Let’s try these for a while and see if people enjoy them
Big thanks to Roy Lucier over on the YouTube machine for uploading these. Head over and give him some likes if you haven’t already!
I’ve seen some decent chunks of AJPW from the 90’s due to my love of Misawa, Kobashi, Akiyama and Taue (Kawada is a great worker, but I never had the same emotional connection to him as I do the other four) but 80’s All Japan is something I haven’t spent much time watching. To me, All Japan really started with Misawa beating Jumbo in 1990, with everything before that being a mysterious avenue that I haven’t ventured down.
With Hardcore TV now in the bag, I decided to travel back to the mid-80’s to see what was going on in All Japan Pro Wrestling. Lets’ watch some chuffing wrestling!
If you feel like watching along with me then you can do so by clicking right HERE
This week’s matches were taped from Korakuen Hall on the 3rd of January 1985 and then aired on the 5th of January 1985
We open up with a retirement segment for Atsushi Onita. Yes, THAT, Atsushi Onita. Onita was technically the first graduate of the All Japan Dojo, owing to Jumbo Tsuruta being trained with The Funk’s in Amarilo whilst Onita completed all of his training actually at the Dojo (This is what Wikipedia ascertains anyway). He had teamed with fellow graduate Masanobu Fuchi both at home and abroad (And it was during a stint in Memphis whilst on excursion that he first learned about hardcore wrestling) and he eventually got pushed as the key figure in All Japan’s Junior Heavyweight division. However, an accumulation of injuries led to him having to retire in 1985 because he couldn’t keep up the pace in a work rate intensive company like All Japan anymore.
He would start a trend in his career by coming out of retirement in 1988 however, finding a way to make up for his injuries by working a brawling hardcore style that he had first come across during his stint in Memphis whilst tagging with Fuchi. His charisma and willingness to both take and dish out extreme violence led to him becoming an even bigger star than he had been during his physical prime. What followed was a Hall of Fame career, which saw him run his own company and guest star in companies such as New Japan before finally returning to All Japan in 2017 to win the tag belts with Fuchi.
The ceremony itself is very nice, as a number of wrestlers come down to the ring with Onita (Who is looking quitter dapper in a suit) and he is presented with flowers. Jumbo Tsuruta and Giant Baba present Onita with something that might be money maybe, and Onita is of course fighting back tears at the whole thing. Crying would be a big part of Onita’s act when he formed FMW in 1989. This really felt like it should have been something that happened at the end of the show instead of at the start. It reminded me a lot of that scene in The Simpson’s where Homer has to leave the bowling alley and he’s not even out the door before everyone is bowling and having fun again after a sincere and sombre send off.
Giant Baba and Akio Sato Vs Killer Khan and Haruka Eigen
Baba was not only the promoter of All Japan but an active wrestler too. He had originally started out as a baseball player in the 50’s before moving into a wrestling career in the 60’s. As his name would suggest, he’s very tall, clocking in at 6 foot 10 inches. He had formed All Japan in 1972 after leaving the Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance, where he had been one of their biggest stars, both literally and figuratively. Sato had debuted in 1970 for the Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance, but had jumped with Baba in 1972. He may perhaps be best known to westerners as Akio from the original Orient Express pairing in the WWF.
Khan (Must. Not. Make. Star Trek II. Jokes) had a successful run with the McMahon’s over in America, notably feuding with Andre The Giant and even getting a run with Hogan early on the Hulkamania Era. Eigen was another wrestler who had jumped over from the Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance, and became known for a spot in his latter career where he’d spit when chopped. He spent most of the latter days of his career working comedy matches in Pro Wrestling NOAH, having a seemingly never ending series of matches with fellow veteran Mitsuo Momota.
We join the action in progress, with Sato getting the crud kicked out of him by Khan and Eigen. Khan’s offence is a bit cartoonish at points, as he shrieks whilst clobbering Sato, but Eigen’s stuff is decent and Sato sells it all really well. Sato manages to fight off Khan and tags in Baba so that the two giants can go at it, and its typical Baba stuff, wherein his offence doesn’t look overly credible but he’s so over with the crowd due to the success he had in his heyday that they don’t mind and enjoy it for what it is.
