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Zen Arcade Reviews: Every Match Dave Meltzer Gave 5+ Stars To (1981-1986)

February 2, 2019 | Posted by Jake St-Pierre
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Zen Arcade Reviews: Every Match Dave Meltzer Gave 5+ Stars To (1981-1986)  

Hey all. Not sure who screwed it up (meaning it was probably me), but this review was originally intended to drop before my 1987 reviews. Not a big deal, but I referenced this list in that review several times and without proper context, the column loses a bit of significance. And hey, it gives me another chance to type up my rambling introduction so who really cares? So without further ado…

Star ratings are stupid. Or rather, the hooplah behind them is. With any sort of art, ratings and opinions are scrutinized just as much as the actual art itself, so the system to rate them is obviously going to take on a life of its own. With wrestling though, it’s a special kind of scrutiny. That scrutiny often begins and ends with Dave Meltzer, and his system for rating matches that he adopted from Norman Dooley and Jim Cornette, who adopted it from TV Guide and so on. And let’s be honest, it’s not like Big Dave was ever free of scrutiny before that. Just look at all the hapless Bruce Prichard drones who obviously never saw a snake oil salesmen in their lives (entertaining as those sales can be, albeit), or the two people that still manage to find nuggets of truth in the words of Eric Bischoff in 2019. It’s quite silly that the idea of a few snowflakes can instill such a massive rage in wrestling fans, but like I said… that’s art. It’s not exclusive to wrestling and never will be. For an example, Pitchfork gave the new James Blake album a 5.8 and it’s taking every inch of my being to not DDoS their site. So despite my musings, I’m not immune to the phenomenon.

So it’s a bit silly too that I’m embarking on this journey. But in my head, the aim is positive. I want to watch all this great wrestling because it got such high marks from a guy in Meltzer, who has forgotten more about wrestling than any of us will ever know. I think after this is all over, it will benefit all parties; myself for watching so many new matches and culturing myself to the best of the best… and you, the reader, for perhaps finding a new context on some matches you’ve seen and reasons to seek out matches you’ve not seen. I say all this with the glaring caveat that this becomes so much that I don’t even finish the series, which is a high possibility considering I’m not even motivated enough to review PWG anymore. But hey, who cares. It’ll be fun until that point.

Jerry Lawler vs. Terry Funk
Memphis March 23, 1981. Fun fact about this match; this isn’t a Dave Meltzer five star rating. This match was given that rating – the first of its type within the wrestling realm – by Norman Dooley, who (along with everyone’s favorite cloud lecturer Jim Cornette) popularized the star-rating scale for wrestling matches. Originally it capped off at four, but Dooley noted that this Funk vs. Lawler bout shattered his scale and thus became the first five star affair, setting the stage for what we see today with Meltzer’s oft-maligned system.

It’s a Pier Sixer from the go, and Lawler pummels Funk immediately and sends him to the floor. I think we see a bit of clipping as they now tie up, where Funk nails him with some elbows before shitcanning him, priming him for an Atomic Drop on the floor. Funk keeps the momentum going as Lawler stumbles into the ring, but King starts finding his footing and ends up punching Funk to the floor. Lawler follows him down and runns him into the ringbell, and he uses a fist to continue busting open Funk’s eye. Funk stumbles back into the ring, but Lawler follows him and continues slugging away until Jimmy Hart breaks up a pinfall. Funk uses that break to throw some headbutts at Lawler, and he bites Lawler until he’s bleeding too. Funk keeps the punishment, but Lawler just STARES HIM DOWN instead, and THE STRAPS COME DOWN~! He BRINGS THE PAIN and knocks Funk for a loop with a barrage of punches, and he hits a diving fist drop! Jimmy Hart breaks up the pinfall, allowing Funk to recover and chop block Lawler with the chair Hart brought in. Funk continues going after Lawler’s leg, and he puts in the Spinning Toehold! Lawler struggles, but punches Funk out of the position. Hart throws in the chair again, and Funk throws the ref down as he throws the chair, but Lawler moves and hits FUNK in the leg! Funk rolls to the floor, but his leg gives way and prevents him from leaving, allowing Lawler to keep wacking him with the chair! Jerry Lawler wins by countout in 14 minutes. **** This was a total riot to watch from beginning to end, and a masterclass in the stylings of old school wrestling. There were maybe three entire wrestling moves the entire match here, and it didn’t matter in the least. These were two men who resented the fact that the other existed, so they went out there and punched each other until they had nothing left. It was a fight, it looked like a fight, and guys like Seth Rollins could learn from the way Funk and Lawler fed off of each other during it. Add on the cheap heel psychology of Jimmy Hart and that psychology working against him and Funk, and you’ve got 14 minutes of Memphis goodness that I can’t recommend more.

