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Tatsumi Fujinami

Tatsumi Fujinami NJPW

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#21 Boss Rock

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Posted 27 November 2017 - 11:43 AM

Fujinami is a wrestler I've long thought I'd like without ever seeing much of his work. As a longtime All Japan mark and all-around wrestling philistine, I've never had much occasion to dive into the work of a man who is, according to the inarguable dictates of science, the 20th greatest wrestler of all time.


Of all time!


But I have an NJPW World account and some time to kill between their last letdown of an event and upcoming, dog-ass awful tag team tournament, so why not watch every Fujinami match on the service?


They didn't make it easy (I hesitate to blame Gedo personally, but who else is there?). Normally a wrestler has two entries in the tag list; one in Japanese, and one in our Roman script. For some reason, there are four Fujinamis in the archive, and each one has a different number of matches. Dammit, Gedo!


I choose the first of these, with the largest number of matches (44). It seems to be mostly in chronological order.


WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship bout Carlos Estrada vs Tatsumi Fujinami


I guess this is the title that wound up in the J-Crown before the WWF demanded it back.


Here's what I like about Carlos/Jose Estrada (and kudos to the MSG ring announcer for that rolled R on his last name): The dude starts heeling immediately. He lofts the belt like a dick and then proceeds to bitch and moan the whole time the ref is checking him. Here is a man who will take a shortcut, you say to yourself. Meanwhile, Fujinami's in the other corner wearing the traditional young lion gear and looking all wholesome and full of fighting spirit.


Estrada brings a lot of hip tosses and some pretty sweet full-body-windup punches, and Fujinami gets his fighting spirit comebacks here and there. In response to a couple totally rad dropkicks, Estrada puts on the full heel handshake act. The beg-off, the hands behind the back, the offered handshake, the full drop to the knees one hand behind the back offered handshake.


Will this virtuous young man fall for the wiles of the crafty veteran? What if I told you there were no wiles, and Estrada just wanted to shake hands? And the fans boo him for just shaking hands and not cheating? Seriously, this guy's an amazing heel.


Eventually Estrada goes for and misses some kind off flip of the top rope. Fujinami hits him with what must be one of the first recorded dragon suplexes, and - making an argument that wrestling in 1978 is better than it is in 2017 - pins him with it. 


Fujinami reacts with wild, hair-out-of-place enthusiasm - he can't believe he did it! His joy is infectious, as the American crowd seems to be just as excited as he is (at least the collection of sideburns and turtlenecks picked up by the camera is). Estrada sells like he's dead, because he's a pro and he just got nailed with a damn dragon suplex in 1978.


An in-ring in-Japanese interview follows, in which they seem to talk a lot about the suplex and about Fujinami doing his best. This must have been fascinating for the audience.


This was great. Early Fujinami was like Hirai Kawato, and that's pretty much the best thing you can be.


Lack of older stuff on the World is disappointing, but I wanna say I heard a lot of that content is owned by different TV stations they can't get the rights from.


At any rate, Fujinami is definitely a guy I've been meaning to dive in to. Thank you for the write-ups!

#22 William Bologna

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Posted 27 November 2017 - 05:37 PM

Yeah, the spottiness is frustrating. And I think it's going to get worse as I go on - there's only one match from the 90s.
WWF International Heavyweight Championship bout Riki Choshu vs Tatsumi Fujinami 8/4/1983
A month has passed, and these two eternal antagonists are ready to decide once and for all who deserves this made up-ass title that no one cares about.


Choshu's valiant but outnumbered cornerman is back, wearing red trunks and a garish yellow t-shirt that says "Hawaii 82" on it. It's pretty intimidating, so maybe they'll play things straight this time.


We get lots of matwork with little to break it up. They cut it close on a spot where Fujinami has to bridge out of a pinning combination - he just barely makes it. You can tell the ref is relieved he didn't have to stall the count any more than he already did.


