matsuda still looked very poor for his experience levels and his strikes were woeful. Iizuka looked about 2 years ahead of him. However, El Samurai had a wonderful career as a junior and surpassed Iizuka a few years after this.

 

Final Rating: **1/4

 

Naoki Sano & Pegasus Kid vs. Akira Nogami & Jushin Liger

 

Liger’s persona is vastly improved over his debut match the previous year. The costume has been fixed and he looks like a star. Pegasus Kid is Benoit in a mask. Akira Nogami would go on to become AKIRA. Sano would become Takuma Sano. New Japan World does something bizarre with this match…it’s clipped! The opener was shown in full but this is the original tape release version with half the match missing. Boo! It’s a pity too because it’s a solid juniors match with no weak links. Sano looks out to fuck up Liger and hits kneeling powerbombs and jumping piledrivers like a motherfucker. The work is snug and the way they mix strikes and high spots makes it feel like the hybrid style that took over the US Indies over a decade later. What surprises me the most is that the best sequences are Liger vs. Sano. By far. Which is no knock on the others but simply the level they were operating at. Liger got really great at his gimmick, really quickly. His in-ring is so tight here. His bumps are wonderful. You honestly get the feeling he’s going to lose all the time because the bumps are harsh and his selling is perfect. Watching modern Liger, with him being up around 50 years old, it’s easy to forget he wasn’t one of the best juniors of all time he was THE best junior heavyweight, ever. Sano gets the pin by picking off Nogami with the Tiger Suplex. Every now and again it’s nice to be reminded that there are hundreds of awesome Jushin Liger matches out there. His stuff with Sano in this match was tremendous.

 

Final Rating: ****

 

Hiroshi Hase, Kantaro Hoshino & Kuniaki Kobayashi vs. Blond Outlaws (Hiro Saito, Norio Honaga & Tatsutoshi Goto)

 

Goto continued being a regular in New Japan until 2006 but his career highlight was a few months with the tag titles in 1999. Honaga you might recognise from a spate of solid junior outings in the 1990s. He’s now active as a referee. The Blond Outlaws were formed to oppose the likes of Hase and Kobayashi so it’s no surprise to see them in opposite corners. They’ve been together as a group since late 1989. Their record is a solid 15-6. Despite the name only Goto is actually blond. Hoshino is the cagey veteran here, he’s been active for some 20 years already and worked for JWA. That’s going back a way. Like the last match this receives liberal clipping and joins the action in progress with old man Hoshino cleaning house. The match is a solid enough back and forth but is massively underwhelming after the last match with the crowd only really responding to Hoshino, who works like an old age Tomoaki Honma. He has Honma’s luck regarding pins too and gets planted with a Samoan Drop by Goto for the loss. Another win for the Blond Outlaws. 16-6. Match was passable.

 

Final Rating: **1/2

 

Victor Zangiev vs. Brad Rheingans

 

Brad was actually at the last Dome show, in 1989, shouting abuse at the Soviet wrestlers. I wasn’t entirely sure it was him so I didn’t mention it in the review but it definitely was. This is the result of said abuse. Brad had been an AWA mainstay for a decade but switched to New Japan after a brief WWF stint in 1987. Super hairy Victor Zangiev decides to take it to the mat, which makes sense judging by his cauliflower ears but Brad is no slouch. He qualified for two Olympics in wrestling, including one in Russia that the US boycotted. No wonder he was shouting abuse! The match has an array of mat excellence with a few suplexes tossed in. Zangiev ends up jobbing to a speedy inside cradle. Finally, glory for Rheingans! Take THAT 1980 summer games!

 

Final Rating: **1/2

 

Salman Hashimikov vs. Steve Williams

 

Hashimikov might be a former IWGP champion but he’s not wrestled in two months and after this he’ll miss another seven months before winding his career down. Doc on the other hand is a virtual up and comer and this pre-dates his first tour with All Japan, later in the month. He’d become an AJPW legend during a 14 year stint. You’d never know he’d catch on in Japan like he did based on this match but I put that down to Hashimikov who seems unable or unwilling to co-operate on anything complicated. His refusal to take Irish whips and bump properly really starts to grate on my nerves but luckily Doc finishes with the Oklahoma Stampede (barely at a canter).