Tiger Mask vs. Dynamite Kid
NJPW April 21, 1983.

These guys get the nod for being pioneers which is like, obvious, but there aren’t guys who move as fast in 2019 as these two are in some of the opening exchanges here. Tiger sends Dynamite to the floor with a spinning kick, and follows him to the floor with a big Tope Suicida! Dynamite throws him off the top rope though and hits a gorgeous Missile Dropkick, seizing back control as he slows the pace down. Tiger heads up top and hits a big Axehandle before tying Dynamite up in a Bow and Arrow. Dynamite tries to break up the hold by pulling at the mask, but Tiger is very determined. Dynamite continues going at the mask, but Mask backdrops him to the floor for a TIGER FEINT KICK~! Dynamite comes back in after that and tries working over Sayama with something like an Indian Deathlock, but Tiger clubbers out and fights back with a combo of a senton and elbow drop to take back the advantage. Dynamite again tries breaking it by pulling the mask, but the referee intervenes before he gets it all the way off. Dynamite doesn’t like this, so he hits the BEST SNAP SUPLEX EVER, followed by a slightly less intense Gutwrench Suplex. Tiger Mask escapes a headscissors and reverses it into a Romero Special, but Dynamite scoops him up for a Tombstone attempt that fails. Tiger vaults Dynamite out of the ring and misses an initial dive, but dives off the apron and they both crash over thhe guardrail. Young boys help them back into the ring, where Dynamite hits Tiger with a Tombstone. He tries the diving headbutt, but Tiger moves. They tease a stoppage with the bell ringing, but they keep fighting after a Dynamite promo before the ref breaks them up. The ref takes the mic and officially restarts the match to a huge ovation. Dynamite scoops Tiger up for a Tombstone and a HUGE DIVING HEADBUTT! BACKDROP DRIVER FROM TIGER MASK! TOMBSTONE FROM TIGER MASK! He tries to follow up with a pescado, but Dynamite moves. They trade German attempts and end up both sailing to the floor, where Dynamite hits a Snap Suplex. Tiger Mask whips Dynamite into the guardrail, and Dynamite just spazzes out and headbutts the referee trying to hit Tiger Mask with something. For some reason, he’s NOT DISQUALIFIED so he keeps going at the mask. Action spills to the floor, where Tiger gives Dynamite a taste of his own medicine with a Tombstone, that Dynamite immediately no-sells to hit one of his own. What am I WATCHING? The ref throws the match out there I guess? I don’t know dude, I lost track of this goofiness ten minutes back. Tiger and Dynamite want ONE MORE (which they’ve been asking for since the FIRST restart) but I guess it’s over now? That was stupid. No contest. ** The action was great, but Vince Russo would look at the last 10 minutes of this and tell them to cool it a bit. Simply put, this was a disaster of complete illogic and the idea that anyone – even in 1983 – could give this a five star rating is laughable to me. The first restart was actually good stuff as they kicked things into higher gear and had some awesome exchanges, but they did the same weird ass spot AGAIN, this time with Dynamite beating the crap out of the ref, who just NO-SELLS and continues calling the match! The selling in this section of the match was abhorrent too, as they didn’t even hide behind the fighting spirit fire-up to trade moves; they just did it. I know people give modern wrestling a lot of grief for shoddy selling – and rightfully so at times – but this match is 36 years old and had some of the most shambolic selling and match structure I’ve ever seen. I get the idea of building for rematches, but shotgunning a gallon of PCP and drostanolone before the booking meeting was the worst way to do it. This was a great match for about 15 minutes, with the next 10 undoubtedly being the inspiration for 2007-2011 TNA. And at least they had Awesome Kong, ya know?

