REWIND: AJPW Summer Action Series II
As part of this experiment of watching and writing about something each day, I'm usually searching something like "this day in wrestling [insert date]" which yields decent results for notable things that have happened on said date.
But, it's not everything.
For today, and probably going forward, I'm also going to cross-reference with the Internet Wrestling Database's date search so I can just get a list of all events that happened on the day, notable or not. My first thought was to try and find something that would just give me a list of all matches (and who knows, maybe CAGEMATCH does that somewhere), but this will do for now.
All that to say, the IWD site brought me to this: AJPW Summer Action Series II (Day 4) and the main event of Jumbo Tsuruta, Masanobu Fuchi, and Mighty Inoue vs Kenta Kobashi, Mitsuharu Misawa, and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi. I'd be a liar if I said I'd seen all of these guys wrestle, but I'd say I score a 50% here.
My first memory of Jumbo Tsuruta is of seeing his name while playing TNM 7 (which I'm surprised is still a thing), a memory that will live in my head as brightly as the big blue interface of TNM7 itself. I honestly don't know why I remember it so vividly.
Uploaded to Youtube by Kings AARK, we're able to enjoy this sucker the way I love to live and relive all old wrestling: in grainy quality without being weirdly retouched or edited or dubbed by someone 30 years later.
Kobashi, Misawa, and Kikuchi are out front in the dual tone ring before Tsuruta, Inoue, and Fuchi enter to wonderful 80s cop show-esque entrance music.
Misawa and Tsuruta shoot daggers at each other across the ring with their partners holding them back before the bell rings and the two officially start the match. THey lock up, but then it's immediately onto strikes as they trade forearm strikes. With some back and forth and counters, Misawa is able to power Tsuruta back into Tsuruta's own corner which leads to a break and a pause in the action as Tsuruta recovers on the floor.
Back in the ring, things slow down with some grappling as Kobashi wrestles Kikuchi to the mat, with tags made on each side here and there in an attempt to gain an advantage. Kobashi keeps control as he reenters the fray, this time wrestling Inoue to the mat before tagging Misawa back into the match.
Inoue catches an advantage when Kobashi is made legal before making the hasty tag to Tsuruta, immediately using his size to absorb Kobashi's strikes and move him to the corner where he can tag Fuchi back in. The crowd never really comes alive in these opening moments for anyone the way they do when Tsuruta is tagged in, though.
Kobashi is in to break up an Inoue camel clutch on Kikuchi, leading to a quick tag to Tsuruta. Tsuruta comes in, shoots Kikuchi to the ropes and performs a live murder via lariat to a gasp from the crowd. I may have also gasped. Tsuruta locks a Boston Crab on Kikuchi and it looks like a grown man putting the hold on one of those wrestling buddy pillows from the 90s. Tsuruta stands a full 7 inches taller than Kikuchi and he uses every bit of it.
Inoue enters as the legal man again, but his team is never truly in control unless Tsuruta is in the ring. With either Inoue or Fuchi legal, the opposing team's non-legal wrestlers are quick in coming in to break up any holds. With Tsuruta, though, he's too dominant at this stage in the match to be thwarted.
Keeping the punishment on Kikuchi, Inoue drops him on the concrete floor with a piledriver to basically no reaction. Kikuchi rallies back with a springboard clothesline on legal Fuchi before tagging Kobashi, launching himself off of the top with a dropkick.
Kobashi is in control of Fuchi, picking up near-falls with a rolling cradle and moonsault before Tsuruta once again becomes legal and lays him out with a big boot and accompanying high knee. Tsuruta once again locks in a Boston Crab, this time on Kobashi, which draws Misawa into the ring.
Misawa begins laying in elbow strikes to the head before Misawa comes from behind with a spinning kick to the back of the skull. Misawa gets tagged in and rushes to take Tsuruta down with a backdrop driver and forearm off the top.
Tsuruta gets one good shot in on Misawa as he sets up another backdrop leading Kikuchi to tag himself in. He uses his speed to hit Tsuruta with a flurry of moves, but Tsuruta soon tires of it. He stands tall in the face of Kikuchi's attack and lays him out with a single chop to the side of the face before he tags out to Inoue.
Kikuchi hits a beautiful fisherman suplex for two then a missile dropkick for another near-fall with Inoue getting his foot on the rope.
These final few minutes become a sprint, Inoue taking Kikuchi down with a gutbuster and a pair of rolling sentons. He tags out to Fuchi who double underhooks Kikuchi. Kobashi comes in and whiffs a spinning heel kick to free his partner, opting for a double axehandle to do the job.
Kikuchi misses a flying headbutt off of the top and Fuchi picks up the closest near-fall of the match thus far. Kikuchi fights back with a bridging German for two before Kobashi enters to hold Fuchi in the center. Kikuchi launches off of the top but Fuchi moves! Kikuchi collides with his partner, sending Kobashi rolling to the outside as Fuchi drops Kikuchi with a backdrop for yet another two count.
As the rest of the competitors either fight or recover on the floor – Misawa and Tsuruta are brawling all over ringside – Fuchi catches Kikuchi with a Thesz Press and pins his shoulders to the mat for the win!
The fighting isn't done, though, as the two sides continue to brawl on the outside... and that's basically where this video ends.
There's a lot of meat on the Misawa/Tsuruta bone, and maybe I'll figure out a concept for some long-form dives into specific rivalries or something at some point. While I've watched bits and pieces of All Japan over the years, it's always just been that – bits and pieces, but not a substantial pouring of oneself into the material.
For now, I'll leave it at that – a tease of things that could come. If I'm still writing in this format in a year, I'll earmark June 8 for Misawa/Tsuruta.