JWA Special TV Event: Two Gauntlet Matches
Airing May 8th on Asahi TV
Match #1, 4-man teams, 30 minute time limit
Mil Mascaras Antonio Inoki
Dos Caras Seiji Sakaguchi
Kengo Kimura Yoshiaki Fujiwara
Tatsumi Fujinami Akira Maeda
Match #2, 5-man teams, 60 minute time limit
Giant Baba Riki Choshu
Jumbo Tsuruta Stan Hansen
Genichiro Tenryu Bad News Allen
Yoshiaki Yatsu Dick Murdoch
Andre the Giant Bruiser Brody
JWA Gauntlet matches are wrestled as a kind of combination gauntlet match and lumberjack match, with the men not legally wrestling or up next in the batter’s box standing at ringside and legally able to interfere if someone is tossed outside.
Here are the rules: Tags can be made, but only in the batting order provided. So, for example, at the start of the match Baba can only tag in Jumbo and then Jumbo can only tag in Tenryu. If Tenryu is eliminated and Jumbo is the legal man, he can only tag in whoever the next remaining wrestler is on the batting order (in this case, it would be Sayama). The “next man up” in the batting order must stand on the ring apron holding the tag rope. A wrestler can be eliminated by pinfall, submission, count-out, disqualification, or referee’s decision. Outside of the ring, interference is permitted. Any in-ring interference whatsoever is grounds for disqualification. Eliminated wrestlers may remain at ringside but are removed from the batting order and may not be tagged back in to the match. The match is over when all members of one team have been eliminated, with the other team being declared the victor. In the case of the time limit being reached, the team with the most remaining wrestlers will be declared the victor.
Match #1, 4-man teams, 30 minute time limit: Mil Mascaras, Dos Caras, Kengo Kimura, and Fujinami vs Inoki, Sakaguchi, Fujiwara, and Maeda
With one very notable exception, this was straight-up, respectful, clean and scientific wrestling all the way. Starting out with Inoki facing off against Mil Mascara was our way of trying to advertise that JWA is the ultimate in big-time Japanese Professional Wrestling, the place where dream match-ups happen regularly.
They exchanged strikes, moves, holds, and counters… then Dos Caras was tagged in for more of the same, then Kimura… the big exception to the general rule of keeping it clean and respectful was that Inoki and Maeda took every available opportunity to cheap-shot Tatsumi Fujinami. They knocked him off the ring apron threw him outside to take beatings, hit him with closed fists behind Joe Higuchi’s back… This had the effect of enraging both Fujinami and his friend and frequent tag team partner Kengo Kimura. That, in turn, led to the first elimination of the match as Kimura made a mistake and got trapped in the opposing corner where he took a ton of punishment before being forced to submit to Inoki’s Octopus Hold. Fujinami came in all fired up and managed to put Sakaguchi away with a Dragon Suplex to even things up. With about seven minutes remaining, Yoshiaki Fujiwara caught Dos Caras with an Armbar to regain the advantage. Once again, a fired-up Fujinami came charging into the ring. He did everything in his power to put Fujiwara away, but Maeda and Inoki kept breaking up his attempted pins and submissions.
When the bell rang to signal the end of the match, and victory for Inoki’s team, Fujinami was visibly frustrated and had to be restrained from going after Inoki. This led to a bit of a shoving match between Fujinami and Mascaras, and ended with Mascaras and his brother challenging Fujinami and his friend to a match on the 16th in Osaka.
Match #2, 5-man teams, 60 minute time limit: Baba, Tsuruta, Tenryu, Yatsu, and Andre vs Choshu, Hansen, Bad News, Murdoch, and Brody
While the first match was mainly clean and scientific wrestling, this one was a full-on 60-minute bomb-throwing brawl. It started out hot with Baba and Choshu throwing down in the middle of the ring, showcasing a different side of the Japanese Giant from what our fans are used to seeing. By the 30-minute mark, almost half of the participants had been bloodied and everyone was fired up and swinging for the fences.
Brody levelled Yatsu with a huge Lariat, tagged in Choshu who added one of his own, and then finally Stan Hansen was tagged in and hit the third and final Lariat on the former Olympic wrestler to give Choshu’s team the advantage. Andre the Giant came into the ring determined to even things up and that led to the best sequence of the match, as he and Hansen went about ten minutes at full speed with Andre throwing everything he had at the big Texan and Hansen simply being too tough to stay down. When a stalemate was reached and the men went to tag in Baba and Bad News, respectively, the crowd rewarded their outstanding work with a loud ovation.
Baba almost put Bad News away, but the judoka managed to escape and hit the tag to Murdoch. Then Captain Redneck and Jumbo went back and forth until Murdoch surprised Tsuruta with a Flying Headscissors after which Brody hit a King Kong Kneedrop to pin Jumbo and put Choshu’s team up two falls to nil.
With only 15 minutes remaining, things were not looking good for Baba’s team. When Brody and Tenryu brawled out of the ring for a Double Count-Out, eliminating both men, thing really didn’t look all that much better.
Baba and Andre were determined not to lose, though, and with quick tags and teamwork they managed to quickly eliminate both Dick Murdoch and Bad News Allen to even things up with a little over five minutes remaining.
Listening to the crowd, Baba and Choshu tagged Andre and Hansen into the ring. The two huge, tough men came in ready to battle for five more minutes, winner take all. Hansen staggered the Giant with thunderous punches,and barreled into him with Lariats and Shoulder Blocks… but he could not take the Giant off of his feet. With less than a minute remaining, Hansen went for a big Bodyslam, but Andre shifted his weight and both men hit the mat with the Giant on top. Three counts later, Giant Baba’s team emerged victorious.
As Andre and Baba were shaking hands in the ring, Inoki and Maeda made their way to ringside to show off their title belts and challenge the Giants to come and face The Fighting Sprits in the ring on May 16th in Osaka.