Nobuhiko Takada vs. Kazuo Yamazaki
UWF December 5, 1984.

Yamazaki throws an early high kick that Takada is able to block. Neither man is able to get much of an advantage early until Takada shoots for a double leg and transitions to back side control, trying to work Yamazaki over from there. He tries to take Yamazaki’s back, but Yamazaki counters into a toehold, only for Takada to turn it right into an armbar. Yamazaki holds steady and doesn’t let Takada extend, and he’s able to move to side control and try an armbar of his own. Takada slithers out and tries to grab a leg, but Yamazaki scoots to the ropes before he can lock anything in. Yamazaki throws another high kick that slams Takada’s forearms something fierce. Takada stuffs a takedown from Yamazaki and tries an armbar again, but Yamazaki is able to scramble into guard and try for a toehold. Takada scrambles and has Yamazaki’s back now, and he tries to turn over into a belly down armbar unsuccessfully. Yamazaki now tries to escape by bridging out, and eventually Takada gives that up and they stand again. Takada dodges a spinning back kick of all things and shoots for a double leg, and he’s able to heave Yamazaki up and power him back down with a slam and take side control. He works a side headlock on the mat now, and he tries to transition it into an arm triangle before giving it up to take side control again. He looks for the armbar again, but Yamazaki defends and forces Takada to grab the ropes and break off. They have a furious scramble before Takada threatens to take Yamazaki’s back again, working for a choke. Yamazaki works a toehold again from that position and goes vertical, and he rolls into a single leg crab! Takada gets his hand under the rope to break the hold, and they stand once more. Takada tries for a front choke, so Yamazaki just fireman carries him onto the top rope to get away. Takada gets a Fireman’s Carry of his own, but Yamazaki counters the ensuing position into a side headlock of his own. Takada tries to turn that into a pin, but settles for getting back up. Takada lands a stiff leg kick, and Yamazaki fires back in kind. Takada threatens a Kimura as he stuffs a Yamazaki takedown, and Yamazaki scoots to the ropes desperately to break the hold. He buckles Takada with a pair of VICIOUS KICKS and he Snapmares him over to work a hold. Takada breaks, so Yamazaki KICKS HIM SOME MORE only for Takada to ROLL INTO AN ARMBAR! Yamazaki is able to defend and he COUNTERS INTO A HEEL HOOK! Takada scoots to the ropes this time. They circle again, and Takada STARCHES poor Yamazaki with a palm strike to the face. Yamazaki stuffs a takedown and tries to lock in a choke… only to TRANSITION INTO AN ARMBAR! Takada escapes before any real damage is done and just headscissors Yamazaki, who gets the ropes and finds himself on the mat again… only this time, he is able to avoid a hold and get Takada in his guard for a Triangle… COUNTERED INTO A BOSTON CRAB! Yamazaki immediately finds the ropes and nearly lands a high kick on Takada, who tries a kick and ends up getting taken down by Yamazaki instead. Yamazaki gets him in a Crucifix position and works at his arm, but Takada now bridges out… only for Yamazaki to SOCCER KICK HIM IN THE RIBS~! Takada’s hurting because of that, and Yamazaki BRINGS THE PAIN WITH KICKS AND KNEES! Yamazaki locks in a Camel Clutch… and TURNS IT INTO AN ARMBAR! COUNTERED INTO AN ARMBAR FROM TAKADA! KICKS FROM TAKADA! TOMBSTONE~! YAMAZAKI KICKS OUT! KIMURA! YAMAZAKI GETS THE ROPES! RUNNING JUMPING TOMBSTONE~! YAMAZAKI KICKS OUT AGAIN! ARMBAR! CROSSFACE CHICKENWING FROM TAKADA~! YAMAZAKI GETS THE ROPES AGAIN! MORE KICKS FROM TAKADA! BACKDROP DRIVER! SPINNING BACK KICK FROM YAMAZAKI~! KICKS FROM YAMAZAKI CRUMBLE TAKADA~! BELLY TO BELLY~! TAKADA KICKS OUT! ARMBAR FROM YAMAZAKI! CHICKENWING! GERMAN FROM YAMAZAKI! Kazuo Yamazaki wins in an insane 23 minutes. ***** Sometimes when I watch older wrestling, I realize how spoiled I am by the craziness of the stuff we get now. I think that’s just a natural way of thinking when you realize the amount of time, changes, and evolution an artform like wrestling has gone through. It’s unrealistic to expect a match from 1984 to match up to the insanity of a Will Ospreay or Kenny Omega match in 2018, really. But of all the older wrestling I’ve watched in this column, I found myself marveling at the pacing of this match’s final ten minutes far more so than anything else. I know the phrase “before its time” is largely an insufferable cliché, but that’s all that really comes to mind here. That’s not to say some of the work wasn’t a little dated, but I wouldn’t say it harmed the proceedings at all. It’s your basic UWF stuff for the first half or so, and that’s hardly a bad thing. It featured solid grappling and enough hold-for-hold psychology to keep the match from stagnating or dragging. I especially enjoyed Takada’s insistence of working over the cross armbreaker, only for Yamazaki to end up defending or escaping every time. Takada even tried different setups or transitions, but every time he rolled into the armbar, it never paid off. That’s not to say Takada wasn’t wrestling successfully though. His grappling acumen was largely winning him the match early on if you were using an imaginary scorecard, as he was really dictating where the match went and any standup Yamazaki tried, he had an answer for. The big turning point for the seemingly outmatched Yamazaki though was his pacing and strikes. When he turned up the heat, Takada had nothing for him. The kicking technique was what ended up getting him in position to win the match too, rather than the grappling that Takada attempted to work on so heavily. Yamazaki was just a better athlete, with superior stamina, heart, and quickness, and that won him the match. So not only was this match drop-dead exciting, but it was rife with psychology as well as tons of realistic and compelling grappling. It’s not quite a Diego Sanchez fight, but it was an incredible blend of pro wrestling pacing and UWF realism, resulting in one of the most progressive and overall finest matches of the 1980’s.

