April 15, 1990


Minoru Suzuki . . . seems to have left his budding personality in the locker room on this night.

Akira Maeda . . . continues his streak of mediocre performances, this time he finds himself getting outworked by Tatsuo Nakano!

Kazuo Yamazaki . . . finally gets his due recognition against his former IWGP Tag Team Championship partner.



Holy excrement, this is as bad as you’d expect from this pairing. There’s nothing that Vale does, aside from the finish, that looks very good. The kicks barely make contact, and he looks like he’s moving at half speed as though he’s worried that Miyato won’t be able to keep up. And the two areas where Vale should have an undeniable advantage: his kicks and his size, are both hamstrung by Miyato. Vale may take off the bulk of Miyato’s points with his kicks, but Miyato’s leg kicks look better, get a bigger crowd response, and are made to look far more effective. And after Miyato wears down the leg, he takes Vale over with a backdrop suplex that leads to an ugly single leg crab hold. They get back on track for a decent finish, with Vale planting Miyato with a Razor’s Edge-style powerbomb and then tapping him with a camel clutch. The idea of the smaller guy using his speed and skills to try to overcome the giant, but ultimately failing, certainly isn’t a novel approach in wrestling, but the way that this played out was pretty much the polar opposite of that.



This looks like an exhibition, rather than something with a life of its own. Suzuki and Funaki are content to decide the match on the mat, and while the action is quick and well done, for the most part, the lack of any real personality from either of them causes the match to feel lethargic. They take turns wrenching each other’s knees and ankles and when the action resets and they get stood up, they each go back for the leg and try to take the match back to the mat. There’s something of a payoff in the form of Funaki winning out with a heel hold, but there’s nothing during the match to suggest that any of his earlier holds had done much to weaken Suzuki. And Suzuki doesn’t show any of the heelish attitude that he had been letting out since the beginning of the year, which might’ve helped get the crowd behind Funaki (or himself). If their goal was simply to show that they were better wrestlers than the guys in the opening match then mission accomplished, but one would think that they’d set their sights a bit higher.



Just about the only reason that this is any good is due to Nakano, and that’s a horrific thought considering who he’s up against. Granted, Maeda wrestling Nakano is the equivalent of seeing Misawa wrestle Kawabata in 2004, but his last few matches have made Maeda look like someone who deserves to be working Nakano on the undercard. And instead of being up for the match and showing that he still belongs in high profile matches, Maeda acts like he doesn’t even want to be there. Maeda throws his kicks and suplexes and Nakano sells big and then tries to make a comeback. The crowd gets into the match, with a huge chant for Nakano, but Maeda’s selling isn’t much more than “oh, that hurt” and then he goes about trying to take over the match. Even when Nakano manages to escape an armlock and surprises Maeda with a falling headbutt and then throws a couple of kicks while Maeda is still down, Maeda doesn’t sell for a millisecond longer than necessary. Maeda’s reactions to Nakano’s comeback attempts are indifference, he doesn’t seem surprised that someone so far below him is putting up such a fight, he doesn’t even get angry when Nakano tries to throw in a cheap shot or two. He just sleepwalks through the match and waits until it’s time for them to get to the finish. If Nakano was in there with Yamazaki or The Fuj and in the same mood to make something out of this, this would have easily surpassed his match with Funaki from the previous July.



It’s nice that the live crowd was so into this, but after awhile it was hard to understand why. Takada just didn’t seem to feel like doing anything worth a damn to give Anjo any kind of rub. Every time Anjo connected with kicks, slaps, or his trademark knee strikes, the crowd would erupt, but they almost never led to anything big for Anjo. Either he would take Takada down and then Takada would outwrestle him to take over, or Takada would catch a knee strike and take Anjo down with a throw. Anjo manages to outwrestle Takada exactly one time; Takada tries to lock in an armbar and Anjo counters him into a single leg crab, and Takada throws a head kick while he’s still on his back and it winds up taking away Anjo’s first point. Anjo gets two knockdowns in the last five minutes, which are a nice change of pace, but it’s hard to be too excited when Takada had spent the first fifteen minutes making Anjo’s biggest strength look negligible. And the selling and showmanship that Anjo shows when Takada knocks him down versus when he’s finally able to knock down Takada is like night and day.