Finally they get up and start running the ropes. Fujinami continues to jack Choshu's moves as he once again goes for the scorpion deathlock. Then we get a near-replay of the outside the ring exchange from two matches ago: Fujinami whips Choshu into the barricade and turns his back on him only to eat a lariat. Choshu tries to bring Fujinami back in with a vertical suplex, but this time it works.


Fujinami ducks a lariat, and the ref gets clotheslined damn near out of his skintight polo. Fujinami opens up with some slaps right to Choshu's face, but he turns it into a backdrop suplex and deathlock. Eventually he tries to lariat Fujinami off the apron, but Fujinami ducks. Choshu spills out of the ring, but Fujinami has his leg stuck in the ropes, which looked accidental.


They take the fight outside, with an enzuigiri and backdrop getting hit out there. Both head back into the ring, but while Fujinami just beats the count, Choshu does not and thus loses the title.


It's too bad about the finish. I was hoping for a tale of redemption here: Fujinami loses his title, struggles, and triumphs in the end. While he did wind up winning, it was in only the most technical sense. His redemption should have been completed with a dragon suplex or something rather than the referee following the letter of the countout law for basically the only time ever.


Wikipedia tells us that Fujinami refused the title under those circumstances, but since Choshu couldn't make it to Canada for a rematch, he decided to keep it. I'm guessing "rematch in Canada" is of a type with "tournament in Rio de Janeiro," and Choshu didn't want to take a pinfall.


Which is really too bad, because it was a good series after the cruddy start. There was a good escalation of offense throughout, with Fujinami stealing Choshu's moves and Choshu busting out some new stuff along the way, like a running shoulderbreaker in this match. Choshu was pretty good - most of his moves looked lousy, but he brought intensity, and the crowd clearly bought into him.


They have another singles match early in 1984, but before then we get some tag contests featuring an old favorite, a new partner, and the second Fujinami opponent who's bodyslammed Andre. Brother.

#23 Childs

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Posted 28 November 2017 - 01:50 AM

 Speaking to the spottiness of NJ World, there were two other matches in their '83 series (another April one and one in September) that added richness to the whole thing, though the series still didn't come to a definitive conclusion. Then they hooked it up again in 1988.

#24 William Bologna

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Posted 28 November 2017 - 09:15 PM

MSG Tag League regular season Antonio Inoki & Hulk Hogan vs Tatsumi Fujinami & Akira Maeda 12/7/1983


This might be the first Maeda match I've ever seen. He's tall, but there's nothing much that stands out about him.


You can't say that about the Hulkster. I don't know what it is (I never have), but the people are in love.


Here he does the holds he busts out whenever he's in Japan. We get some armdrags, the hammerlock, and so on. He looks a lot better dishing out the armdrags than he does taking them - there's a certain awkwardness to him, but he does move very well for such a big guy. 


Inoki is as bad as always. There was a lively debate in his GWE thread over whether he was any good, and I just don't see any pros. I'll admit I came in biased against him, but he really hasn't done anything in any of these matches. I guess he was a little more lively in singles matches?


Here he works holds, for certain very generous definitions of "work." He refuses to give Fujinami anything. He'll hold Fujinami in a headlock or whatever, Fujinami escapes, and Inoki immediately locks him back into a headscissors. He's a bit more generous with Maeda.


The problem with a team like Inoki and Hogan (other than it being at least 50% terrible) is that one of these invincible headliners has to get beat on. Hogan takes the brunt here, and the crowd clearly doesn't buy into it. They're silent when Maeda does something to Hogan but perk right back up when the Hulkster goes on the offense. He hits a very nice kneedrop and a vertical suplex before going for the big legdrop and missing. Fujinami and Maeda pull off a double vertical suplex, and then Maeda hits Hogan with a legdrop while Fujinami has him in a leghold. Nifty.