Bruiser Brody & Stan Hansen vs. Terry Funk & Dory Funk Jr.
AJPW December 8, 1984.

Hansen and Dory start things off, but Hansen goes after Terry on the apron. Dory and Hansen crisscross, but Dory wacks the Lariat with a forearm. Brody tags in, and he promptly boots Dory in the chest to break a tie-up between he and Hansen. He drops Dory with another boot, this time to the face, but it only gets 2. Hansen tags in and fires off a dropkick of all things before continuing the punishment. Dory fights back now, tagging in brother Terry to put a hurting on Brody with a barrage of punches and elbows. Hansen tags in though and punishes Terry for his idiocy. Terry fights back once Brody re-enters, tagging in Dory, who walks into a Hansen/Brody double backdrop. For four huge dudes, this is a FAST match. Dory struggles for a Suplex on Hansen, but the action soon spills to the floor where Hansen has his way with Terry. The punishment continues in the ring, where Brody hits Terry with a Piledriver. Hansen tries to continue the beating, but Funk lowblows him behind the ref’s back and tags in Dory, who gets Bruiser up for a suplex that gets a close 2 count. The numbers game outweighs Dory in the end though, as Hansen and Brody continue to puish him. The latter hits a gnarly Powerslam for 2, followed by some more clubbering and a Suplex before tagging Hansen back in. Dory is able to grab Brody for a Back Suplex and tag Terry back in,a nd the action breaks down as the Brothers Funk start running wild. Hansen shoves Terry and the intervening referee to the floor after Brody holds the rope down on Dory, sending him to the floor for more of a beating as the heels take a table and whack poor Dory with it. Brody drags the ref back into the ring and makes him count, but Terry comes in with a chain and beats the piss out of everyone, including the ref. The match is thrown out there at about 20 minutes. ***3/4 The good thing about these 80’s Japan matches – barring the Tiger Mask/Dynamite finish – is that I always come in expecting a dumb finish, so it makes it a little less soulcrushing to grade the matches on what came before it. This wasn’t the most outwardly exciting outing or anything, but my main thought coming out of it was just how fast it was. Hansen and Brody aren’t exactly known for their unrelenting quickness between the ropes, but the pace they set here was incredible. They didn’t do the old tag formula of slow heat segments before a fast finish; they wrestled fast heat segments that built in intensity to a melee finish that at the very least, made sense considering the combatants’ personas. While I’d love a clean finish, this was satisfying because you WANT to watch these four just cause carnage and murder everyone. That’s why you like watching Terry Funk or Bruiser Brody or Stan Hansen. It’s entertaining. Dory being the foil to the other three was a surprisingly great twist too, meaning that we got a break between the carnage and let things fester with Dory’s selling and comebacks. So no, it wasn’t a crazy Young Bucks match or anything, but I came away from this incredibly impressed by the torrid pace and lack of lulls. A definite recommendation if you can deal with 1980’s Japan finishes.