Baba actually gets beaten up for a bit at one stage when the heels double up on him, but he of course fights back and actually stands on Khan at one stage. I wonder if Baba was one of those guys where his offence looked really loose but he was actually super stiff to work with? It’d kind of be hilarious if that was the case. Sato and Eigen do some more bits together, and it’s decent stuff actually. I’d totally watch a singles match between them if I had the opportunity. Baba eventually gets Eigen with a Russian Leg Sweep and that’s enough for the win.
WINNERS: BABA & SATO
I don’t mind rating a JIP match provided we get to see enough of it, but I think a tad too much was cut out of that one for me to be able to fairly rate it. It wasn’t awful or anything, but Baba and Khan’s in-ring was notably weaker than Sato and Eigen’s
Khan pretty much walks out on Eigen following the result and doesn’t really bother to check on him.
Riki Choshu and Animal Hamaguchi Vs Genichiro Tenryu and Motoshi Okuma
Choshu and his “Revolutionary Army” had jumped from New Japan and invaded All Japan, giving All Japan’s business a shot in the arm as a result. Choshu would eventually re-join New Japan and would go on to win the G1 Climax in 1996. Hamaguchi started wrestling in the 60’s and joined up with Choshu after the IWE company where he worked folded. He is known for training a host of successful wrestlers, including Satoshi Kojima and Shingo Takagi.
Tenryu had started out as a sumo wrestler but got talent spotted by Giant Baba and was trained over in Amarillo with The Funk’s before joining the All Japan roster in 1977. He was a home grown star and was positioned to be the future of the company alongside Jumbo Tsuruta, but he would go on to leave the company in 1990 to form the SWS. I can’t find much on Okuma, but he was in the inaugural All Japan roster, was a fixture in the company for quite a while and was known for his head butts. Facially he looks a bit like a Japanese Mick McManus actually.
Choshu and Tenryu are the ones with the issue here and both men are well up for going at it. Choshu seems to be getting his share of cheers too, despite ostensibly being the heel invader. Okuma demands to start for his team instead of Tenryu though, so they’re going to delay that Choshu and Tenryu collision for now at least. As I type that, Choshu shoves Okuma into the corner and demands he tag Tenryu, which he does and that leads us to a super-heated segment between Choshu and Tenryu, as they do some nice stuff and wrestle to a stalemate.
Things turn into a standard tag match following that, with both Hamaguchi and Okuma getting involved at certain points. Hamaguchi is one of those guys where I know who he is but I haven’t seen a lot of him, and he’s pretty good actually. Okuma does indeed bring the head butts, and they look good. This is almost certainly the first time I’ve ever seen Okuma work, and he’s fine. I wouldn’t call him a great worker or anything, but he’s competent and doesn’t try to do anything he can’t do, which is all you need when your role is to be essentially cannon fodder for an elite star worker.
Choshu tries to finish Tenryu with The Scorpion Deathlock at one stage, but Okuma keeps coming in to break it up and Tenryu also fights the hold with everything he has, which makes it feel like a real struggle. They get so much out of one guy just trying to get another in one hold, and when Choshu does eventually get it on Okuma rushes in immediately to break it up in order to sell how devastating a hold it is. That’s such simple storytelling, but it’s also incredibly effective and they absolutely nailed the execution of it.
The crowd is just molten for anything involving Choshu and Tenryu going at it, as they continue to scrap with one another, even when one of them isn’t legal. There is some really good wrestling at points, especially when Tenryu is in there, and he sends Hamaguchi flying out of the ring at one stage before spiking him with a piledriver back inside to open him up. Okuma works the cut with head butts, but ends up in there with Choshu and that ends badly as Choshu lariats him for three whilst Hamaguchi holds Tenryu back.
WINNERS: CHOSHU & HAMAGUCHI
Cracking tag action there, as they gave the crowd a taste of Choshu Vs Tenryu without going the whole hog so there was still something left on the table for down the line. Hamaguchi did a really good job, including a gory blade, and Okuma more than held up his end as the guy in there to get battered and eat the pin. Everyone did what they needed to and the match was exciting to watch. Thumbs up all around!
We get some replays following that.