Decent finish: Hogan whips Maeda into the ropes, but Fujinami runs in and hits a dropkick to prevent the dreaded axe bomber. Maeda tries a dropkick of his own, but Hogan blocks and hits the bomber for the pin. And the crowd goes wild because they really do love Hulk.


Having typed all that, I realize that made the match sound better than it was. Other than the fun sequences I described, it was listless. I'm comfortable blaming most of this on Inoki, but not all.


Hogan was pretty decent. You don't want to go too far with that - this is a Japan that still has Stan Hansen in it - but he did some cool stuff, and he could really move. This might have been a hell of a match if we had Choshu or Hamaguchi in there instead of the boss.

#25 William Bologna

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Posted 04 December 2017 - 07:25 PM

Fujinami Tatsumi Akira Maeda vs Choshu force Yoshiaki Yatsu 1/1/1984


These two ancient rivals ring in the new year by locking up again. They've brought allies with them this time. We've seen Maeda once, and I'm happy to report that he resists the urge to punt Choshu right in the orbital bone.


For now.


Meanwhile, we see Yatsu for the first time. I don't have good memories of the man. I had a compilation of 1988/1989 All Japan that had about 20 Tsuruta/Yatsu vs Tenryu/Kawada matches. As I recall, Yatsu's main thing was artlessly to shrug off Kawada's offense and bring everything to a grinding halt. I've since seen him touted as a superworker, so we'll see.


Since we last saw them, Choshu has grown his hair out, while Fujinami looks to have gotten a giant pile of steroids for Christmas.


Choshu vs Fujinami remains a big ticket rivalry; when Maeda tags Fujinami, he demands that Choshu get in. They do a hot sequence, and the crowd goes crazy.


Yatsu is not an asset in this. He noticeably screws up on three separate occasions, and he's got "Japan" on the sides of his tights. Is it the most interesting thing you could think of? There are three other guys from Japan in this match. Four if you count the ref. Five if you count the ring announcer. Six if you count the guy in the classic t-shirt and trunks combo who helps Choshu blast Maeda with a lariat later. This isn't like Will Ospreay sporting a Union Jack.


He does have a cool way of throwing himself into the ropes when he's running. That's the only thing I like about him.


Everyone except Choshu takes a turn getting beaten on for a while, and it's not bad. They attempt a bunch of double-team maneuvers, including variations on putting a guy in a hold and having your partner jump on him. Also popular is holding a guy up and having your partner come up off the top rope with a half-assed forearm. It's 1984, so while these highspots aren't mind-blowing, I appreciate the attempts.


Maeda winds up getting his ass kicked pretty hard. Yatsu and Choshu hit him with a damn spike piledriver, and Choshu follows up with one of his bad lariats (this gets another "Stan Hansen!" from the announcer, which is just unfair to Choshu. Don't be reminding the people of what a good lariat looks like!).


They take Maeda outside, where Yatsu holds him for Choshu to deliver the coup de grace. Choshu winds up, gets a running start, and fucking trips on some streamers. Just completely eats it out there. This did not seem to be a planned spot. The t-shirted crony takes over the holding duties, Choshu hits Maeda, and Team Choshu wins by countout.


Decent piece of business here. The work and pace were good, and there was enough heat to keep you invested in the characters. The finish was acceptable by the low standards of the 1980s.

#26 Childs

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Posted 06 December 2017 - 01:22 PM

Yatsu wrestled for Japan in the Olympics. I believe that's why he wore the tights. 

#27 William Bologna

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Posted 06 December 2017 - 09:06 PM

Fujinami Tatsumi vs Riki Choshu 2/3/1984


I hope your happiness doesn't count on reading my opinions of a fifth Choshu vs. Fujinami match, because this one doesn't happen. There's a tussle outside the ring, and some dude yells into the mic for a while. Eventually we see Choshu emerge from the fracas, and he's all bloody. Dirty work at the crossroads!