 

Final Rating: *

 

AWA World Heavyweight Championship:

Larry Zbyszko (c) vs. Masa Saito

 

The AWA is totally in the toilet at this point so they whore themselves out to Inoki here. I presume they got some sort of cut of the profits for jobbing out their champion to get New Japan over. By the end of the year the AWA would cease to exist. I’ve never really been keen on Zbyszko as a worker and that’s reflected here in a dull match with Larry hooking an awful lot of rest holds. It’s not that boring by American standards (this took place just before Wrestlemania VI with Hogan & Warrior on top, for reference) but by Japanese standards it’s a snoozefest. It picks up with Saito on top but Larry’s selling is just so god-awful. During one leg lock he lies there waving his arms around and screaming. What the fuck are you doing? He looks like a pensioner whose lumbago is playing up and he can’t get out of bed. The crowd get totally into the match as Saito continues to throw Larry around but he’s really not contributing to the match in any way. Saito seems to bring the courage, the determination and even the blood after busting his lip. Larry brings the occasional piece of mild cheating and disappointment. Saito SLAPS THE SHIT OUT OF HIM. Ok, that’s pretty awesome. Saito hits a back suplex and rolls Larry up for the win and the belt, met with rapturous applause. Larry held the belt for over a year and Saito was the first Japanese wrestler to win since Jumbo Tsuruta in 1984 so this was almost a big deal. It would have been if Larry Zbyszko wasn’t Larry Zbyszkoing his way through the match.

 

Final Rating: **3/4

 

Tangent: It’s at this point that New Japan skip over two inter-promotional matches. Presumably it has something to do with the rights, although the forthcoming match featuring AJPW’s Stan Hansen remains. The matches in question were Tsuruta & Yatsu vs. Kengo Kimura & Osamu Kido and Tenryu & Tiger Mask vs. Riki Choshu & George Takano. I bet at least the second of those, and probably both of them, were good matches.

 

IWGP Heavyweight Championship:

Big Van Vader (c) vs. Stan Hansen

 

Now we’re talking. This is absolutely essential viewing. One of the most brutal wrestling matches of all time. Hansen comes in fully aware that Vader is getting a reputation for being a big stiff tough guy and is here to show Vader THAT’S HIS FUCKING JOB. Hansen has been All Japan’s stiffest motherfucker since he went there in 1982. He also previously worked for NJPW. The early going is suitably violent and Vader gets his shoulder opened up HARDWAY. But that’s not the bad part, his eyeball is so badly fucked up from being punched in the face he has to take his mask off and URRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH. Vader’s right eye is swollen shut and looks like a grey egg. It is HIDEOUS. One of the worst looking facial injuries EVER. In normal circumstances, seeing as Vader had to push his eyeball back into the socket (yes, REALLY), you’d think they’d slow down a bit. But no, Hansen continues to smack Vader around the face, which must hurt like a motherfucker. Hansen must feel bad about it though as he lets Vader TEE OFF on his face with all manner of abuse. The crowd are totally with them too and as soon as Vader reveals his fucked up face, they react to EVERYTHING. The whole thing is fairly sickening. It’s not as brutal as the Misawa-Kawada match where Kawada breaks Misawa’s orbital bone and spends the rest of the match kicking him in the face but it’s difficult to watch nevertheless. They just wail on each other for the whole match before eventually both getting counted out because they won’t stop fighting in the crowd. I’ve seen this match a few times and the eye injury always freaks me out. Vader’s injury was so severe he’d miss 2 months of action but retained the title as NJPW sympathetically wanted him to wrestle Hansen again when he was fit. After this one, I’d probably have declined. I like my eyes where they are.

