Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D, Sebastian, and other friends write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Friday, January 20, 2023


MD: Baba really charges right in at Joe here and starts on him in the corner before tossing him out and threatening to go after him. If he had, this might be in the running for a really great sub-five minute match. Joe came to no-sell Baba's head chop, which is a pretty alarming sight to be honest. That led to a great moment where he took over briefly with an eye rake, only for Baba to get annoyed that he wasn't selling the chop and hit an eye rake of his own. Baba most certainly got it. In fact, the reason why he didn't chase him out early was so he could chase him out the second time that he tossed him, a payoff to that initial tease that would lead to the match ultimately getting thrown out. This was more of a weird few minutes than anything else, but you can't fault either Baba's savvy or that early intensity.

ER: This was Gypsy Joe's first All Japan match, one of IWE's big foreign stars going after the big All Japan Boss after his old home fed's dissolution. This was the beginning of a several year run in All Japan for Joe, but watching this out of context you might wonder if this guy who isn't selling Baba chops would ever work Japan again. Joe even puffs his chest out and challenges Baba to chop him some more, and then ignores those! When Baba tosses him to the floor and Joe comes back in immediately with a chair, I love that we got to see a little bit of panic from Baba, and even more I love that Baba dropped down quick to a knee to sell Joe's first chop of the match (a great overhand in the corner). You bet Baba's chops got even harder the rest of the match. It's funny that "Baba Chops" were a running joke among "smart" fans for years, but they really are fucking great. His knife edge chops really do pack wallop, and his classic overhands look like a giant smashing the heel of his palm right into the crown of Joe's head. Joe can no sell those all he wants, he's definitely taking a full blow to the dome. 

Steve Williams vs. Keiji Mutoh NJPW 5/26/90

MD: Williams had a very weird spring 1990, bouncing between All Japan and New Japan. To put things into perspective, he was working All Japan on the 23rd and New Japan on the 24th, and then was back to All Japan (where he had a great Hansen match) by the start of June. And he had done a New Japan shot in February too, so, just a weird period. No one else really was jumping around like that, but then Williams was a pretty special talent at the time. He hit the ring with a crazy intensity, threw people around, threw himself around, and so on. In some ways, Mutoh was an ideal opponent for him too. He was one of the only guys in Japan who could work up out of a chinlock like an American babyface (young Kobashi being another and they had a fun match the next month where Kobashi did just that).

When this match was Williams or Mutoh throwing themselves at each other, or Williams throwing Mutoh, it was a lot of fun. Overall, though, I thought Williams either gave too much or Mutoh took too much. There were moments midway through where Williams was using backslides or small packages to work from underneath which is just completely backwards. Even when Williams dodged the moonsault and took over, it was a brief bit of control before he went careening into the post on a missed charge. There was definite electricity here, but they needed to trust the basic tenets of pro wrestling more instead of making this so even or even lopsided in Mutoh's favor.

MD: I've seen plenty of early SWS Kitao lately, and I have to tell you, it's amazing to hear a crowd so behind him. Vader, and to a lesser degree, Bigelow, did heroic work helping to make him here. Vader eating him up just a little only to let him come back huge, knock him out of the ring, and then sell the frustration and emotional weight of it by tossing chairs into the ring, was just top notch stuff. There was a moment after they started in on Saito where I thought Saito was going to take all the heat and it'd build to a massive, explosive Kitao hot tag. That was not to be, but I almost didn't mind because Saito - a guy who spent so much of his year in the states - decided to do a Dusty Rhodes impression against Bigelow, firing up big with arm twirling atomic shots and reversing a vertical suplex just for the hell of it. When they leaned, it was actually on Kitao, which makes sense, because he needed to get his reps in selling. So, it was probably the match it needed to be, untelevised and in front of this crowd, but not as good of a match as it could have been if they just used more smoke and mirrors and kept Kitao out of it. He had size and the fans were behind him. It was amazing how exposed he was by the end of 1990. Full credit to Vader here for selflessly making him look great.

ER: This really is Kitao getting to work through a few different roles in front of a large 5,000 person crowd but without any of it being taped. It's unsatisfying seeing Vader and Bam Bam hold back against him, but I guess we weren't going to get the two biggest dudes nuking him on a show that wasn't taped. They look like such monsters here. Vader in the mastodon helmet, and Bam Bam in the sleeveless gear. I prefer cap-sleeve Bam Bam as a look, but sleeveless Bam Bam has a neat circus strongman aesthetic that feels totally different. Also, Masa Saito as the smallest man in a tag match is so cool. This match was all about Vader being very VERY generous in selling Kitao's offense. My favorite part of all this might have been Vader selling for Kitao, then throwing chairs 40 feet across the arena into the ring, getting his heat back and more. Bigelow takes some huge bumps and is really quick. I'm not sure you're going to find a man this size who can take a backdrop as high as or take a snap suplex bump as fast as Bam Bam, but it probably helps when Saito is doing the tossing. Dusty Saito was a giddy surprise, using those rolling Dusty fists to power Vader into a back suplex, the kind of memorable moment that tends to happen on the best house shows. Vader really beats the shit out of Kitao after the bell on the floor, WAY more than he was hitting him during the match proper. Have you're schoolboy win, you're going to take at least a few forearms to the chest. 

MD: It's fun to see the similarities and differences between this and the Williams match. I'd still say Mutoh took a little too much of it overall, but whenever they reset to a stand up, Vader had an obvious advantage. There was also a real sense towards the end, after the comeback and during the finishing stretch, that as good as Mutoh was in hurting Vader and getting him down, he couldn't put him away, not even with the moonsault. Moreover, when he did the rolling dodge of a clothesline, it had only taken a dropkick to take Doc out. Against Vader, he had to do the rolling dodge, the jumping back kick, and then the dropkick. We lose a little bit of this when Vader's beating Mutoh around the ring, but what we do get to see is fun. The sheer momentum of Vader crashing not just into but through the connected guard rails is an impressive sight. Meanwhile, it may have taken more to get and keep Vader down, but Mutoh survived two big splashes until the third (just barely) kept him pinned. The fans were up for Mutoh's comebacks, but I bet they would have been up for them even more if he let Vader get a bit more on him.

ER: I love a nice short sprint, and this was tidy and quickly violent and cool. It didn't reach the heights it could have, but this isn't a match that really happened so it's great to see. Vader goes up early for a back suplex, but most of this is Mutoh doing everything he does full force and Vader finding cool ways to sell it by absorbing it, while punishing Mutoh. He slaps him around, hits a press slam that looks so effortless that I'm not sure I'd be able to lift my cat above my head the same way, and he really knows how to flatten a guy on elbowdrops. I love how he took hard dropkicks by basically freezing in place, more stunned than hurt. He was really great at getting into position for everything Mutoh had. My favorite might have been when he took the handspring elbow by dropping down to a knee and staggering out, then takes the (stupid) one handed bulldog straight onto his forehead, better than most I've ever seen taking that (stupid) move. The man absolutely annihilates a guardrail and always looks like the most unfuckwithable man, and the whole finishing stretch was beautiful. Look at how Mutok shoves and presses up off Vader's chest after hitting the moonsault, or how Vader sets up a Mutoh sunset flip by missing his splash. Mutoh pays for that sunset flip, and you can see how the crowd KNEW that splash was curtains. 

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