The rest of this is basically the aftermath of one of those patented 80s bad finishes, but at least they didn't make the guys wrestle for 15 minutes beforehand. Fujinami beats up on Choshu and gets blood all over himself, the crowd throws streamers, the cornermen get involved - the usual.


It ends with the referee standing in the middle of the ring holding that fake-ass belt they were always fighting over, looking as befuddled as I was.


Cagematch informs us via Google translate that the match didn't happen because Yoshiaki Fujiwara attacked Choshu and I guess made him bleed with an armbar or something. So thanks for coming, Sapporo, and drive safe!


It's amazing that the 80s didn't kill wrestling in this country.

#28 William Bologna

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Posted 07 December 2017 - 09:10 PM

Antonio Inoki & Fujinami Tatsumi vs Masa Saito & Riki Choshu 5/24/1984


Our first Saito sighting, and man is he cool. He looks like some kind of giant steroid caveman, and he can really move.


The bad guys - and we'll see just how bad they are later on - dominate. We get a just fantastic heat segment on Fujinami. Choshu's got his working shoes on, Saito is awesome, and they're tagging in and out contantly and keeping things moving as they work over Fujinami.


Inoki gets similar treatment, amid short comebacks from our heroes. Well, from our hero and the butthole who signs everyone's checks.


To be fair, Inoki doesn't hold this match back at all. He's generous with his foes this time, and he really does get his ass kicked.


Which brings us to the finish. Choshu puts Inoki through the ringer - Inoki gets blasted with a lariat, spike piledriven, and then lariated again. Choshu is absolutely sure he has the pin, but Inoki kicks out so subtly that we can't even blame Choshu and Saito for being upset. I'm even willing to cut Choshu some slack when he winds up and sends the ref to the shadow zone with a clothesline.


Fujinami is not as understanding as I, and his attempt to intervene earns him a lariat of his own. Choshu and Saito, disqualified, treat it as a moral victory.


This was pretty good. It started out hot, as the villains really put a lot of work into beating up their opponents. They weren't just sitting in holds; they kept it going. It did slow down, though. They spent far too much time taking turns putting Inoki in the scorpion deathlock, but it picked up again towards the end as the anti-Inoki violence reached a crescendo. This was a good 20 minute match that would have been a great 15 minutes.

#29 William Bologna

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Posted 09 December 2017 - 10:30 AM

WWF World Heavyweight Championship bout Hulk Hogan vs Fujinami Tatsumi 6/11/1985


This is for the WWF title, so we know who's not winning. Can you imagine an American company putting the title on Fujinami? And then headlining a pay-per-view with him? Why, a company that did that would have to be run by idiots.


It's interesting that since it's Japan, the WWF title gets the full treatment - they haul out a trophy and a certificate at the end and have someone doing the Lord James Blears-style awkward speech into the mic announcing the title match. Doing the honors tonight is . . . holy crap, that's Vince! He's showing no hint of the character he would become, as this speech is just as stiff as it usually is on these occasions.


Danny Hodge is the special guest referee. He does OK. He doesn't Kiniski it up or anything.


They repeat this sequence a few times: Hogan dominates on the mat and whips Fujinami into the ropes (which always gets a pop since the crowd is waiting for the axe bomber). Fujinami ducks and gets in some offense. Then we go back to Hogan holding him down.


It's better than I'm making it sound. Hogan looks awkward standing (he opens with that go behind hammerlock thing he always does in Japan, and it looks terrible), and their height difference makes some of the upright exchanges look silly, but he's fine on the mat. He throws out some nifty stuff - a running powerslam, a Jumbo-style jumping knee, a backdrop suplex, and a weird-looking double club to the back of the head off the ropes. He even busts out a surfboard. He's laying in his shots, too. Hogan is very, very good in this match, and it helps that once again the crowd is infected with Hulkamania.


Finally, they resume running the ropes. Fujinami ducks an axe bomber but gets hit on the rebound for the pin.