Tiger Mask II vs. Kuniaki Kobayashi
AJPW March 9, 1985.

Tiger Mask II of course is Mitsuharu Misawa, if you weren’t sure. Kobayashi jumps Tiger Mask during his entrance and throws him to the floor, but the referee holds him back from further punishment. Tiger recovers and they start the match proper, where Kobayashi fires off a spinning heel kick that Misawa is able to block. Kobayashi runs right into a Tiger Mask dropkick though, and a Vertical Suplex follows for 2. Kobayashi is fresh enough to maneuver away and hit Tiger Mask with a Tombstone to regain control. Kobayashi brings the pain with kicks, but Tiger Mask fights back and hits a wacky Piledriver that isn’t really a Piledriver. He tries to follow up, but Kobayashi gives him a Backdrop Driver out of nowhere. They trade spinning leg lariats, where Kobayashi gets the upperhand and works Misawa over. Misawa is able to go hold-for-hold with Kobayashi though, keeping himself above water. Misawa flips beautifully out of a backdrop and dropkicks Kobayashi to the floor, but he misses a corkscrew pescado as he tries to follow up. Kobayashi puts in a Boston Crab in the ring, but Tiger Mask escapes and hits a high cross for 2. Tiger Mask flips off of Kobayashi’s body, so Kobayashi lariats him in the face for that stupidity. He tries a Tope Suicida, but crashes and burns when Tiger Mask moves and hits one of his own. Tiger Suplex attempt for Tiger Mask, but Kobayashi holds on and counters into a Backdrop Driver. He goes up top, but Tiger intercepts him for a Superplex. Tiger Mask heads up top himself, but Kobayashi catches him with an Electric Chair. PerfectPlex scores for Kobayashi, but Tiger Mask’s feet are in the ropes. Tiger Mask suplexes Kobayashi (and himself) out of the ring, but Kobayashi posts him and gives him a bad Backdrop Driver… and they’re both counted out. Fucking 1980’s Japan. *** I’m afraid I didn’t really find this match to be anything special, despite the fact they worked a really lively little sprint. It would fit perfectly as the opener to a PWG show or something, but this is the sort of style of wrestling that’s evolved so much that it’s hard for me to find overwhelming pleasure in a match this dated. I have no doubts that this was unreal in 1985 but in 2019, it’s a solid midcard match with a bad finish.

Jaguar Yokota vs. Lioness Asuka
AJW August 22, 1985.