Both of them are good on the mat, but that’s something else that you wouldn’t guess from seeing this. Aside from the chickenwing armlock that ultimately ends the match, almost nothing gets locked on cleanly unless they’re already close to the ropes. They’re both very tentative with their matwork, I suppose one could argue that it’s because they both understand how skilled the other one is, but it doesn’t make it any less boring to watch. Even the finishing armlock starts with Anjo trying to get the hold on Takada and Takada slowly working his way out of the hold until he’s able to reverse course and trap Anjo in the same hold. It’s too bad too, because if Takada had just let his guard down a little and been more willing to work with what Anjo was giving him, then this would have been a neat follow up to Anjo’s match with Yamazaki in January.



There’s enough good work here for this to be the match of the night, but this is nowhere close to their match from the previous July. They have their moments to remind you of how good they are; Fujiwara tries to pin Yamazaki in the corner and Yamazaki responds with a front headlock. Fujiwara throws body punches to break his grip, and not only does it fail to do so, but Yamazaki throws knees in retaliation. Later in the match Yamazaki gets a double leg takedown and Fujiwara does his trademark throw, but Yamazaki manages to hold onto one of his legs and he’s able to get back up and get a legbar. The one thing that this is never lacking in is intensity. Fujiwara gets a legbar and Yamazaki works his way to his feet and instead of trying to get a hold of his own, he’s content to just throw palm strikes at Fujiwara’s face and head in order to get him to break his grip.


What keeps this from being great isn’t what they do, it’s what they noticeably don’t do. This is supposed to be Yamazaki’s big win, where he finally defeats his former partner and proves that he’s worthy of standing alongside Maeda, Takada, and Fujiwara as a legitimate top guy. But the match plays out with Fujiwara virtually dominating him. Yamazaki only makes him use two rope breaks, and neither is to a hold that seems to be all that threatening, and he only manages to take away one point and it comes right before the finish. We never see Yamazaki outwork or outwrestle Fujiwara. He’ll take him down and get a submission on, but Fujiwara is always able to counter it and send Yamazaki scurrying to the ropes. One would think that the person poised to get a first-time, and very long overdue, main event victory would be able to look good before doing it, but not on this night apparently. It’d make sense for Fujiwara to work like this with someone like Vale or Wilkins, who aren’t very adept at working the mat, but Yamazaki is a good enough mat worker that he should be able to push Fujiwara and get some sort of mat-related win over him.


The only area where Yamazaki is able to shine is his strikes. He doesn’t get much of a chance to use them, but, when Fujiwara gives him the chance to fire off some kicks, Yamazaki makes him regret it. Any time Yamazaki gets the opening to throw his kicks, Fujiwara immediately has to try to grab onto him to take things back to the mat. In a way, it seems like they went with a ‘less is more’ mentality for Yamazaki’s strikes. Unlike Fujiwara/Takada, this wasn’t Fujiwara being gradually worn down by them and finding clever ways to avoid taking them full force, this was Fujiwara recognizing how lethal they were and trying to avoid them at all costs. In that sense, the finish comes off pretty well; Yamazaki gets a surprise reversal and plants Fujiwara with a German suplex and when he gets up, clearly stunned, Yamazaki hits a high kick and Fujiwara isn’t able to get to his feet before the ref finishes the count. Sure, it’s a good finish, but instead of his kicks being the final thing that pushes him just far enough ahead to win the match, they wind up basically being Yamazaki’s lifeline. The crowd reaction to Fujiwara’s failure to answer the count and Yamazaki’s victory celebration wind up making the final impression of the match a good one. It’s just too bad that these two didn’t seem to have the classic match in them that Yamazaki’s big win really deserved.


Conclusion: I guess they all can’t be winners. A wrestler having an off-night is one thing, but this was apparently an off-night for the whole damn company. When even Yamazaki vs. The Fuj feels underwhelming, you know something is wrong.