Mike Reviews – All Japan Pro Wrestling TV plus All Japan Pro Wrestling Special (09/03/1985)

Hello You!

The Road Warriors are in the Main Event this week after many weeks of hype, so I’m suitably jazzed!

Cheers to Roy Lucier as always for uploading this to his YouTube channel.

By looking at Roy’s channel, the regular All Japan TV show was broadcast on the 9th of March, with matches from the 8th of March in Funabashi, Chiba. However, there was also a special shown that same day featuring matches from Tokyo on the 9th. I’m not sure which show aired first, but let’s cover the matches from the 8th first, seeing as they happened first chronologically, and then we’ll cover the matches from the special after that. You can watch the first show by clicking HERE.

The matches from the special were held in Tokyo on the 9th of March, and were broadcast the same day. If you’d like to watch that one, you can do so by clicking right HERE. Oh I hope I don’t bugger this up somehow and get the links wrong or something. A thousand apologies if I do. I’d just embed them but that can sometimes get Scott and the Blog in hot water with the Google overlords so I’d rather not risk it.

All Japan TV featuring matches from Funabashi

Opening Match
Tiger Mask II and Masanobu Fuchi Vs Harley Race and Chavo Guerrero Snr

TMII is Mitsuharu Misawa, Fuchi is one of the more talented graduates of All Japan’s Dojo, Race is a multiple time World Champion who would join the WWF later in the decade for a run as The King, whilst Chavo is the father of Chavo Jr and got a brief run in WWE in the mid 00’s as Chavo Classic. Race seems a strange addition to this match actually as he’s a straight up heavyweight whilst all of the other three would usually be classed as the next weight category down. He is notably bigger than everyone, but I shouldn’t think he’d struggle to keep up too much as this was prior to him suffering his bad injury against Hulk Hogan in the WWF. Race gets to play bigger bully with Fuchi at one stage, but he is still happy to sell and bump for him before getting a quick brain buster for the win.

WINNER: RACE & CHAVO
RATING: N/A

Not enough shown to rate. That finish was always going to be either Race pinning Fuchi or Tiger pinning Chavo though, as no way was Race going to be looking at the lights here with his pedigree

Tiger and Chavo were going at it pretty heavy outside the ring at one stage, but they settle down once the match is over. That could be a future feud for Misawa though maybe.

Match Two
Riki Choshu and Yoshiaki Yatsu Vs Genichiro Tenryu and Takashi Ishikawa

I don’t see how this combination of guys can be anything but a good match. Logic would dictate that poor Ishikawa is going to be eating a pin here, but they could just as easily do a DQ or count out. For those who haven’t been following these reviews, Choshu and Tenryu are the ones with the issue due to Choshu and his boys jumping from New Japan and invading All Japan, with Tenryu being the leader of the All Japan frontline that is opposing them.

Yatsu and Ishikawa do their usual great Battle Of The Denis Irwin’s, with both of them being really solid in the ring and usually guaranteed to deliver something decent even though they are the supporting act of their respective teams. As is usually the case with one of these tag matches in All Japan from this period, they don’t work the western tag formula where you do shine, cut off, heat, hot tag, finish, and instead trade the momentum throughout the bout, with each team getting a moment where they work over a member of the opposition for a bit before they just kind of tag out. Apologies if you’re a regular reader who is sick of me explaining this every week, but I live in hope that I might get the odd new reader now and then!

The work is good throughout, as all four of these guys can go, and the crowd is into it, especially when Choshu and Tenryu get in there to knock seven shades of Christmas out of one another. One of the best bits is Ishikawa putting Choshu in his own Scorpion Deathlock hold, only for Yatsu to come off the top to break it up, thus allowing Choshu to get his revenge by locking Ishikawa in the genuine article, which prompts Tenryu to come in and rescue his partner. Tenryu does find himself in trouble at one stage when he gets hit with a double team move and then ends up on the receiving end of some Yatsu suplexes, but he manages to survive. Ishikawa isn’t so lucky though and gets put away with a spike piledriver and a lariat from Choshu not soon after.

WINNERS: CHOSHU & YATSU
RATING: ***1/2

Ishikawa is gutted after that, really selling how important the match was and how much losing is a bummer for the All Japan guys. Wins and losses actually mattering, what is the sorcery?!

