So is this THAT Fuji/Strongbow match? The one I recall Parv pointing to as some kind of roundabout advocation for Strongbow being good/smart despite the fact he hates him? Watching it I figured it might’ve been, but I kind of hoped I was wrong and there was another awesome Fuji/Strongbow match out there.
I never got around to participating in this because I guess I'm about the only remaining person on the planet without a Facebook, but I've been slowly going through the countdown on PTBN and it really is tremendously fun stuff. It's also convinced me to check out some 70s/early 80s Mr. Fuji and I'm not the least bit sorry I did. One of the Titans should come up with a comprehensive list of the 100 (or like, 10) best Mr. Fuji matches one must check out...
I'm basically echoing most people, but the feel of hatred - communicated especially through those hellish chair shots - really stood out to me in this. It's hard to look back almost twenty years and find something new and unique about this considering how often the ground has been retrodden, but that sense of violence definitely elevated it to a point where I think I'd enjoy it more than just about everything that followed on from it (at least in the Hardyz/Dudleyz/Edge & Christian series). Where those later matches and TLCs escalated things through the scope of the highspots, I don't remember getting that feeling of escalated hatred. That this was fairly short and they mostly kept away from setting up overly convoluted scenarios certainly helped. I wouldn't call it a great match, but for better or worse it's an influential one and something that held up better than I'd have expected.
I thought it might've been a bad idea to watch this as the first wrestling I've given eyeballs to in months. I usually find it hard to jump back into joshi and get acclimated to the shifts in momentum and rhythm without a bit of a teething problem. This was a breeze, though. Jackie Sato is a treasure. She carried herself like a Fujinami level ace, cool and confident while selling the danger of Aoyama. I'd never seen Aoyama before but she was all about the dropkicks early and there were two moments where she went for broke only for Sato to calmly walk out of dodge (and on the first occasion Aoyama crashed and burned). This had some cool tricked out matwork, though most of it was built around Aoyama working the leg and going to the figure-four. Sato would repeatedly roll out or manage to block it, so at one point Aoyama grabbed an Indian deathlock type thing and started stomping on Sato's back. She also went to the shin breaker a handful of times and man did that crowd live and die with Jackie Sato. When Sato took over she rolled out a bunch of neat offence. Her backdrops looked killer - super high angle and impactful - and she did a sort of hair-pull Slingblade that ruled. Finish might be a touch anticlimactic, but it certainly looked plausible. Whole match pretty much flew by as well. Feels like way more people should be talking about Jackie Sato. I mean, I know WHY she isn't brought up as often as Ozaki and Kansai and so on, but I guess what I'm saying is someone should do a deep dive on her and chronicle their findings in the Microscope and I nominate Jetlag.
This was what you wanted in a Maeda main event. It's fine seeing him fight guys like Hans Nyman and Willie Williams if for no reason other than to see how he'll approach them, but this was against a guy closer to his skill level and more like something you'd see from peak UWF Maeda. Fight itself felt more like a UWF fight than a RINGS fight, actually. The matwork was pretty deliberate, lots of shifting for position, not too many "highspots," and the parts where Maeda let loose with strikes were straight out of Maeda/Fujiwara when Fujiwara would get too dominant on the ground. Kopylov is for real. He doesn't quite have Han's ability to pull out a submission from the most unexpected of situations, but he's a dynamo and everything looked great. The crowd being completely bonkers did not hurt one bit. Really good stuff, possibly my favourite Maeda RINGS fight to date.