The Best of New Japan (NJPW Classics 33)

Inoki, Fujinami, Abdullah the Butcher and other legends collide for pride and honor in the New Japan rings

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WWF Junior Heavyweight Champion Tatsumi “The Dragon” Fujinami vs. NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion Les Thornton (7/3/81)

Thornton is a British Jerry Glanville-lookalike who enjoyed a lengthy career across the globe. Thornton scores with a quick takedown, so Fujinami goes to fighting basics and latches his arms around Thornton’s head and manipulates him to the mat. Thornton attempts several counters and manages to escape several times – only to be quickly tapped back in The Dragon’s grip. Thornton tries to trap Fujinami in a facelock of his own multiple times, but Fujinami consistently manages to reverse things back into control for himself.

The men exchange some European uppercuts and Fujinami takes a silly looking bump over the top rope off a blow. The men then spend the next several minutes working holds back and forth on the mat. A pair of dropkicks send Thornton to the floor. Fujinami begins to focus his attack on Thornton’s knee and a figure-four is applied. The ropes save Thornton and both men spill to the floor off a double-shoulder block shortly after. A double-count out is declared around the 14 minute mark. Both men tease that they want to restart the match, but Thornton ends up walking to the back instead. Fujinami is awarded a pair of trophies by officials after the match, and since I don’t speak Japanese, I really don’t understand why. To some degree I can appreciate what they were trying to do with the realistic ground and grind style, but this was ultimately pretty dull to sit through.

Antonio Inoki and Seiji Sakaguchi vs. Abdullah the Butcher and Bad News Allen (10/22/82)

Sakaguchi stays in front of Inoki during the pre-match introductions, and seems to be either trying to protect Inoki or keep the monster heels from attempting an ambush. Sakaguchi opens up against the Butcher, but Abby indicates he wants Inoki. Inoki warily circles the monster before being caught with a strike and crumbling to the mat. Abby fires off a few more shots before tagging Allen in for some double-teaming. Inoki manages to back off into his corner to end that.

Sakaguchi enters and uses his larger frame to toss Allen around by his arm with relative ease. Now softened up, Allen is easy prey for a few hard kicks from Inoki, which sends Allen to the floor to regroup. Allen fires away at Inoki, and Inoki tries to strike back but finds himself in the wrong corner and he is again double teamed before managing to escape. Inoki again trades strikes with the Butcher but ends up on the worse end of the exchange. Abby tries to take Inoki’s eyeball as a souvenir before allowing Allen to get his licks in as well.

The Butcher produces a foreign object and jams it into Inoki’s face. He then suplexes Inoki into the corner in what appeared to be a spot Inoki may have tried to avoid taking as it looked awkward. The Butcher bulldozes over Inoki several more times before Sakaguchi is tagged in. He tries to take the fight to Abby, choking him and such, but Abdullah downs him with blows.

Allen comes in for some fun of his own, but Sakaguchi again is able to use his size to toss him around the ring. Inoki comes in, now refreshed, and puffs his chest out in front of Abdullah- challenging the beast to another round. This time Inoki is able to out strike the Butcher and takes him off his feet. Sakaguchi comes in and bullies around Abby as well.

Things break down as all four men end up brawling on the floor and Allen hangs on to Inoki long enough to allow the Butcher to sneak back in the ring and earn the count-out victory at around the 11:30 mark. The heels attack after the match, but the Butcher decides against keeping up the fight after it’s apparent that Inoki is ready and willing. This match was really good, with a lot of quality brawling and a real sense of danger being emanated from Abdullah the Butcher.

Antonio Inoki vs. The Masked Superstar

The Superstar bats down some flowers a fan offers him. Roland Bock (More on him in a moment) enters the ring and tries to show both men his respect. Superstar refuses to shake his hand and Bock teases starting a brawl. Inoki and Superstar had quite a rivalry, having competed in over 100 matches over a decade-plus of action. They start this match by jockeying for position, each man locking arms and trying to go low for leverage over their opponent. Superstar is able to catch Inoki with his finisher, the swinging neck breaker, but it was not delivered with the full force and impact, so Inoki is merely shaken.

Inoki begins to work over the Superstar’s arm. First he wrings it behind the Masked man’s back, then slams Superstar down on his own arm. He culminates this attack with an MMA style kimura. A frustrated Superstar tosses Inoki to the floor, and then into the ringpost and railing.

Back in the ring he drapes Inoki’s neck across the top rope and drops his weight down upon it. Inoki then endures a beauty of a backbreaker before being trapped in a bearhug. Inoki fights his way out of Superstar’s grip and locks him in an abdominal stretch. Superstar misses a charge and ends up flying high in the air. Inoki senses his moment has arrived, clocks the back of the Superstar’s head with an enziguri and finishes him with a bridging German-suplex st around the 12 minute mark. Inoki fights to tear off the dazed Superstar’s mask as several heels try and pull him to safety.

The chemistry between the men was obvious as they put forth a solid, hard hitting, logical match built around both men slowly wearing away at the other, waiting for the moment to seize victory.

Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Stan Lane

We are joined in progress, with Fujinami caught on the mat in a leg grapevine. Fujinami fights his way out and traps Lane in a arm bar, wrapping his legs around the arm for additional leverage. Lane frees himself, takes a breather, and then goes back to the leg grapevine. Lane is clearly frustrated as he sends Fujinami to the floor. There Lane sends him into the railing. A softened up Fujinami is then suplexed back in the ring.