 

Final Rating: ****1/2

 

Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Koji Kitao

 

Kitao was a sumo wrestler and this is his pro-wrestling debut. He’s an absolute fuck-up. One of wrestling’s biggest fuck-ups, which is saying something. He was kicked out of sumo wrestling for being a dick to the juniors and apparently struck the wife of his stable boss too. He didn’t last long in New Japan either, being fired a few months into his new career for racially abusing Riki Choshu (who’s from Korea). After that he was hired by Super World of Sports but lasted a few months there before he went nuts on John Tenta (another former sumo) during a match, got disqualified and promptly grabbed the house mic to claim wrestling is fake and Tenta could never beat him in a shoot. He eventually got his shit together and worked for WAR for a while before retiring in 1998.

 

As per usual, when Inoki has a bright idea of pushing someone who can’t wrestle, it’s poor Bigelow taking the job. Vince McMahon must have been watching (Wrestlemania XI beckons!) Bigelow is one of the few guys who Kitao (all 6’ 6” of him) won’t dwarf though so it makes sense to work him. Bigelow is also really good at working inexperienced big guys and making them look legitimate (see Wrestlemania XI). He literally talks Kitao through the match and gives Koji time to recover when he gets blown up. It’s masterful work from Bam Bam and Kitao never looks out of his element. Even when he mis-times a throw Bigelow is there to get him back into place and then he jumps into it so Kitao has to do nothing. It’s one slight mistake but it is the finish so they quickly improvise another one and Kitao wins. If the Lawrence Taylor match didn’t convince you, this one should, Bigelow is a ring general. This could have been, and probably should have been, a total disaster.

 

Final Rating: **3/4

 

Antonio Inoki & Seiji Sakaguchi vs. Masahiro Chono & Shinya Hashimoto

 

Sakaguchi trained Hash to wrestle so there’s a connection there. His son Yukio currently works as DDT’s in house ass-kicker. The match sees the young guys challenge the old guys. Inoki in particular seems pissed off about the youngsters challenge to his position. Sakaguchi is New Japan through and through, having previously worked for JWA and got his seasoning working for the NWA in Dallas in the 60s. The match has a major problem and that’s a combination of Sakaguchi being so old and cumbersome and Inoki coming to the end of his usefulness as a main event. He’s still over and a draw but his in-ring can’t match up to the young guys coming through. The old timers get the bulk of the early going too, as if to decry the youngsters challenge. It’s Hash that changes all that with wild kicks that force Inoki to grapple him to stop the abuse. The match goes a bit wonky after that as Hash blatantly has the best strikes and yet finds himself selling for Sakaguchi’s clumsy ripostes. Chono is less inclined to trade and more into the STF, slapping that thing on at every available opportunity. As the match grinds on, Inoki’s conditioning is increasingly brought into question. He looks horrible at times. Inoki puts Chono down with an Enzuigiri and what a shock; Lou Thesz fucks up the count again. For someone who’s a wrestling legend, perhaps the greatest wrestler who’s ever lived, he sure was an incompetent official. Two major issues here: the sudden finish and, most importantly, the wrong team went over. Inoki at least has a black eye to show for his booking and a bloody nose.

 

Final Rating: **1/4

 

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You can also follow me on Twitter @ArnoldFurious

 

 

6.5
The final score: review Average
The 411
First off; the actual content on New Japan World is mildly disappointing. Yes, the video quality is excellent, which allows you to see how messed up Vader’s face was but the amount that’s missing is bizarre. You’d think they’d want to showcase the entire event but there are two matches missing from the crossover with All Japan. Which means I’m robbed of Tenryu, Tsuruta, Yatsu and goddamn Tiger Mask (seeing as it’s 1990, that’d be Misawa). Apparently they’re both good matches but the versions on YouTube are pretty dire, in terms of quality. Which is why I was hoping for New Japan to pony up some HD level stuff here. Sadly absent. Also retaining the clipped versions of the early parts of the card isn’t a good idea. Especially when you’re clipping up the Liger tag match, the second best match on the card. Arguably the best if you don’t like seeing guys get their eyes punched out.
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