This was from All Japan. At this stage Dory Funk Jr. had already completed a four year run with the NWA World Title, and this match is representative of his prime. Horst Hoffman brings his A game. A high end 70's style technical clinic between two of the best from the era.
This was from the UWFi promotion based in Japan. Nobuhiko Takada was the native stalwart and ace of the promotion. Super Vader was a touring force and reigning WCW World Champion. A very well worked match that exemplifies the strengths of the style. Watch for the presence of the legendary Lou Thesz, a key figure in the promotion behind the scenes.
UWFi (Union of Wrestling Forces International) tried to differentiate itself with more realistic looking strikes and more believable grappling sequences. The rules employed a unique format that included three judges and a negative point scoring system. Each man started at 15 points with deductions coming about due to knockdowns, rope grabs (‘forcing submission breaks) and periods of sustained disadvantage. Matches could (and often would) be won definitively by either knockout or submission. They had a heck of a 5 year run before closing in '96.
This was from New Japan. El Canek (seen at age 30) was a prominent superstar in Mexico who often held the UWA title. A long successful booking formula would find him defeating top stars on tour from around the world. Here the roles are reversed as Antonio Inoki (who perfected the same formula) plays the role of native standard-bearer. A battle of two legends seen near their peak.
This was from the Stampede Wrestling promotion based out of Calgary. A young, physically smaller Dynamite Kid measures in at age 20. Then touring WWF Jr. Heavyweight Champion Tatsumi Fujinami is seen at age 25. Two of the best juniors of the century viewed at a formative stage.
Fujinami's legacy tends to be underrated amongst U.S. fans. Trained by Karl Gotch, he spent much of his early career in Inoki's shadow and the torch was never clearly passed. His overall body of work stands up well.
This was from All Japan Women's Pro Wrestling for the WWWA Championship. Legendary Champion Aja Kong is seen at 23. A disciple of Jaguar Yokota, her career is a reminder that some of the best all around performers in the history of the industry were in fact women. Challenger Megumi Kudo was billed as the 'evil princess' and is also seen at age 23. Take note of the way Aja delivers her brutal Spinning Back Fist. Props to MK for being willing to repeatedly take such a stiff shot...I bet not too many men would!
This was from All Japan. Headliner/owner Giant Baba is seen at age 37. Hoffman is seen at his peak. Watch for Baba's steady mix of basic moves, comedy and charisma as he works a match with the stoic Hoffman that noticeably connects with the audience.
Critics of Baba's work would do well to judge it in the context of his entire career. While early supporting footage from his peak years tends to be sparse, I'd peg Baba as a man of stand out size who had a solid grasp of the fundamentals. Many years past his physical prime, he consistently projected an aura that carried him through as a box office draw and crowd favorite. Not too shabby!
This was from the World Wrestling Federation, taped for broadcast on Saturday Night's Main Event. The Rockers were comprised of Shawn Michaels and Marty Janetty. The Brain Busters (managed by Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan) were made up of Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson. Two of the highest end teams of the era in a sprint.
Blanchard & Anderson had defected from Jim Crockett's version of the NWA in late '88. Renowned for their work ethic and technical skills, they had quite a few standout programs during their year long stint. Looking back, an argument can be made that tag team wrestling in North America reached its absolute peak in 1989.
This was from a joint promotional show between New Japan and WCW. This match represented the finals of the G1 Climax tournament, the winner of which would emerge as the new NWA World Champion. Rick Rude is seen at age 33, arguably his absolute peak. A 28 year old Masahiro Chono cinches a career highlight. Solid match.
At the time, Bill Watts wanted to reintegrate the NWA title lineage back into WCW storylines. In the end, the process was a wash. Turner would keep possession of the widely recognized physical belt, but lose recognition from the NWA board (which itself was merely a shell of its past prestige).
This was from All Japan. Jumbo Tsuruta appears with under two years experience, teaming with The Destroyer at his peak. A 24 year old Kevin Sullivan is seen with just 4 years of ring time, while Johnny Rodz performs outside of the enhancement role that would define him during his WWF run. A fun match on many levels!
This was from the World Wrestling Federation at a Madison Square Garden house show. A rare sight as Satoru Sayama works the Tiger Mask gimmick in a marque US venue. Dynamite Kid had already perfected his program with TM while touring overseas in New Japan. A good sampling of how far ahead of their time these two were.