Fujinami rocks him with a neckbreaker to stop that momentum, then places him up in the “torture rack” backbreaker to earn the submission win at around 8 minutes of action shown. It was interesting to see a young Stan Lane, but the match itself wasn’t anything special

Tiger Mask vs. Scorpio

Yes, this is the first (and best) Tiger Mask but his opponent is a chubby Hispanic worker named “Scorpio”, not the African-American. Since Lucha Libre is not my forte, I had to google some info on Mr. Scorpio. His nicknames included “The Ugliest Man in the World”. His career spanned 20 years and it appears he was a prolific trainer on top of it. His son went on to be a worker as well.

Scorpio is wearing full ethnic stereotype clothing, and he throws his sombrero and bullet belt at Mask. Scorpio is flustered early on by a headscissors from Mask which sends him flying across the ring. Mask then out grapples his opponent for good measure.

Mask mixes his excellent speed advantage with a healthy dose of grappling to completely outshine his opponent for several minutes before hitting a plancha to the floor on top of Scorpio. Mask finishes things by connecting with a sloppy sunset flip from the top rope, which Scorpio botches, forcing him to back into Mask who is laying on the mat. Scorpio sort of is cradled long enough for the pin at around the 8-minute mark. This was a good exhibition by Mask, but Scorpio seemed to have nothing to offer for his end of the equation. For all intents and purposes, this was a squash.

Roland Bock vs. ________

Bock was a German shooter who beat Inoki while the Japanese star was touring Europe. This made Bock a star in Japan, but by the time he toured the island, he had been slowed by injuries from a car wreck and was considered a letdown. New Japan had planned on getting him a shot at WWF champ Bob Backlund at MSG, but those plans never came to pass.

 

I did not understand the name of Bock’s opposition. The name sounded like Ishui(?) Bock, showing his supreme confidence, gives the young man his head . The German no sells any pressure and carries his foe to the ropes casually. Bock offers the ropes open so the match can continue. With those formalities taken care of, Bock goes to work on his opponent’s arm . He drags him around casually, looking bored by this process. A belly-to-belly suplex is botched as Bock does not fling his opponent and they just fall on each other. Bock no sells a few shoulder charges before casually suplexing his foe down for the win at around 3-minutes. This was just a squash to establish that Bock is a shooter.

Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Abdullah the Butcher

Abby attacks Fujinami right off and takes things to the floor where he chucks the Dragon into the railing and then the ringpost. Once things return to the ring, Fujinami is tossed back to the floor quickly. Abby slaps Fujinami to show how little he thinks of him. Fujinami slaps Abby back a few moments later, and the Butcher is more stunned by the guile of his young opponent than actually hurt from the blow.

Abdullah maul Fujinami with blows, before chucking him to the floor again. The Butcher gnaws on The Dragon’s forehead and sends him into the ringpost again. The crowd roars as Fujinami fires back with strikes, and apparently finds Abby’s foreign object as he cracks the Butcher with it several times in front of the ref. No DQ is called for reasons I can’t understand. The Butcher’s head is now a mess of plasma. The Dragon attacks the wound as Abby is rocked and shaking.

A flying elbow sends the Butcher to the floor to a big reaction from the crowd. The Dragon attempts to leap onto him but Abby catches him and drops him onto the railing twice, then slips back in the ring to beat the count for the win after six-minutes. The men then continue their brawl, fighting around ringside, down the aisle and then back up around ringside again. The young boys around ringside desperately try in vain to pull the men apart. Abby attacks a few of them before sending the crowd fleeing as he charges into the audience. Officials and the young boys try to rein in the Butcher, but he makes his way into the audience for another round of chasing the fans. This was an awesome little brawl, with Abby continuing to look like a beast in the ring, with the added fun of watching the crowd be harassed by this madman.

Antonio Inoki vs. Bad News Allen

This is apparently right after that last match as Abdullah follows Allen to the ring, covered in sweat and blood. The Butcher is sent to the back. Allen takes the fight to Inoki right away, driving him to the corner with strikes. Inoki turns to grappling in order to ground Allen and attempt to move towards a submission. Allen responds by simply digging his fingers into Inoki’s face. Inoki is cornered and absorbs more strikes.Allen continues his advantage by grounding Inoki and flagrantly choking him.

Inoki gets fired up and begins a flurry of strikes to rock Allen before flinging him across the ring. Brown responds with more choking and strikes before upgrading to a piledriver and a running powerslam in an attempt to finish Inoki. He misses a top rope attack to set Inoki up for a comeback. Inoki connects with an enziguri before locking in an abdominal stretch. The men fall to the floor in a heap from that position.

Allen tries to up the violence by peeling back the mats around ringside and attempting to piledrive Inoki onto the cement. Inoki fights out of that and back drops Allen instead. Inoki delivers a suplex back in the ring, followed by another enziguri. The famed “Octopus hold” is then locked on as Abdullah the Butcher charges down to the ring. Allen submits at around the fourteen-minute mark as Abby swings a bat at the young boys.

The Butcher starts to fling chairs at Inoki, and attacks the young boys again. Inoki gets on the mic and no doubt sets up a future match with the crazed man on the cement floor.

Final thoughts: Abdullah showing real effort in his matches was my biggest take away from this set. Inoki was a pleasure to watch as always.

Written by Andrew Lutzke

The grumpy old man of culturecrossfire.com, lover of wrasslin’ and true crimes.

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