It’s a fast start between these two early, with some awesome bridges and counters. The high pitched screams in the crowd here would make Jeff Hardy crowd pops look mature. Yokota tries working a leg hold early, but Asuka scurries to the ropes. Jaguar is very persistent though, trying to keep working on the leg despite her opponent clinging to the ropes. Yokota continues the onslaught with a Frankensteiner for two, but Asuka rolls her into a quick Backslide for a nearfall of her own. Yokota is better equipped on the mat though, rolling out an armbar attempt and continuing work on Asuka’s legs. Asuka tries maneuvering out for quick pin attempts, but they’re unsuccessful. Yokota pulls out a Jackhammer, but doesn’t get far with the pin attempt either. Yokota now rolls into a Figure Four, continuing to wear down Asuka. Lioness is able to turn it over and reverse the pressure, pushing herself up with her arms to wrench it in even more. Yokota is fresh enough to turn it back over and put Asuka back in trouble, though. Asuka makes it to the ropes however, the ref forcing a break, allowing Lioness to get to her feet and start returning the favor, bringing the pain on Yokota’s leg now. Yokota tries to recover on the floor, and slides back in mostly just to trick Asuka into getting a single leg takedown. Asuka pereseveres and continues though, locking in a kneebar. Yokota struggles and struggles but is eventually able to find her way to the ropes… only for Asuka to wrench it harder and pull Jaguar back. In a cool touch of psychology, Yokota goes for a different set of ropes to break it. Asuka keeps on her though, hitting a delayed Vertical for a two count. Asuka hits a Powerbomb for two, but Yokota kicks out of a Sunset Flip and hits a BUTTERFLY TOMBSTONE! ASUKA BRIDGES OUT! RUNNING SITTING TOMBSTONE FROM ASUKA! YOKOTA BRIDGES OUT! CRANE KICK FROM ASUKA! YOKOTA BRIDGES OUT AGAIN! AIRPLANE SPIN FROM ASUKA… INTO A GIANT SWING!!!! YOKOTA KICKS OUT! TOPE SUICIDA FROM ASUKA MISSES! SLINGSHOT SUPLEX FROM ASUKA! YOKOTA BRIDGES OUT! GERMAN SUPLEX! YOKOTA KICKS OUT AGAIN! STRAIGHTJACKET GERMAN FROM YOKOTA! ASUKA KICKS OUT! FROG SPLASH MISSES FOR ASUKA! PACKAGE BACKDROP DRIVER WITH THE KNEE! Jaguar Yokota wins in 21 minutes. **** Maybe not as advanced technically as the Joshi we’d come to know and love in the decades to come, but that’s not to say this wasn’t a gem in its own right. The crowd reactions were a super unique way to watch wrestling as it didn’t feel like they reacted to moves, but were rather just happy they got to see the two women in the ring. It made for a loud, high pitched roar the entire time rather than the typical quiet 80’s crowd you’d expect from Japan. It certainly gave the match an exciting aura and subconsciously made me want to see the two women fight, so I’d say that’s a positive despite how weird it was at first. The match itself had a few hiccups along the way though. I really loved how prolonged the heat segments were in a way, as it made the eventual comebacks mean a little more, but I was a little dissatisified with how the legwork ended up. They spent so much time working over each other’s legs that I thought they’d craft the finishing sequences around it, but it wasn’t so. I do appreciate that the finish directly came as a result of Yokota’s consistent work on the knee, so this wasn’t as much of a bother as it could have been had we just seen a roll-up or – God forbid – a double countout. I won’t sit here and say that Joshi didn’t evolve from the occasional sloppiness and shoddy psychology on display here, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a lot to love despite that. Great stuff.

Jumbo Tsuruta & Genichiro Tenryu vs. Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu
AJPW January 28, 1986.

