The collection of matches and segments I am watching for this series come from a 1992 Yearbook created by Goodhelmet, a longtime poster at the Death Valley Driver Forum and other wrestling places. A cross-section of the best (and worst of wrestling within a certain year), it is a great snapshot of everything of importance. The footage is taken from July 27-31.
After a show that was all action from the Good Ol’ US of A, this week’s action has a more international flavor as shoot-style, puro and lucha are showcased in some significant shows as July drew to a close.
First up this week is our third (if I remember correctly) trip to Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi. However, there is no Fujiwara in sight for either of the two matches on the set as the action began with Yuki Ishikawa versus Kazuo Takahashi. I can never tell what ‘style’ of shoot fighting I might see, but I was quite hopeful when the two men started off with a series of vicious slaps. Primarily, it was Takahashi who bullied Ishikawa for long sequences, even using headbutts in an effort to try and advance his position on the canvas. Things turned briefly in Ishikawa’s favour in the latter half, yet Takahashi did a lot more of the eye-catching work, such as stuffing a takedown and pummelling Ishikawa with stiff shots to the stomach. Out of nowhere, Takahashi slipped on a half Boston crab and finally put Ishikawa out of his misery. Long in places and almost squash-like in my opinion, but the stiffness and intensity of the work was fun.
From the same card we have Jerry Flynn and his mullet taking on Wayne Shamrock, or as you might know him, Ken. This was a shorter content than the previous offering and a lot of the work focused more on submission than strikes, especially as the two men battled over leglocks in the early exchanges. There was a sudden flurry from Flynn that dropped Shamrock, though this seemed to be prompting a Shamrock onslaught that had Flynn on the mat moments later. Flynn had to use the ropes several times to save himself, but was unable to avoid an armbar that gave Shamrock the victory. This was more preferable in length than the previous match, but lacked the overall intensity when it came to the work.
New Japan was next on the list as we got two of the big matches from the Summer Struggle show. First up was Masahiro Chono versus Shiro Koshinaka and I was surprised by how out and out heelish Chono was at this stage, as it was something I thought he leant into a lot more as he got older. The fans are very behind Koshinaka and he even attacked Chono before the match officially began. When Chono was in control, he effectively slowed things down and bent the rules to build the crowd’s resentment as they remained heated throughout. There was an odd exchange as they traded superplexes: each man hit two, thus covering all four corners. It was an interesting take on the standing ‘fighting spirit’ spots that can be seen in puro matches.
To add further to the heat, Chono busted Koshinaka open. From there, it was all about whether Koshinaka could overcome adversity to win. He came close with multiple back suplexes and a dragon suplex, but after fighting off several attempted STFs, he eventually succumbed to the submission hold. A really fun match mainly due to the heat of the crowd and the personalities of the men involved, which even spilled into a post-match brawl that focused particularly on Kengo Kimura getting into Chono’s face. Worth seeking out.
Another match on the show saw a huge tag team collision as Tatsumi Fujinami teamed with the Kensuke Sasaki to take on Hiroshi Hase and Shinya Hashimoto. Considering when this was taped, this can’t be too far away from the G-1 Climax, so was a chance for four of the combatants to get involved against each other. It also protects an aging Fujinami and a still learning Sasaki. The initial exchanges saw Sasaki and Hase pair off first, with Hase unsurprisingly coming up short against Sasaki’s strength, only to outwork him with speed and technique. The most interesting pairing in the opening half of the contest was Sasaki and Hashimoto, with Sasaki manhandling Hashimoto with several headbutts and a suplex variation that earned a round of applause from the fans.
Though things were fairly even throughout, it was Hashimoto and Hase who had the most prolonged period on top as they began to work over Sasaki. Instead of building to a hot tag, this instead saw Sasaki fight his way back into the match as he overpowered Hase, landing a picture-perfect ipponzeoi in the process. This desire to fight back on his own felt like it eventually cost Sasaki as some back and forth saw Hase hit a version of a uranage that dumped him hard, before two DDTs – the second one very stiff looking – saw Hashimoto take the pin. The match felt a little long for what it offered, but it was fun to see them beginning to get Sasaki in and around these bigger names as a singles run perhaps was in the reckoning.
Heading to the competition on the same day, Stan Hansen headlined an All Japan show with a Triple Crowd defense against Akira Taue. While Taue had more than held his own in the great team he had with Jumbo Tsuruta, it was often Tsuruta who had to save his charge, so it was interesting to see what the challenger would offer on his own. The initial answer to that question was clear as Taue matched Hansen strike for strike in an early back and forth, almost forcing Hansen to resort to a choke in order to wear his opponent down. Within minutes, Taue was targeting the arm, leading to a dichotomy as the fans were mainly behind the challenger, but they didn’t appreciate him cheating. Taue was a physical presence that Hansen struggled to handle, with even a chairshot to the back only earning him one in return moments later.
It was Taue’s desire to cause damage that allowed Hansen back into the fight. The challenger was dropped with a suplex at ringside having dragged the match to the outside himself. However, Hansen was still largely on the backfoot as the damage he had accrued was significant. Taue almost put the champion away with a Nodowa Otoshi and a top rope chop, though a bulldog near the end looked very sloppy even as it gained a nearfall. The danger of Hansen’s offense was part of what made him so good though, and a back suplex allowed him to drill Taue with a lariat to pretty much steal the win. This made Taue look great in defeat, while also selling how resilient Hansen was and how he could turn a match on a dime.
The birth of AAA as a promotion has been interesting to see, especially as they have offered up some big-name contests. Admittedly, some of them were less noteworthy perhaps in 1992, but a match with Psicosis, Rey Mysterio Jr. and Super Calo was interesting to see with each man so early on in their relative careers. In fact, the bulk of the luchadors in this contest hadn’t yet had five years in the ring. The contest saw Rey Mysterio Jr. join Super Calo and Winner (the eventual Abismo Negro) to take on Psicosis, Heavy Metal, and Mr. Condor.
The action was a lot slower to begin with than I expected, though that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as the stalling and hair pull-based offense generated some decent heat from the crowd. Winner also had some success in forcing a couple of collisions between Psicosis and Heavy Metal much to the fans’ delight. As they sometimes do in lucha, things suddenly picked up as Mysterio rolled up Condor, Calo downed Psicosis with a top rope dropkick and Winner almost brained himself on the concrete with a dive on Metal – within that, the team managed to pick up the primera caida.
The rudos trio wasn’t messing around in the segunda as they isolated Winner, openly triple-teaming him without much disruption from either the referees or their opponents. The best thing about Mysterio’s size was how easy it was for him to be bullied by the other team as a handful of tights and mask twice saw Psicosis and Metal launch him into the air and slam him into the camera. A triple team submission finished Calo moments later, before Psicosis tied things up with a rolling senton on Winner.
The general tone turned nastier as the match headed into the tercera with some ringside brawling as the officials completely lost control. This was by far the best action with dives and several ringpost shots upping the ante. Seconds before the finish, Calo and Metal landed excellent dives to the outside, only for Rey Mysterio to completely miss with a moonsault to the concrete. With all of the focus on the outside, Condor landed a low blow on Winner for the unpopular victory. Slow in places, but very much picked up towards the end.
The action that is readily available from this week is worth checking out, yet it is a shame that the New Japan card isn’t out there to be watched. If you like your puro heated and with large characters, the Masahiro Chono and Shiro Koshinaka match is well worth checking out. Join me next week as we continue to work our way through 1992 in That Was The Year That Was.