Happy Saturday Everyone!
I haven’t reviewed some classic All Japan in a while and I recently stumbled across this event on a certain video streaming website. As the title would suggest; Bruiser Brody Memorial Night In Budokan was a show held nearly two months after Bruiser Brody had been killed in Puerto Rico. Brody had been a huge star in Japan for both AJPW and NJPW, and his regular tag team partner Stan Hansen is in action on this show against Abdullah The Butcher.
We’ve also got Giant Baba, Mitsuharu Misawa, Genichiro Tenryu and Jumbo Tsuruta appearing on the show as well. This isn’t the full card but rather most of the second half, and I’m not sure if the other matches were taped for a later showing.
You can view the full card for the event by clicking below;
Card with guide « AJPW Summer Action Series II 1988 – Tag 6: Bruiser Brody Memorial Night In Budokan « Events Database « CAGEMATCH – The Internet Wrestling Database
The event is emanating for Tokyo, Japan, on the 29th of August 1988
We open up with an announcer standing in front of a memorial shrine whilst fans leave flowers and write tributes on the wall. The locker room then empties to pay its respects whilst the fans chant Brody’s name. Jimmy Snuka is the last one to do so. Brody’s family then join us and carry a wreath and a picture to the ring, leading to a 10 bell salute. This was an emotional opening to the show and a heartfelt tribute. It was of course extremely sad due to Brody being taken before his time, but it was also nice to see how much the Japanese fans respected him and how much they wished to honour him in death.
Jerry Oates & Tom Zenk Vs Hiroshi Wajima & Takashi Ishikawa
I’m not familiar with Oates, but a trip to CageMatch.net reveals that he worked a few All Japan tours in the 70’s and 80’s. Zenk of course had runs in the AWA, WWF and WCW, most notably as tag partner for Rick Martel and Brian Pillman in the WWF and WCW respectively. He was also one of the most popular Wrestling Observer Radio guests due to seemingly not remotely caring who he offended or insulted when he went on. Wajima is a Baba student who seemingly only wrestled for a couple of years. Ishikawa is a solid mid-card wrestler who can usually be relied upon for a decent performance. I believe he eventually left the promotion to join Tenryu in the new SWS promotion.
This is the usual All Japan undercard tag match from this time period, in that both teams kind of just wrestle one another and trade momentum with no clearly delineated heat segment or comeback, like you would usually get in American Wrestling. The wrestling itself is good, with Oates doing a particularly good job hanging in there with the Japanese wrestlers. Zenk isn’t quite as successful in that regard, but he doesn’t embarrass himself here either. The crowd quite likes Oates and chants for him more than once as the bout progresses. The crowd responds whenever Zenk does anything a bit flashy as well, such as when he gets a nice dropkick or leaps into the ring.
Ishikawa enters his usual Denis Irwin 7 out of 10 performance here, taking some nice bumps in order to make the international tandem look good. Wajima is solid as well, and the match is generally entertaining, especially when they head into the finishing stretch and the crowd starts buzzing as the action gets gradually more intense. Both teams get some near falls, with it finally breaking down leading to Wajima and Oates fighting in the ring whilst their partners scuffle at ringside. Wajima ends up getting a sumo style Choke Slam for the win.
WINNERS: ISHIKAWA & WAJIMA
Thoughts: Solid tag action there
Both teams shake hands at the bouts conclusion.
Jimmy Snuka & Johnny Ace Vs Shunji Takano & Tiger Mask II
Snuka was another former tag team partner of Brody, perhaps best known for inspiring Mick Foley to become a wrestler when Foley was in attendance to see Snuka leap off a cage onto Don Muraco. Ace would have a failed run in WCW as a partner for Shane Douglas before going on to be an established All Japan star in the 90’s, partly due to Giant Baba’s wife being a big fan of his looks. Takano is another wrestler that would eventually jump to SWS. Tiger Mask II would be better known as Mitsuharu Misawa, one of the biggest stars in Japanese Wrestling history until his tragic in-ring death in 2009. Ace is tall, American and blond, so the crowd treats him like a big deal.