Hilariously, the copy I have of this match has the commercials still in it, which is kind of amazing considering Japanese advertising is the only form of advertising I agree with. One of said commercials is a 13 year old white girl playing a video game in the middle of some field, but she all of a sudden has NO ARMS at the end as she stands beside some sort of character that looks like the Stay Puft marshmallow guy got really into Phish. Unfortunately, we are back to our regular scheduled programming afterwards. Tsuruta and Riki Choshu start things off, and Jumbo kicks Choshu in his taped up ribs. Tsuruta tries a scoop slam, but Choshu tags out to Yatsu before he can do anything. Yatsu throws the first stone, bitchslapping Tsuruta against the ropes in lieu of breaking clean. Tsuruta slaps him back twice as hard, so Choshu tags back in and bumrushes him. Tenryu heads in for the first time, and he hilariously just throws a chop at Yatsu on the apron as he circles Choshu. That doesn’t make Yatsu or Choshu happy, leading to a double team Back Suplex/diving chop that ends up being the most significant piece of offense thus far… that is until Choshu and Yatsu hit Tenryu with a Spike Piledriver. We go BACK TO COMMERCIALS afterwards thankfully, which begs the question why these old rips of Japanese matches don’t always leave them in. The highlight of the bunch so far is a Nissan Maxima ad, which kinda tells you how disappointing that run of commercials was. I do drive a Maxima though, so maybe I shouldn’t be throwing stones in my very blue collar glasshouse. We come back to Choshu in a Figure Four, but he rolls over to Yatsu and tags him in for a pair of elbow drops. Tsuruta evens up the odds and stomps away at Choshu in the hold, sending him to the apron. Tenryu knocks Yatsu down with a lariat, and Tsuruta tags in and cleans house on him. The numbers game gets to him though as Choshu and Yatsu hit a double suplex on Jumbo for his troubles. Jumbo gets the upperhand back once he gets Choshu alone, working over his bad midsection until Choshu hoists him up for a Backdrop Driver out of nowhere. Tsuruta recovers, but both men eventually find themselves on the mat after a double lariat attempt. Tenryu tags in though and continues punishing Choshu’s midsection, hitting him with a Suplex that gets a good two count. Tenryu and Yatsu it over the referee as Tsuruta continues punishing Choshu, and eventually Yatsu sees an opening and intervenes before getting the hot tag, cleaning house on Tsuruta with a Backdrop Driver. Tenryu doesn’t give Choshu a rest though, continuing to make him pay on the floor as Yatsu works over Jumbo with a spinning toehold. Tenryu intervenes there as well and drops Yatsu with a Back Suplex, and Tsuruta hits him with a lariat off the back of that. The young boys outside retape Choshu’s abdomen as Tsuruta puts Yatsu in a Boston Crab, but Yatsu is able to find the ropes. Choshu recovers and tags in to the roar of the crowd, but his midsection gives him fits… until he puts Tsuruta in the Sharpshooter! Choshu has to give it up though, his abdomen giving out, but he’s able to tag in Yatsu instead of just lay around. Jumbo and Tenryu are able to take advantage of that small opening though, with Tenryu hitting Yatsu with a Slingshot Suplex. Yatsu continues fighting though, hitting a Bulldog that sends Tsuruta to the floor, right into Choshu’s waiting arms for some sweet revenge. Tenryu saves the day though and makes Choshu pay by whipping him into the apron. Yatsu just starts punching Tsuruta in the ring now, sending him to the floor for a double posting alongside Choshu. Tenryu shoves Choshu over the announce table as Yatsu hits Tsuruta with a PILEDRIVER! TSURUTA KICKS OUT! BACKDROP DRIVER! TSURUTA KICKS OUT AGAIN! Tsuruta is busted open now, and Yoshiaki Yatsu is having his way with him. Yatsu rolls him into some sort of wacky Sharpshooter/Cloverleaf variant, and turns around into a Backbreaker before putting ona traditional Sharpshooter… only for Tenryu to hit the ropes twice and LARIAT YATSU! CHOSHU STOMPS AT TSURUTA! ENZUIGIRI FROM TENRYU! Choshu breaks up the pin, so Tenryu keeps going at Yatsu even though Choshu keeps breaking it up. YATSU GERMANS TENRYU!! TENRYU KICKS OUT! SMALL PACKAGE FROM YATSU! TENRYU KICKS OUT! STUN GUN FROM TENRYU! ENZUIGIRI AGAIN! CHOSHU BREAKS IT UP! POWERBOMB FROM TENRYU! Tenryu and Tsuruta pick up the win in 24 minutes. ****1/2 This was all kinds of awesome, and if Yamazaki/Takada didn’t exist, this would be the crowning achievement of this compilation so far. These four told such an exquisite story, filled with so many interesting little side plots that even the slow portions of this match came across as important and crucial to the madness that proceeded it. Riki Choshu played the valiant, injured babyface to total perfection here, splitting his time between being a punching bag and a vehicle for change. He was defiant, perseverant, and made sure that Tsuruta and Tenryu knew that he wasn’t going away no matter how many times they thought they had him. It didn’t matter if they took him outside and pounded on him, threw him over guardrails or whatever; Riki Choshu was always a thorn on their side and made sure they knew about it. That kind of storytelling can translate across any medium and any language, and it made for some incredibly dramatic moments as the match unfolded. Despite Choshu’s resilience though, he wasn’t the offensive powerhouse that Yoshiaki Yatsu was. He just didn’t have the strength, and any time he tried to mount something, his taped midsection would always be his dead giveaway. It essentially left Yatsu to be the sole provider for their team, and while Choshu’s actions were spirited, they weren’t conducive to winning the match. There’s only so much beating a man like Yatsu can take before the numbers game overwhelms him, and that’s exactly what happened here. Sometimes it’s okay for a valiant babyface to die trying, and both Yatsu and Choshu looked like a million bucks here despite being on the wrong end of the scoreboard. They took the incredibly entertaining shellacking from Tenryu and Tsuruta and not only sold it like champions, but gave it back at the exact correct time to make for maximum impact. If you’re a fan of psychology and tag wrestling, take 24 minutes out of your day to seek this out, because it absolutely holds up 33 years out.