This was worth watching, and the weird thing is that Fujinami was the second-best guy in the match. He's still not really making his presence felt in these heavyweight matches, and he plain screws up a couple times here. At one point he's on offense and bodyslams the Hulkster. Then he stops, does nothing for a moment, and bodyslams him again, deflating a previously noisy crowd. Worse is the finish. On the axe bomber, he apparently forgets to bump, and Hulk has to kind of push him over with his arm. It looks awful, and it takes away from what should have been a hot finish.

#30 William Bologna

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Posted 14 December 2017 - 07:47 PM

Antonio Inoki vs Fujinami Tatsumi 9/19/1985


My dedication to this project has been - I'm sure I don't need to tell you - nothing short of the astonishing. The blistering pace, the careful research (sometimes I'd consult both Wikipedia and Cagematch!), the sleepness nights trying to figure out something to say about another Choshu match . . . but this is too much.


I'm not saying I couldn't make it through 35 minutes of Fujinami rolling around on the mat with Antonio Goddamn Inoki, but if I did, it would probably be the last wrestling match I ever watched. So I skipped around a lot.


Inoki has a young Masahiro Chono in his corner; first time I've recognized one of the cornermen. The Fujinami matches end in 1989, so I'm thankfully spared from having to watch a lot of Chono down the line.


And there's special guest referee Lou Thesz. He's no Danny Hodge.


Meanwhile, Inoki looks like he's been too busy doing stupid shit and losing everyone's money to hit the gym. He's got a broad chest, but his limbs are all spindly, and he looks like a mini Baba.


They surprise us all by taking it to the mat early. So I skipped a few minutes, and they're on the mat.


I skip a few more minutes, and they're doing some rope-running, but cooler heads prevail as they stop themselves and go to the mat.


*fast forward*


They're working a figure four.


*fast forward*


Arm bar.


*fast forward*


OK, here are some moves. Fujinami even hits a dragon suplex - haven't seen that in a while. Eventually Inoki sinks in the dreaded (and stupid-looking) octopus hold. Fujinami powers out, but Inoki takes have again and goes to the octopus hold. Fujinami gets to the ropes, but Inoki comes back with an . . . octopus hold. Then Thesz calls it off - I'm guessing he couldn't take any more.


Remember when Fujinami was a junior heavyweight? Remember how fun that was?

#31 fxnj

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Posted 26 December 2017 - 05:04 AM

You totally underrated Fujinami/Inoki. Match tells a great story with Inoki as the old school ace trying to fend off his faster and flashier protoge. The mat work is simple if you're used to WoS or shoot-style, but the selling and struggle is off the charts, and that's really what's important to me.

#32 NintendoLogic


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Posted 26 December 2017 - 02:47 PM

If you think Fujinami's heavyweight matches are a chore to get through, just hang in there. I'm sure the elimination tag matches will be more your speed.

#33 William Bologna

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Posted 15 January 2018 - 01:54 PM



I've never seen Sakaguchi before. He towers over the rest of them, and he looks like the Son I am disappoint guy. Haircut you could set your watch to.


So, this was great. It's long, but they keep things moving. The build from matwork to rope-running to throwing bombs felt correct. For once, Antonio Inoki was really, really good. Everyone was. It was great.


Exciting finish as Fujinami comes off the ropes at Inoki, kinda tries for an octopus, and goes behind to hit the dragon suplex and . . . pin Inoki! He can't believe it. The crowd can't believe it. Kengo Kimura's more surprised than anyone. I was totally expecting Inoki to pop up and act like it didn't hurt (Muto-style) or do something else to steal Fujinami's thunder, but to his credit he just looked appropriately chagrined.


Fujinami and Kimura win the tag league, so everyone comes out to get their trophies. We hear another big pop when Dick Murdoch shakes Fujinami's hand, which was cool. I wish there were more Dick Murdoch in this thing. That tag league in 1981 that Andre and Goulet won also had Dick Murdoch and Stan Hansen teaming up. Murdoch/Hansen is the Misawa/Kobashi of dickhead gaijin ass-kickers, but we get exactly zero of their matches on NJPW World.