Match Three
The Road Warriors (Hawk & Animal) w/ Paul Ellering Vs Killer Khan and Animal Hamaguchi

Iron Man is such fantastic entrance music for an act like The Warriors. It sums up everything about them and never fails to get a crowd excited. The Warriors dominate the early going, with the crowd looking on in almost hushed awe. Hamaguchi takes a slew of big moves whilst Khan watches on helplessly from the apron as his partner gets turned to mulch. Khan does eventually get tagged in, but he doesn’t have much answer for The Warriors either and quickly tags out, actually drawing some laughs from the crowd that the big guy just bailed like that. Hamaguchi has been busted open somehow during all of this and eats a Hart Attack soon after to get pinned.

WINNERS: THE ROAD WARRIORS
RATING: SQUASH

And thus the Warriors are over right out the gate

The Warriors storm to the back following that, with Hawk wildly swinging at any fan that is stupid enough to get too close. Japan in the 80’s was really the Wild West in that regard. If you got clobbered it was probably because you were dumb enough to get in the way and you didn’t get much sympathy.

Main Event
Bruiser Brody and Klaus Wallas Vs Giant Baba and Jumbo Tsuruta

Brody is mega over here and he does his usual entrance of swinging a steel chain around whilst acting like an absolute lunatic. He actually does some wrestling early on though rather than just marauding around like a barbarian charging down a hill; mainly because Jumbo is legit enough that he can actually hold his own with him. Wallas continues to look a bit like someone gene spliced Yoshihiro Takayama and WALTER together, and he’s okay, if a bit awkward. He actually had a Judo background and had even competed at the 1976 Olympics, so his battle with fellow Olympian Jumbo is interesting, especially when they grapple.

Baba is one of those guys who kind of defies logic, in that his stuff from this period in his career doesn’t really look that good, but he’s a genuine living legend so the crowd just gives him a pass for it. Believe it or not he still had some good matches left in him, including a time he teamed with Stan Hansen to take on Kawada and Taue in the 90’s. I don’t know what it is about Wallas, but he’s just not doing it for me thus far in the few times I’ve seen him. He’s not actively bad or anything, but he’s not really that interesting either. If you’re going to be a bit dull then it helps if you’re a really good worker, and if you’re not a good worker it helps if you’re a really interesting personality. He has neither great wrestling skills nor an interesting character, so he just kind of exists.

Baba for instance isn’t really even approaching a particularly good wrestler at this stage in his life, but he has a genuine charisma and presence, so it doesn’t matter that his wrestling isn’t great, especially when he has Jumbo to handle that portion of things for him. Brody and Jumbo are the stars of the match for me, with Brody exuding the sort of star power that guys would kill to have these days and Jumbo being really good in the ring. The match is good when Brody and Jumbo are in there, not as good but still interesting when it’s Brody and Baba, and just there when it’s anyone Vs Wallas. Eventually Brody gets knocked off the apron and Baba puts Wallas away clean with a big boot.

WINNERS: GIANT-JUMBO
RATING: *1/2

It kind of meandered to be honest, mainly because Wallas wasn’t really that interesting of an opponent for the Japanese wrestlers

Brody is most displeased following that and takes out his frustration on the crowd by lobbing chairs at them, with seemingly no regard for whether any of them survives his onslaught or not.

In Conclusion

As usual, Choshu and Tenryu delivered the goods, whilst The Road Warriors were a nice additional bonus. Thumbs up!

All Japan Pro Wrestling Special from Tokyo

Opening Match
Harley Race and Klaus Wallas Vs Killer Khan and Masanobu Kurisu

This would make more sense as a match for Race seeing as he’s in there with two heavyweights this time. Race makes sure to wear a USA jacket, just in case anyone in the crowd who isn’t sure knows who the American is. Race is actually super over with the crowd, essentially making his team the babyfaces by default, seeing as the Japanese opposition aren’t All Japan guys and were amongst the guys who jumped over with Choshu. Race gets the best stuff out of Khan that I’ve seen so far watching these All Japan shows, and follows that up with some good stuff opposite Kurisu, who isn’t a bad worker.

