Segunda Caida

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

1974 Match of the Year

Strong Kobayashi vs. Antonio Inoki NJPW 3/19/74


PAS: This was a big deal semi-interpromotional battle of native Japanese wrestlers. Kobayashi had been a big deal in IWE and challenged Inoki in a period where native vs. native matches were pretty much unknown. Kobayashi looks like the world biggest dwarf, like if a dwarf was supposed to be 6'11 but his dwarfism shrunk him down to 5'9. Inoki is rocking some boss 70s side burns. This was worked interpromotionally, with Inoki being a stiff cheapshotting bastard and Kobayashi fighting back, including really flinging Inoki around in a bear hug. I loved all of the early grappling including some nice back and forth fighting over a grounded Cobra twist. There was this great moment near the end of the match where Kobayashi lands some stiff clubbing blows to the back on the neck and Inoki counters with a big great looking right hand which totally short circuits Strong. Inoki tries to put on the Octopus but Strong counters by flinging them both out of the ring. A posting leads Inoki to start leaking, and the end has Kobayashi working the cut, while Inoki is throwing desperate suplexes. Great stuff the mat wrestling was cool, and it heated up near the end with some great bleeding and brawl.

ER: Cool long-ish match (about 30 minutes) that starts with a bunch of great high stakes minimalism and builds to some big moments. Kobayashi kind of moves like Akira Taue, but if Taue had been a powerlifter instead of a sumo. He has that same low base. Inoki looks like the coolest dude in Tokyo, as if every character in Lupin III had been based on Inoki and his entourage. We get a lot of great momentum shifts on lock-ups and on the mat, Inoki more wily and Kobayashi, well Stronger. The fans are immediately buying this in a big way, and neither guy is coasting on the star power of a first time match-up, Inoki grinds forearm into jaw during mat transitions, both wrench in headlocks and try and trap the other, and Kobayashi gets me into it by accusing Inoki of cheap tactics. Inoki makes great dark-eyed faced back at him, and each tangle gets a little more rough, there's a great headlock takeover that gets blocks, full struggle at all times with both men tensing neck and arm and leg muscles, building to Kobayashi ragdolling Inoki around on a big bearhug. I'll always flip for a bearhug and Kobayashi has a good one. Inoki pays that back with a smothering headscissors, just locking that figure 4 around Kobayashi's neck and sinking it in, Kobayashi tapping worthlessly against Inoki's leg. We don't even get a strike until 15 minutes in, and even then it's an expert tease, as Kobayashi comes up swinging with Inoki backpedaling and throwing shots of his own. Nothing really lands (and it's not supposed to) but it shoves the fans into that blood in the water frenzy. Kobayashi starts bringing clubbing shots to the back of Inoki's neck, and Inoki pops him with a right hand that staggers Strong back and onto his butt. Young Kawada clearly made note of this. The shots and struggle get more intense, and there's this great cocky Inoki moment where he tries to just muscle Kobayashi into the octopus, just tries to jam his head down, and Kobayashi falls towards the ropes to send them to the floor, where he posts Inoki. Inoki is great on the floor, face bloodied, shoving through the tracksuits, fighting back to the apron and getting suplexed in. Kobayashi had mostly been using clubbing blows to Inoki's neck up until now, but once Inoki starts bleeding Kobayashi starts punching face. The home stretch felt necessary, like what the early tense moments were building towards, Inoki bloodied, Kobayashi's 'fro wilted from heat, crowd going nuts.


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