This was better than anything at Wrestle Kingdom.

#34 William Bologna

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 07:09 PM

Lots of new experiences for me in this one. I've never seen Kantaro Hoshino, Umanosuke Ueda, or Yoshiaki Fujiwara before. I haven't seen Kazuo Yamazaki since the 90s, I've seen little of Nobuhiko Takada other than Vader matches and Hustle gifs, and Osamu Kido is famous for being the kind of guy you can't remember if you've seen.
UWF invades! They have kickpads and less fakey-looking submissions, and they're completely mad as hell. Also mad as hell is our hero Antonio Inoki, who has to be restrained from fighting these guys a minute before he's supposed to fight these guys.
Akira Maeda, last seen as Fujinami's tall but forgettable partner, is leading this rag-tag band of slightly more plausible wrestlers, and he has truly transformed himself. By which I mean that he now has kickpads and kicks all the time. He didn't used to do that.
My MVP here is Kantaro Hoshino. He's a head shorter than anyone else in the match, but he's out there running around in his uncanny tiny-man way and throwing haymakers. It's all excitement when he's laying into some kickpadder or getting himself booted around. He goes out early, but he makes his mark.
Fujinami's contribution here is focused on dealing with that damn Fujiwara. I immediately liked Fujiwara - he has a different kind of presence from anyone else. He and Fujinami work an extremely nifty sequence that has me looking forward to the next entry in this series, which is a singles match between the two. They eliminate each other by mutually falling out of the ring, which is apparently part of the rules of this match.
I'm trying to figure out what's going on with Ueda - is he injured? He's barely in this, but the crowd goes nuts whenever he tags in. His longest stretch sees him as one of two men left. He tags in, Maeda kicks the hell out of him, and they tumble out of the ring together.
Finally we're left with Inoki vs. Takada and Kido, and guess what happens. And while I really do hate Inoki, I can't get too mad about the result here. Inoki worked his ass off, made sure to use all his fakest submissions (spinning toehold, abdominal stretch, surfboard) to heighten the contradictions, and had the crowd yelling his name throughout the match. He should have won.
This was rad, but of course it was. There were ten dudes so it was all action, and the crowd was absolutely molten for the whole thing. I'm grading on a curve here, because this was an extremely easy environment in which to have an exciting match.

#35 William Bologna

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Posted 19 January 2018 - 07:50 PM



This is part of a 5-man NJPW vs UWF gauntlet match, and it would appear from the blood on his face that Fujiwara has already been through some stuff.


Fujinami sinks in a headlock and they sit in it for most of the match. But it's great! Fujiwara's always trying tricky stuff to get out of it, but Fujinami holds on. And it makes perfect sense - Fujinami's fresh, and all his blood is still inside his body (for now). He's pressing his advantage.


This strategy falls apart when Fujiwara gets him outside and, as so often happens when he ventures outside the ring, Fujinami winds up with a non-trivial amount of his blood sitting on his face. He really hit one this time.


Fujiwara presses his advantage by removing the mats and piledriving Fujinami on the floor. They beat the hell out of each while each man tries to stop the other from getting back in the ring. Once in, Fujiwara brutalizes Fujinami with headbutts and uppercuts until our hero blocks an uppercut and turns it into a backslide for three.


Fujiwara has this cool "whatever" kind of attitude afterwards - he even goes in for a handshake. Fujinami, blood pouring down his face, slaps him and yells a bit. 


This was short but really cool. It made sense, and it got just vicious as it went on. I'm going to need to go back and watch the rest of the Fujiwara matches, because that is an interesting dude. He has kind of Minoru Suzuki vibe - he just carries himself differently. It's a mixture of sadism and indifference.

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