Segunda Caida

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

1989 Match of the Year

Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs Kazuo Yamazaki UWF 7/24/89

PAS: This was my number one match in the Other Japan Best of the 90's voting, and truly a beautiful piece of professional wrestling. It is paced differently then any of the other matches in the Top 15, and I am guessing the odd pacing may have been a reason it finished low on some peoples ballots. Fujiwara, especially in the late 80's and 90's does this really stop-start almost Fugazish pacing, where you have big exchanges or moves, and then lulls, where both guys would circle or feint, before the next attack. I really like this kind of pacing, it is the kind of thing you often see in shootfights or boxing matches, really brings drama to the moments of action.

The first part of this match, Fujiwara is really not taking Yamazaki seriously at all. Like he is almost contemptuous, imagine Flair v. Scott McGhee or Ricky Steamboat in their first match. He throws in a cheap shot headbutt, dancing around mugging, puts on a knee bar while reclining with his head resting leisurely in his hand. At one point Yamazaki throws some kicks which miss, and Fujiwara responds with some really assholish thrown kicks of his own. Almost like the Jock Football player taunting the Asian kid with fake Karate. Fujiwara has some of the greatest facial expressions in wrestling history, and he really gets across contemptuous prick.

Yamazaki finally gets some respect when he hits Fujiwara with a nasty kick to the stomach for a down. Yamazaki tends to be kind of hit and miss with his kicks, and Fujiwara only sells the ones that land big, unlike a lot of other guys who will sell intent not result. Fujiwara also is always trying to catch the middle kicks, although even when he does, he will sell the shot if it is solid enough.

The last ten minutes of this match really bring it over the top. Fujiwara has gotten four downs on Yamazaki so he just needs one more knockdown for a technical decision. So Yamazaki has his back against the wall. He gets fed up with the abuse and you almost get the sense he has decided to dish out some receipts even if he is going down. Like many Fujiwara matches ring positioning is very important, Fujiwara had been trapping Yamazaki in the corner and punishing him with bodyshots. Yamazaki kind of bull rushes Fujiwara in the corner, and just unleashes body shots of his own, seemingly aiming right for Fujiwara's sake soaked kidneys. The downs get close to even, and they announce five minutes remaining.

They then go right to the corner with both guys now throwing with abandon and trying to maneuver the other into the corner, Yamazaki gets the final turn and cracks Fujiwara with a knee lift for a nine count. Now UWF2 had booked a ton of 30 minute draws, including one in the opening match of this show. Really the only reason to book so many undercard 30 minute draws is for a main event finish like this.

So we are at 28 minutes and Yamazaki unloads with a nasty headbutt right to Fujiwara's mouth. Now this is a clearly a receipt for the headbutts earlier in the show. Fujiwara comes up with blood dripping from his mouth, and this look on his face "So were throwing headbutts now, Motherfucker," and he just unloads with three nasty headbutts including one right to the eye for the TKO at 29 minutes 30 seconds. Yamazaki was technically fine here, but this was the Fujiwara show. Just an artist at telling a story with smirks and eye rolls and sneers. Every action had a reaction, great great stuff.

ER: I genuinely have no idea what to add to Phil's writing. This is probably the most extensively he's ever written about a match, and he's dead on. This is a beautiful match and showcases the true peak of Fujiwara's powers. This is like watching your favorite musician at the peak of their cool. This is seeing James Brown before he busted his knees or early Suicide gigs or like Mother Teresa in her 30s. I actually had Funaki vs. Nakano from this same show as my OJ #1, and now I'm curious how my opinions have changed on that 10 years later. This feels like a write up where I'm just going to keep saying "Phil is right about..." a lot, but oh well. Phil is right about the pacing of this. It's not a slow build, but the build comes in little waves, little currents. And at times I didn't necessarily think Fujiwara was underestimating Yamazaki, but moreso extremely confident in his own prowess (though at one point he does LITERALLY dust his shoulder off after a Yamazaki kick, soooo). This whole match features some of my absolute favorite rolling and grinding. Both guys end up in non-graceful, awkward positions, and the way they work into and out of those positions is wonderful. There was gamesmanship, often very overt by Fujiwara, and it was all great. I loved Fujiwara going down from that first big kick to his stomach, and staying down until the 9 count...and then literally hopping to his feet and walking it off with perfect posture. When you get publicly knocked down a peg in life, you either scramble to make things look totally normal and hope nobody notices (why no, I didn't just trip due to stepping on my own shoe lace...) or you have a little laugh to yourself at how human you are, and recognize that you still got it. The strike exchanges in this are beautiful in their imperfections. The timing is off, things don't land clean, and it's so much better for it. There are no turns taken, these are guys punching and kicking for an opening. Phil is so damn right about Fujiwara selling the result and not the intent. That's a beautiful sentence right there. It takes such nanosecond reaction times to be able to sell how good you THINK something looked, and Fujiwara is arguably the best ever at this. Post match is almost worth price of admission, as Fujiwara has gone into such caged animal survival mode that he almost forgets that his knock down of Yamazaki was for the match winning TKO, and his realization of that is so good, the smile of a reluctant fan favorite spreading across his face as he starts almost skipping around the ring. I'm a sucker for good sportsmanship done right, and I loved the moment of Fujiwara clapping Yamazaki on the back, happy in victory but almost relieved that it was over. True respect shown by both men.

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