Jumbo Tsuruta and The Great Kabuki Vs Tiger Jeet Singh and Gypsy Joe
Jumbo competed in the 1972 Olympic games in amateur wrestling before getting scouted by Giant Baba and sent over to Amarillo to be trained by The Funk’s. He was one of the first Japanese wrestlers to actually get cheered over in America, which didn’t happen a lot back then because the Second World War was still a recent memory and a lot of American’s had somewhat negative views towards the Japanese people as a result. His real name was Tomomi Tsuruta, but the Japanese thought that name sounded too feminine, so he got the name Jumbo instead.
Kabuki has the face painted mist spitter gimmick, which he’d first got during his time over in World Class. Gary Hart had given him the gimmick after seeing it done by the Filipino wrestler Rey Urbano. Kabuki would end up inspiring Keiji Muto’s “Great Muta” character and would continue wrestling all the way up to 2017, when he finally retired in this very venue on a Pro Wrestling NOAH event.
Singh had gained great notoriety in the 70’s due to a feud with Antonio Inoki in New Japan. Singh had famously attacked Inoki whilst the latter had been out shopping with his girlfriend, bloodying him up in the process. That had led to a series of matches between them, with Singh actually managing to defeat Inoki on a few occasions, which basically left him set for life as a top star in Japan from that point onwards. He had jumped from New Japan to All Japan in 1981 and had gone immediately into the Main Event scene.
Joe was a Puerto Rican wrestler who had gained notoriety by working in the territorial system of the USA in the 60’s and 70’s, most notably in the Tennessee area. Modern fans might perhaps know him more for the fact that New Jack pretty much tried to kill him in a match due to Joe not selling enough for his liking. Joe was hardcore before the term was really invented, and his gimmick was mostly that he was really tough and could take a beating. He was an inspiration for Necro Butcher’s Wildman act.
Singh tries to attack the fans on his way to the ring, sending them scattering away in fear. He then goes and attacks the ring announcer and threatens Kabuki with his sword, which leads to Kabuki busting out the nunchucks in response. Before this can turn into a real life version of Soulcalbur though, they manage to finally disarm both men and start the match with Kabuki and Joe going at it in the ring. Jumbo smartly just waited on the apron whilst all that nonsense was going on.
The match is clipped to the heels working some heat on Kabuki, with them mostly doing basic stuff. Singh was over due to the way he had been booked in New Japan and he was believable as a dangerous crazy man during his entrance and whatnot, but his actual wrestling ability wasn’t especially great. Jumbo eventually gets tagged in with Joe and immediately throws him into the heel corner so that Singh can tag in and they can go at it.
Singh hangs well enough during a wrestling segment with Jumbo in all fairness to him, sticking to headlocks and the like, but it’s clear that Jumbo is a step above when it comes to technical acumen. Joe is the designated cannon fodder guy of his team, with Jumbo and Kabuki getting the better of him reasonably easy, meaning he has to introduce a chair into proceedings. Kabuki gets worn out with that by both heels, but Jumbo gets hold of it and delivers some shots of his own to Joe. This is all in front of the ref, who mostly just mildly admonishes them and allows the match to go on. Japan everyone!
We get some more heat on Kabuki, with Joe missing a flipping senton off the top rope (In 1985!) at one stage. That leads to Singh and Jumbo fighting outside the ring, which allows Kabuki to take care of Joe with a fist drop from the second rope, after what was kind of a mess of a match in all honesty.
WINNERS: JUMBO & KABUKI
I’ve never really been into either Singh or Kabuki, and the match itself never really seemed to get a proper flow going. Also, having about 10 blatant chair shots in front of the referee inside the ring was a bit too silly for me. I mean, even Red Shoes Uno would have probably called for the bell in that scenario, and you can pretty much attack an opponent with the Holy Hand Grenade from Monty Python and he’ll look the other way most of the time
Jumbo and Singh fight out in the crowd whilst Kabuki and Joe start fighting again inside the ring. The crowd doesn’t seem to be enjoying it and actively seems worried at points, which makes me feel this verged into becoming bad heat.
Bit of a mixed bag this week, but I really enjoyed that second tag match and I’ll certainly stick with this for another week at very least.