THANKS MR. BABA, 9/30/90
review by Mike Campbell
The man who made All Japan possible, celebrates thirty long years in the business, and the workers of All Japan go all out to make sure that this card is something to remember.
Kenta Kobashi . . . shows how awesome he is, even though his career is only two years along.
DYNAMITE KID/JOHNNY SMITH vs. JOE MALENKO/DEAN MALENKO
This is an example of the whole, not always being greater than the sum of the parts. I’ve never seen the highly pimped match between the Malenkos and Dynamite and Davey Boy, but I think it’d be safe to say its better than this match. There is nothing really actively wrong with it, but it tends to drag in places with the style they worked. When the Malenkos are in control, its all about the mat game. Dean and Joe are chain wrestling like mad, and stringing together moves left and right. Johnny Smith just kind of has to lay there and go with it. Now if this was supposed to be some sort of squash, where The Malenkos spend ten minutes schooling a couple of green boys on the mat, it’d be perfectly acceptable, but this is supposed to be competitive.
The Bulldogs work a more traditional pro style match, built around crowd pleasing, eye candy type stuff. The most advanced thing you see, is when Johnny hooks Dean up in a bow and arrow. The Malenkos show their superiority here, because they can also play along with the Bulldogs eye candy game, and start dishing out the suplexes. Not the Kurt Angle mentality of throw them for the hell of it, but more as way of saying “You wanna do pretty looking stuff, we can do that too.” There really isn’t that much as far as real wear down tactics go, when the Bulldogs control, and that takes some points off on the ending. They did do some knee work to soften up Dean. But the old “dropkick your partner in the back, so he’ll fall on top for the pin” spot, only work really well, if there is some sort of injury to exploit. Despite some knee work, Dean wasn’t really selling it as if it was really taking its toll. Dynamite fails in this aspect too, because he should have at least hooked a leg or something.
JOHNNY ACE/KENTA KOBASHI vs. DAN SPIVEY/GIANT KAMALA II
Poor Johnny Ace. He actually gets to be the star in this match, but he’s too big to be the kind of star he wanted to be. Ace tries to be Ricky Morton. All he accomplishes in that department is having the blond hair. When Kamala and Spivey beat him down, his best idea of how to sell it, is to just lay there like a sloth, and make some really odd looking facial expressions. Kamala’s nerve hold, has Ace make a face that looks like he isn’t sure whether he’s surprised or hurt. He makes zero connection, with the fans in the arena. Nobody is thinking “Come on Johnny, you can do it”. The mentality is “Wow, for such a big guy, Johnny Ace is sure a little wimp”. When he’s on offense its not so bad, because Ace shows his athleticism. He’s got nice height on his dropkick, and the Kobashi/Ace double dropkick on Kamala does get a bit of reaction. But then Ace goes and tries to be the high flyer and does the big plancha onto Spivey on the floor and it looks horrible, because he’s such a large guy.
Speaking of large guys, Kamala is pretty much useless for the whole match, except for working the same offense you’d expect from Abdullah The Butcher and Tiger Jeet Singh. But he shows that he has some athletic ability of his own, when he does a jumping lariat and gets some serious height on it. Kobashi isn’t featured all that much, but the little we do see of him shows that he’s something special, and believe it or not, he’s only two years into his career at this point. Ace is even more odd when they work the finish. Ace spent the bulk of the match getting pounded on and trying to (unsuccessfully) build up sympathy as the good looking blond guy in peril. But out of nowhere he has it in him to take the biggest guy in the match, and pin him after one of the most sloppy looking Ace Crushers. Ace didn’t even hold onto him going down, and suddenly Kamala is rendered unconscious. It isn’t really that big of a surprise that when you think of great matches involving Johnny Ace, they all seem to involve Misawa, Kobashi, Williams, etc.
JUMBO TSURUTA/AKIRA TAUE vs. MITSUHARU MISAWA/TOSHIAKI KAWADA
Those of you who aren’t up to speed on AJPW history, are probably wondering why Taue is teaming with Jumbo, after he was teaming with Misawa back in June. Well at the end of July, Kabuki left AJPW and Jumbo no longer had a reasonable tag team partner for the whole Young guys vs Old guys feud they were pushing. So in late August, Taue went from being Misawa’s #3 to Jumbo’s #2. Now instead of Misawa vs Jumbo being the main feud in the larger battle of young vs old. Its Misawa vs Jumbo as the main feud, period. Taue and Kawada also have a side issue going on, because Kawada sees Taue’s jump as treason, so its Misawa vs Jumbo as a feud for respect, and Kawada vs Taue as a personal vendetta. This is one of, if not the very first tag match between these two.
