Segunda Caida

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

Thursday, March 29, 2018

All Japan Handheld Cherry Picking: Rip Rogers!

Kenta Kobashi vs. Rip Rogers  AJPW 1/15/90

ER: I loved this. Kobashi is all decked out in Taue red but almost as big as he would be in his prime, and Rogers is the most cocksure man in the world. All Japan needed someone like this, and it's really a shame he didn't regularly tour Japan. His energy was unlike anybody else. This match is truly worth watching for Rogers' entrance alone, as he does the greatest strut in wrestling history all around the ring, sleeveless pink tuxedo jacket modeled to perfection, pink hand mirror at his side...and then it peaks when he lifts a child onto his shoulders; and that child is holding a full size American flag. He then parades the child through the crowd, flag waving proudly. There's great pre-bell shenanigans, grabbing the ropes and doing some sexually suggestive deep knee bends for the crowd's benefit, working some bits with the ref (my favorite being verrrry carefully removing his pink coat, brushing out wrinkles, folding it just so as he hands it to the ref, who then just tosses it to a ringboy on the floor), really I considered not watching the match as it wouldn't ever hold up to the greatness of Rogers' entrance.

But Rip is Rip, so the match rules, and 22 (!) year old Kobashi was a great babyface. Kobashi had some well executed tools, big open handed chops, hard back elbows, solid shoulderblocks, painfully wrenched in Boston crab, really some of the hardest hitting young boy offense I've seen. And those things are more than enough for Rogers to work with. Rogers stooges around, takes some great pratfalls (that flying leap into the turnbuckle after an atomic drop!), misses a big kneedrop, smacks Kobashi in the nose with a great punch from a headlock, rakes at his back as a way to escape matwork (shoot, rakes that back over and over to beat the band), pinches a love handle to break another hold, muscles Kobashi over for a superplex, all great stuff. Rogers would be a great wrestler if it was just stooging, but his ringwork is so crisp and stiff that it just sets him apart. Kobashi was doing one of those 7 Match Challenge Series that are a thing, so is eager to impress, and even breaks out a weird kneeling piledriver that is basically a ganso bomb, unceremoniously (and accidentally) dumping Rip on his head. Pump the breaks there, Kenta. Much nice was after Roger's missed knee, Kobashi went immediately after that knee and locked on one of the most snug and quickly applied cloverleafs that I've seen. This is what I want out of a 10 minute match. Everybody should aim to be 10 minute of Rip Rogers.

Haruka Eigen vs. Rip Rogers  AJPW 1/26/90

ER: This begins with a minor disappointment, in the form of Haruka Eigen's navy blue trunks. I assumed many people watching this were interested in seeing a battle of pink trunk supremacy, but alas Rip is the only one clad in pink. No matter, the war on pink is already decided, so Rip teaches everyone how to do the ring entrance of your dreams. The rhythmic clapping thing is instantly adored by fans, really feels like he could have been a staple on All Japan shows. We get another great parade with the young American flag waving child, AND THE CHILD BRUSHES RIP'S HAIR WHILE HOLDING THE FLAG! My god this guy is a legend. That kid is a legend. We get more great pre-bell shenanigans, he brushes Eigen's hair, the ref deals with his hand mirror again, Rip concealed perfume in the back of his trunks which he uses on himself and the ref, he amazingly puts his legs up on the top rope so the ref can give him a thorough pre-match inspection. Really check that inner thigh, ref.

This match is obviously much different than the Kobashi match, as a 40-something Eigen is a slightly different worker than a 22 yr old Kobashi. And Rip makes the most of it. The Kobashi match was very physical, this match you knew was going to build to some spit gags (though this pre-dates people bringing newspapers to block the spit). Eigen was reaching the 5th row with his spit takes, and Rogers hilariously spits straight into the air on one of his takes, landing it right in his hair. Eigen basically acted annoyed at Rip for the duration of the match, so Rip just riles him up, gets him to chase, rakes the hell out of Eigen's back, puts over Eigen's holds, and sprinkles in a few little things that modern wrestlers should steal. My favorite little thing was Rogers reversing an Irish whip but treating it like an actual spot in the match. It's a means to get to something more important, and an Irish whip is probably something we've all seen so many times that we don't even notice them anymore. Rogers treats the whip like it is actually an important, tide turning move, short hopping to stop his momentum after Eigen starts the whip, then uses that hop to gain momentum on his whip reversal. It's a spot we tune out, and Rogers made it an important part of the match, while also looking like he really chucked Eigen into those ropes. Moments like that are why I got so excited when unseen Rip Rogers showed up. A true gift.

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