Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D and occasional guests write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New Japan 80s Top 30 Countdown! Match #21

Match #21: Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Riki Choshu, 7/7/83

The style of any given wrestling match can be defined by any number of factors: the country, the promotion, the rules, the roles the wrestlers play, the offense they use, their placement on the card, the psychology of the match....Very rare is the style of match that is defined by the wrestlers themselves. The Fujinami/Choshu match-up is truly one of those unique gems in the wrestling world. Two guys who worked a style of wrestling against one another that they never would duplicate with any other opponent, nor would any other pairing of wrestlers be able to duplicate. It's a hard-nosed style seamlessly blending together brawling, matwork, submission wrestling, and big throws, but it is all tied together with a steady stream of bitter rage that flows throughout each match. There's elements of it still present in the New Japan vs. UWF feud, and BattlArts feels like something of a spiritual successor, but in it's purest form, you're only going to find it here with these two.

This is for Choshu's WWF International Heavyweight Title, which Choshu mockingly dangles in front of Fujinami while the ref tries to restrain him. Fujinami responds by whipping one of his towels across the ring at him. The rage has kicked in full force, and these guys are ready to go. The bell rings, and Fujinami charges out of his corner...but Choshu does not. Choshu stays put for a moment, sizing up the situation as a frantic Fujinami tries to coax him into the middle of the ring. But Choshu wants to control the tempo and make Fujinami play his game.

Once he steps out, they lock up, jockeying for position, and ending up in a test of strength. But Fujinami says "hey, you know that whole 'controlling the pace' thing you were going for...yeah, fuck you, that ain't happening." He steps over one set of interlocked hands to break the grip, smacks Choshu in the face with his free hand, slams him to the mat, and sinks in a jujigatame. Choshu manages to work his way off of his back, so that he's crouching in front of Fujinami, and then slaps him in the face to break the hold. And once they return to their feet, Choshu quickly grabs a bodyslam and locks on his own jujigatame. "Hey, you know how you were going to work a different pace than the one I was setting up? I fucking invented working at that pace."

Early in this match, it really becomes clear that there's something special about these two. I mean, they're just working really simple stuff so far. Fujinami grabs a sleeperhold from an Irish whip. He turns it into a side headlock while blocking Choshu's attempts at a backdrop. Very basic stuff. But it feels so fast and so intense that I find myself rewinding these normally routine spots to make sure I'm not missing anything. They're constantly on the move, constantly looking for escapes or counters, and constantly trying to prevent escapes and counters by the other man. Basic chain wrestling has never been so hard to write about, but it's also never been so fun to watch. Choshu manages to throw Fujinami into the ropes, but Fujinami hits a shoulderblock, a sweet dropkick, and then a single-leg to set up a figure-four leglock. Choshu turns it over a few times, but Fujinami won't break, and eventually, Choshu is forced to roll to the ropes. Fujinami seems to have taken enough punishment to his own legs from the counters that he doffs his kneepads to alleviate the pressure.

They fight over some matwork for a bit before Choshu manages to roll to the ropes to break it. He pulls himself to his feet and stomps Fujinami right in the face. He pulls up Fujinami, whips him into the ropes, hits a mean-looking back elbow, slams him to the mat, and grabs his legs for a sasorigatame. Fujinami scrambles to the ropes before it can get locked on, so Choshu just kicks him in the head and sends him outside to think it over.

Back in the ring, they tie up again and once more find themselves back on the mat, this time with Choshu in charge (of our days, and our nights....). He grabs a figure-four armlock, and maneuvers Fujinami into just such a position where can shoot the half, but Fujinami isn't going over, so Choshu gets up and stomps him in the head again. "Look, you can lose gracefully, or I can cave your fucking skull in with my foot. I think I'm being pretty clear about this." He snapmares him over and locks on a figure-four headscissors....

You know what? Doing a write-up of this match really is futile. To cover all the good stuff here, I have to resort to rote, Scott Keith-style play-by-play, which I don't really like to do, but which this match really calls for. But even that doesn't really do this justice. Sure, most match write-ups aren't going to be as interesting as actually watching the matches themselves, but here, describing the action gives such an incomplete picture of what's happening. I mean, look at what I've written so far. Doesn't sound like anything really special, does it? Well, this match is special in ways the written word has limited means of communicating. This might read like a cop-out on my part, and on a certain level, I guess it is. But it's only because what Fujinami and Choshu do so thoroughly trumps my ability to write about it that I feel like a doofus for even trying. The rest of the match is awesome matwork and crazy fluid chain wrestling, brutal striking (on their feet and on the mat), some big throws like Fujinami's awesome superplex and Choshu's great backdrop, and it's all capped off with Fujinami dropping Choshu with his own Rikilariato, sinking in his own sasorigatame, and getting DQ'd when Choshu grabs the ropes and he refuses to break. Then Masa Saito starts elbowing Fujinami in the head and tossing young lions around. All these elements flow together perfectly, and they are all informed by fact that Fujinami and Choshu hate each others guts. This was #13 on my ballot, and as usual, I kinda regretted a lot of my decisions as soon as I sent it in. This should have been a top ten match for me, and it probably should have been my highest ranked Fujinami/Choshu match. But fuck the world, this thing ruled no matter where you rank it.

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