There is one dynamic in this match that really makes it special. Misawa and Kawada play the heels. It was sort of hinted in the big 6/8/90 match, that Misawa had that heelish edge to him, when he unloaded on Tsuruta with that big slap. But the mentality had always been to have the sympathy for these young kids trying to make names for themselves, while the old guard like Tsuruta wouldn’t get out of the way. But with Taue and his jump, Misawa and Kawada go full blown prick heel, to show how they feel about Taue’s decision. It isn’t JUST Misawa and Kawada who make this work though. Its an equal effort from all four of t hem.
Jumbo, the guy who will have to help Taue gets taken out early. Misawa and Kawada don’t really do anything huge to show that he’s gone. They do damaging looking things, like go to the eyes a lot, and Misawa unloads some punches, flush on Jumbo’s ear. The small stuff. But afterwards, Jumbo sells like a king. A single elbow from Misawa, or a jumping kick from Kawada will send him reeling back outside of the ring, and leave Taue at their mercy. Misawa and Kawada really unload on Taue, bloodying him up, and just generally kicking his ass. With Jumbo in trouble, its going to be up to Taue to step up, and show that Tsuruta’s gamble, to pair up with Taue, was the right one. Taue does his best, considering his limitations as a worker. His offensive runs are never that long, but long enough to show that he’s had enough and he can dish it out, as well as he can take the pounding. Misawa and Kawada also help this along with their selling, really giving off the effect that Taue is doing a number on them. Taue brings out his old sumo slaps to help him when he’s in trouble, and they drive Kawada right back to the ropes, and when Taue sees Misawa sleeping on the apron, he hits a cheap shot, to show Misawa that he can be a dick heel, just as well as they can. The sumo slaps come into play later, when Taue tries them again, and this time Kawada doesn’t take it. He gets knocked back a few steps and then unloads with some kicks of his own. Taue even goes for the Giant Baba offense in a jumping neckbreaker drop, which had some impressive height on it. Not to be outdone, Kawada pulls out a moonsault, to show that he can do some beauteous moves of his own.
Jumbo finally can’t take it anymore. He’s watched his partner get beat down long enough, and just like he did ten years earlier with Baba. He snaps. Jumbo runs in and starts taking Kawada apart, and then drills Misawa, just because. Although Jumbo got taken down early and couldn’t do much to help Taue in the match, he does what he can to help him win. Taue’s big hot tag is finally made and Jumbo cleans house, taking Kawada down with relative ease. What does he do though? He tag back in, to let Taue finish the job. Jumbo got his big revenge on Misawa earlier in the month in their singles re-match, and Kawada won’t have a prayer against him, but the win will be huge for Taue.
Another thing that makes this work so well, is the camera work, or specifically what we don’t always get a good look at. We’ll see the pin, and hear the ref count to two and then nothing. No kick out. Why the hell didn’t he count? The camera will pan back to show a foot on the rope. Although it may sound like a frustrating thing to have to watch over and over, it really adds a lot of drama. There is only one thing this match really lacks, and it’s a finish. But that would come two months down the road. ****1/4
GIANT BABA/ABDULLAH THE BUTCHER vs. ANDRE THE GIANT/STAN HANSEN
It’s rather sad that a legend like Baba had this sort of match to celebrate such a milestone. Not that this particular match would have ever been great in the first place. Out of the four here, only two of them (Baba and Hansen) were ever great workers to begin with, and now Baba’s age and disorder have caught up with him. Thankfully its kept short, and what they lack in the ability to really work a match, is made up for by trying to be more amusing. You can even see both Andre and Baba have big smiles on their faces throughout the whole match. They may not be setting the world on fire, like the kids did in the last match, but they’re having a good time.
Hansen does the bumping and selling for the match, it wouldn’t be very in character for Abdullah to do that sort of thing, and its way below what would be expected of Andre and Baba, so Hansen is really the only choice. Abdullah brings the fork into play of course, against Baba’s wishes. Which of course leads to Baba taking a shot from it as well. Of course, Baba gets his revenge with the big boot, and then Andre does the insult of insults, when he uses a running elbow drop to pin Butcher. The booking is a bit odd, since you’d expect Baba to pick up the win at his big anniversary celebration, or at the very least, be on the winning team.
Conclusion: Well there is only really one good match, but its one hell of a match. If you can find it on a compilation tape or something, that would be the best route, but if the only way to see the match is on this tape, then definitely pick it up.
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