Crockett Cup Quarterfinals: The Sheepherders vs. The Fantastics
Crockett Cup 1986. This match is clipped to hell, so I don’t know if this is going to be a very useful entry.

It’s BONZO GONZO from the word go here, and The Fantastics get the upperhand on the Kiwis early. We clip all the way to the heat though, both Sheepherders clubbering away. Bobby Fulton magically is back in a Luke headlock via the magic of clipping, but he dropkicks Butch on the floor… only to get posted. Tommy Rogers and Luke slug it out, so Butch posts Fulton and busts him open. We clip back to Fulton getting beaten on and the ref not seeing a tag to Rogers, but Fulton is able to use the Sheepherders’ flag to outmaneuver them and finally get out of there. Rogers cleans house and comes off the second rope with a punch, but one of the Sheepherders wipes out the referee and Bobby Fulton, but Rogers keeps working over the other one in the ring. Manager Jack Victory tries to waffle Fulton, and he and Butch blindside Fulton. The referee is down, so Butch comes in with a part of the flag and jumps Tommy Rogers. Fulton saves Rogers from a shot with the pole, and the tables are turned as Rogers whacks a Sheepherder with it. Jack Victory eats one too. The bell sounds and it’s a double DQ as a brawl breaks out. No idea how long it actually went. N/A There wasn’t enough here to accurately grade, so I won’t insult anyone with a star rating. It was an awesome little fight for what little I saw though, with some good garbage wrestling and old school heel tag work to boot. I wish I could have found a complete version, but c’est la vie. It isn’t like this series is completely bereft of good wrestling without it and it’s at least made me realize I’ve got to end these columns with an actual match!

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
I think there's a slight misconception about older wrestling. No, it usually isn't as athletically wowing or advanced, but some of the psychology on display in these matches more than compensates. In particular, the Yatsu/Choshu vs. Tenryu/Tsuruta match is dripping with rewarding storytelling and holds up beautifully 33 years on. And hell, you have the nuttiness of the Yamazaki vs. Takada match to wow you with excitement. Some of the finishes in these bouts do not hold up at all, but there's so much amazing wrestling here that I can't even imagine not recommending it to even the most modern wrestling fans. Seek this all out and continue on the journey with me (even if the second review technically came out first).