Wallas continues to be an awkward looking bugger to move around, but his work isn’t bad or anything. He’s comfortably the third best wrestler in the match behind the two actual good ones. The crowd continues to love everything Race does, as he doesn’t do anything overly flashy, but what he does do is executed very well. He eventually spikes Kurisu with a hanging brain buster and that’s enough for three whilst Wallas keeps Khan at bay.

WINNERS: RACE & WALLAS
RATING: **

That was decent. Race looked good and the crowd loved him

Race and Khan don’t appear to be finished with one another following that.

We see footage of fans entering the venue. It looks like there’s plenty of smog in the air, but it could just be the video quality.

Match Two
Tiger Mask II Vs Kuniaki Kobayashi

Tiger and Kobayashi have been feuding with one another, with Kobayashi trying more than once to remove Tiger’s hood in their battles. Kobayashi actually attacks Tiger during his entrance to get across the idea that this is a heated rivalry, and the crowd actually chants for him when he does so! Tiger still gets the bigger pop during introductions, but its close. This should have super heat if nothing else then; let’s just hope we get a finish this time as their last singles match ended in the famed mid-80’s All Japan non-finish.

This is good action, with the match being fought at a quick pace and both men starting to show some decent chemistry with one another. As its Japan, the Tombstone Piledriver is essentially little more than a transition move, as Kobayashi hits one early and then goes to a chin lock. What must Japanese guys think when they go on excursion to Mexico and see that the piledriver is a God Killing move that requires stretcher jobs and almost brings fans over the rail sometimes? It must be one heck of a culture shock, kind of like when American’s would come over to the UK in the 70’s and 80’s and realise they weren’t allowed to use a closed fist or pick someone up after they’d knocked them down.

Kobayashi throws a fantastic spin kick at one stage that looks like it nearly takes Tiger’s head off, with Tiger taking a fantastic bump for it. The general structure of the match sees Kobayashi working a lot of holds on the mat, with the idea being that Tiger will likely be more dangerous if he can get on his feet and start using his high flying, whilst Kobayashi will have more luck from grounding Tiger and using strikes. There are some really good counter sequences, such as when Tiger lands on his feet from a back body drop attempt and then catches Kobayashi with a monkey flip, but Kobayashi is able to avoid the follow up dive.

The match is a bit stop-start at points, where they’ll do a quick sequence but then immediately slow it down again. It’s not like it’s bad, but it feels after a certain stage that they should just start cooking as all the pauses are killing off the momentum they’re building a bit. We do eventually get a TOPE SUICIDA from Tiger, which makes me think we’re getting a count out, and the crowd is still loudly chanting for Kobayashi. Thankfully they get back in and do some near falls, with Tiger getting a superplex at one stage and Kobayashi getting a good reaction for kicking out. The near falls are really well done and the crowd is super into the action, with Kobayashi getting a Fisherman Suplex but Tiger’s feet being in the ropes, thus saving him. Both men suplex one another to the floor, as my “crappy finish” sense starts tingling, and that’s indeed what we get as both men are counted out.

DOUBLE COUNT OUT
RATING: ***1/4

This was on its way to being a really good match until they went with the awful count out finish. Meltzer apparently gave this one the Full Monty back in the day, but I doubt he’d stick by that rating today. It was certainly good, but it was very stop-start and the finish was utter cack

Kobayashi gets another big cheer following that, so the match got him over at least.

Match Three
Rusher Kimura, Ryuma Go and Goro Tsurumi Vs Giant Baba, Takashi Ishikawa and Mighty Inoue

Kimura and Baba are the ones with the issue here, as Kimura has been messing with Baba quite a bit recently and in a recent match he and his lackeys laid a chair beat down on Baba as part of a DQ loss. Kimura shows how much of a meanie he is by throwing the ceremonial flowers at Baba before the match even starts. He hit Baba with a flower, he’s so vicious! Kimura and Baba actually start us out and the crowd is into the idea of Baba taking his foe to the woodshed and pop big time for his usual array of slaps and chops. Tsurumi and his early Everton Era Marouane Fellaini afro continues to be a fun member of the heel side for me. He’s not a great worker or anything, but he’s a decent enough brawler and he has charisma.

