Segunda Caida

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

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

1986 Match of the Year

Yoshiaki Fujiwara/Osamu Kido/Nobuhiko Takada/Kazuo Yamazaki/Akira Maeda v. Antonio Inoki/Tatsumi Fujinami/Kengo Kimura/Umanosuke Ueda/Kantaro Hoshino NJPW 3/26/86

PAS: One of the most famous matches in Japanese history this is the first major collision in the New Japan v. UWF feud. It is an elimination tag with to the floor eliminations allowed. Tremendous match, great performances by everyone involved. Our man Fujiwara was great, his section vs. Fujinami was yet another cocktease for the 80’s singles match which never happened, and I loved how he and Hoshino would pot shot each other. Inoki is so over, and comes off like a huge star, any time he tags in the crowd goes bananas, same with Maeda, sort of criminal we never got a big singles between those two as well. Most of the eliminations were really great, including Fujiwara and Fujinami just tearing it up until they both going tumbling over the top. We then get one of my favorite spots in wrestling history as Ueda (who is an ex-garbage guy who barely wrestles at this point) tags in to square off with Maeda, Ueda hadn’t been in the match much at all, and was playing the role of the outclassed older legend. He locks up with Maeda, eats a kick or two, realizes he is out of his league and tackles Maeda to the floor eliminating them both. Just such a cool moment, with Ueda sacrificing himself for New Japan. I could totally see Eddie Marlin in the same role in a big Memphis v. Knoxville 10 man. Finish is the only down part, as Inoki is left with Kido and Takada and I don't really buy him in any trouble, even down 2 to 1.

ER: This was my #2 match on the NJPW 80s ballot, with only Hansen/Andre edging it out. Pretty sure my #3 match will be our 1987 MOTY, and I believe what will be our 1984 MOTY landed in my top 10 of the set. So, you heard it here first, there was some pretty high end stuff in 1980s Japanese pro wrestling. Inter-promotional matches always have a much higher floor than most matches, and this was huge. Imagine if WCW invaded WWF in their prime and how hot the crowds would be as these disrespectful punks invaded (wait, actually don't think about that). If any invasion angle leads to a match half as hot as this, you did something right. Just the before bell drama alone is worth it, with Maeda lobbing air kicks at the NJ guys while trash talking. And their ring work backs up the trash talking.

This isn't like those UFC hype shows where they build up a violent fight and then work a points fight, this is a loudmouth contingent being loudmouths, and then fighting like asskickers. Every tag in brought new excitement as everyone had goals and the fans were hot for the new match-ups. Maeda and Inoki had an absurd amount of charisma, and Fujiwara looked downright giddy to be a part of it. He always knows how to stand out in these kind of matches and his chuckling thug vibe brought an outlaw quality to the UWF invaders. Every segment hit the right note, with unexpected standouts like Kimura/Yamazaki working a compelling short story that ended with a flash desperation pin from Kimura, followed by him crawling back to the corner and essentially being done for the match. The Ueda moment was amazing, and incredible wrestling moment and one of the all time great moments of psychology (arguably my second favorite piece of wrestling psychology ever, right behind Rude getting DQ'd for coming off the top rope against Steamboat, but immediately getting the pinfall back due to the damage he caused). Ueda was the clear, unspoken weak link on Team NJ, and over the first 30 minutes of the match all he had done was tag in, then tag right back out. It's like the team wanted to thin UWF's herd before they let Ueda in there. The admiration and respect from fans when he walked through the ropes was huge, and it would be hard to not feel sympathy for him as Maeda kicks the hell out of him, with Ueda clearly trying to catch kicks but his reactions being too slow. Him essentially smothering and falling on Maeda is the ultimate desperation tactic, the ultimate example of taking advantage of a weird match stip (and Phil is so right, feels like some weird stip they would have in Memphis), and just the best. My favorite guy in the match was Hoshino. He was a real revelation for me when watching 80s New Japan, and he's possibly my favorite fired up underdog babyface in wrestling. Here he's so good on the apron, a team man until the end, and in the ring he doesn't ever seem to notice that's he's the smallest guy in the match. He's spirited, wild, dangerous, and sympathetic. You get the sense that he's no match for the UWF guys, but HE doesn't get that sense. The ending IS a little anticlimactic, as aside from one good nearfall Inoki didn't seem in much trouble, and no matter how good he looked here I'm not sure there was one person watching who believed Osamu Kido would be the lone survivor. You can roll around different endings, have Maeda survive to end the match with an Inoki showdown, but that would deprive us of the Ueda moment, and it's easier to just appreciate the match for the all time great pro wrestling that it already is.


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