The more I see of Go the more it baffles me that he thought he could cut it in the UWF. He’s fine as your typical lower card pro wrestler, but his offence doesn’t look anywhere near believable enough that you could buy him as a shooter, which was what UWF was supposed to be. Ishikawa enters his usual good performance and carries the match for his team, though Inoue isn’t bad or anything. Baba’s stuff as usual doesn’t look that impressive, but he’s so over here that it doesn’t really matter, with his traditional spots like the Russian Leg Sweep getting big reactions from the crowd. At one stage he knocks Tsurumi down and then demands he get back up, which gets a big “Owoaahhhhhhh” reaction from the crowd, as angry dad Baba who’s come home early to find the kids partying is the best Baba. Eventually Ishikawa gets Go in a Scorpion Deathlock and that’s enough for the submission victory.

WINNERS: BABA, ISHIKAWA & INOUE
RATING: **1/2

Adding mid-80’s Takashi Ishikawa to a match is like playing with cheat codes. He holds his own when in there with the top guys and actively raises the level of the lower level guys around him when he wrestles them. Every roster should have an Ishikawa

Kimura isn’t letting up on the feud with Baba just yet, especially as he didn’t eat the fall in that match. He grabs a mic and cuts a promo, drawing mega heel heat in the process. This is a genuinely hot feud, which is kind of amazing when you consider that any eventual match between Kimura and Baba probably isn’t going to be worth much from a quality standpoint.

Match Four
Riki Choshu and Yoshiaki Yatsu Vs Bruiser Brody and Killer Brooks

I can smell the dodgy finish a mile off with this one, unless they let Choshu get a win over Brooks whilst Brody is momentarily stunned. Neither of the Choshu guys should be losing here, so they either have Brooks look at the lights or it’s a screwy finish. Let’s see which one we get. Choshu and Brody would probably have the two most over entrances in the entire company, with Brody going extra wild by climbing into the crowd and swinging the chain around. Well, it is a special occasion I guess. There’s a great visual to start, as all four guys go at it whilst the fans fill the ring with streamers. You watch stuff like this and you honestly think that this was the hottest promotion going at the time, which it probably wasn’t seeing as Hogan was finally taking the WWF national as this was going on, but you wouldn’t know if you just saw how hot the crowd is for this.

I’d really only seen Choshu in his 90’s/00’s New Japan and World Japan days, so I really didn’t appreciate just how big a star he was during this run, but it honestly rivals any other top star from any other company’s hot period. He’s just over like rover and the crowd goes nuts when he takes it to Brody and tries to get the Scorpion Deathlock applied, with only Brooks running interference stopping the move from getting locked on. Brooks is another low-key good worker that I’ve come to appreciate from watching these shows, as his work is good and he looks suitably wild, but he never overshadows Brody and plays his role as his slightly less crazy tag partner and lackey really well. It’s a very selfless performance that I think some guys wouldn’t be capable of doing, but it’s actually quite an important aspect of making the Brody act work so well.

There’s a great moment where Choshu has Brooks in the Deathlock, so Brody just storms in and boots him down. Choshu and Brody actually have some decent chemistry together and their exchanges are well done. Thankfully we actually get a finish too, as Choshu is able to catch Brooks with a back suplex at one stage whilst Brody is out on the apron and that’s enough for the three count. Brody looked like a beast for the entire match though so he lost nothing from being on the losing side there.

WINNERS: CHOSHU & YATSU
RATING: ***

This was heaps of fun, with everyone playing their role as required and the Choshu/Brody exchanges being executed perfectly

Brody chases the Japanese guys off with his chain following that and then heads outside to terrorise the fans some more. This would be lawsuit city today, but it’s Japan in the 80’s, so everyone just flees for their very existence and hopes they get lucky enough that they are quicker than someone else in Brody’s sights.

Main Event
Two out of Three Falls
NWA International Tag Team Titles
Champs: Genichiro Tenryu and Jumbo Tsuruta Vs The Road Warriors w/ Paul Ellering

This will be interesting, as I don’t think they’ll have Tenryu and Tsuruta get clobbered like Hamaguchi did, but I’m also seriously doubtful that they’ll expose The Warrior’s in-ring deficiencies in a match style that they’re not suited to, so I’m guessing they’ll have to find a middle ground where they play to The Warriors’ strengths whilst still working something more resembling a standard match so that Tenryu and Jumbo don’t have to get battered in minutes. The Road Warriors are of course super over here, which I’m not surprised by considering the way All Japan hyped them up was nothing short of masterful. Genuinely it’s one of the best hype jobs for an incoming act that I’ve ever seen.

The Warriors are so over here that merely taunting gets a huge reaction from the crowd. Jumbo’s ability as a worker really shows itself here, as he works the opening exchanges with both of The Warriors and holds it all together really well. The Warriors were never known for their technical wrestling acumen, but Jumbo works basic holds and strikes with them and they don’t look bad in the slightest. Tenryu does similar, as they try to make sure The Warriors don’t have to do anything they aren’t capable of doing and the crowd is so into their act that any moves they do deliver get a good reaction. This business isn’t rocket science, no matter how much people try to overcomplicate it sometimes.

Jumbo is the absolute star of the match for me, as everything he does looks good and he shows great fire as he bravely stares down The Warriors and throws everything at them that he can. The Warriors of course don’t sell too much, but that has the benefit that anything they do sell automatically gets more of a reaction from the crowd. Jumbo and Tenryu throwing The Warriors around at points is really impressive too and you appreciate how big Jumbo especially is when you see him up against these two massively muscular guys. I totally buy that he could hold his own against them. They keep the first fall relatively short and don’t do an overly complicated finishing sequence, as Hawk catches Jumbo unawares with a clothesline and that’s enough for three. Tenryu tried breaking the pin up but Hawk just didn’t budge and the ref counted anyway.

Road Warriors win the First Fall (Hawk pins Jumbo with a clothesline)

Hawk goes to TOWN on Jumbo at the start of the second fall, stomping and clubbing away at him, which has the desired effect of the crowd getting behind their countryman. He weathers the storm and tags in Tenryu, who manages to take Hawk down with a back suplex for two, but not before Hawk doesn’t bump for an enziguri. Jumbo comes in with some more offence and they do a really interesting spot to tie it up where Hawk has Jumbo in a Full Nelson but Tenryu comes in, lifts Jumbo’s legs and then pushes him back so he lands on Hawk in a double pin situation. However, Jumbo manages to get his arm up at two whilst Hawk keeps his down, meaning that the Japanese win a fall to level things up but Hawk doesn’t look too weak as it was a leverage move and it took Tenryu helping his partner out to make it happen.

Jumbo & Tenryu win the Second Fall (Jumbo pins Hawk with last second shoulder raise)

I’m kind of surprised they had The Warriors drop a fall there, but it was done in the best way they possibly could. Sadly a brawl starts up following that due to The Warriors being so angry at dropping the fall, which means the ref throws the match out and we don’t get a finish. The Warriors and the Japanese brawl following that and the crowd is into the idea of them fighting some more. According to Cage Match, the referee actually disqualified The Warriors, which is kind of fair seeing as they actively attacked him at one stage, so Jumbo and Tenryu end up winning the match 2-1, although it’s by the skin of their teeth.

Jumbo and Tenry win the Third Fall by DQ

WINNERS AND STILL CHAMPIONS: JUMBO & TENRYU
RATING: **

With an actual finish that would be rated higher, as it was a fun outing for the most part and they booked it pretty much perfectly, with The Warriors getting to look like monsters whilst the Japanese looked brave and resourceful for continuing to fight and finding a way to overcome the superior strength and ferocity of their opponents

The brawl picks up again following the official decision, and I think we might just have to have a rematch down the line. Hey, I’ll go in for that. Personally I would have gone the whole hog with The Warriors and had them win the belts here to pay off the incredible hype job, but if they weren’t winning the belts this at least makes them look dominant, especially when even Ellering starts body slamming some Young Boys at one stage. Even their manager can kick ass!

In Conclusion

Plenty of good matches here and the company itself continues to be a hot ticket, with rivalries and characters the crowd cares about. I really do look forward to watching it and I regularly look excitedly to next week’s matches.

Yeah, some of the finishes are abhorrent now and then, but the overall product is so good that I’m willing to overlook it most of the time, especially as they usually use a rubbish finish as a way to build to future matches, so you feel like they often have a justifiable storyline reason for happening.

That being said, I’m very glad that the emergence and success of the newborn UWF in the late 80’s encouraged the major Japanese offices to start doing more clean finishes in big matches, as that’s a style of booking that I infinitely prefer.