You can pretty much re-post what I put for the previous match here, in the sense that it’s mostly wrestlers just wrestling back and forth without anyone really working a heat segment to build to a comeback. The wrestling itself is okay, and seeing Snuka wrestle Misawa is an interesting historical curio if nothing else. Ace is clearly the worst of the four wrestlers, but by the 90’s he was a dependable upper-mid-card star in the promotion and could carry his end in good tag matches whilst partnered with the likes of Steve Williams and Kenta Kobashi. Snuka is presented as the star of the match, which makes sense seeing as it’s a Brody tribute show and the two used to tag.
I’ve not seen a lot of Takano, but he comes across as a decent wrestler here for the most part, with him going for the black boots/black trunks “I’m just gonna wrestle” vibe, and doing a good job in that role. Misawa is of course moving a lot more spryly here than when he reached the peak of his popularity after years of getting clobbered in big matches, but he definitely was missing something in this gimmick, even though he was still a perfectly cromulent Tiger Mask; to steal a phrase from Scott Keith. Ace is clearly trying very hard here, showing out to the crowd a lot and yelping whenever he hits big moves, although his execution is a bit sloppy. Eventually Tiger gets sent out of the ring and Snuka gets a running head butt on Takano for three.
WINNERS: SNUKA & ACE
Thoughts: Just some fellers having a match outside of a few big spots. It was more about giving Snuka a win for a feel-good moment seeing as it was a Brody tribute show
Giant Baba Vs Rusher Kimura
Baba is the owner of All Japan and was a huge star from the 60’s onwards when he used to tag with Antonio Inoki. Eventually Baba and Inoki would set up their own companies, with Baba running All Japan whilst Inoki ran New Japan. Baba was way past his peak as an in-ring performer by this stage but he was still very over. Kimura made a name for himself by having violent matches in the IWE promotion in the 70’s, including one of the first cage matches in Japanese history. Once that promotion folded he spent a few years in New Japan before showing up in All Japan in 1985.
We actually get some clean breaks to start, but that doesn’t last long and Kimura is soon open hand slapping away at Baba’s chest. This one doesn’t really have much in the way of good wrestling going on as both wrestlers were both physically wrecked by this stage after years of hard wrestling, but the crowd is very generous towards them and the match has a good atmosphere even if the actual quality of the wrestling is poor. Kimura goes for a Scorpion Deathlock at one stage and this earns him a big pop and chant from the crowd, but Baba is able to block it and the hold isn’t applied. This match has had tremendous heat actually considering how mechanically tosh it’s been.
Baba from this era is kind of a guilty pleasure for me, in that his matches are usually pretty awful due to him just not being able to really wrestle anymore, but he’s so over that the crowd reactions often carry the matches for me and I’m able to enjoy them as a result. I have a similar feeling about Junkyard Dog for Hulkamania Era WWF actually. Very little in this match actually looks good, with a lot of the strikes looking light and the technical wrestling being laboured and full of sloppily applied holds that don’t look remotely legitimate. Joe Higuchi playing the role of the world’s slowest referee just add to the feeling like this is being fought in slow motion, or underwater like the Dural fight in Virtua Fighter 2. Things do pick up a bit in the closing stages, with Baba getting a big boot and a Hart Attack Clothesline for three, and a big pop from the crowd.
WINNER: GIANT BABA
Thoughts: The actual wrestling was pretty lousy here, but the crowd loved it, so I can’t say it didn’t work. Baba turned it on briefly for the last 30 seconds as well and looked good for a brief moment
Kimura does his usual act following a defeat, by grabbing a microphone and cutting a promo on his opponent, which the crowd enjoys and laughs at. Thus Baba gets a win and Kimura gets his heat back in the post-match. Even Baba was laughing during that promo and the fans chant for Kimura as he leaves.
Abdullah The Butcher Vs Stan Hansen
Abdullah is one of the most famous hardcore wrestlers of all-time, known for his big Sudanese Elbow Drop and for digging a fork in the skulls of his opponents. Abdullah’s own forehead is a mess of scar tissue after years of bleeding in matches. Abdullah had many a match with Brody over the years, with Abdullah usually in the role of the Heel. Brody ended up having to develop a special technique of chasing after Abdullah during their matches, as Brody was far quicker than Abdullah but if he slowed down when chasing him it would break the illusion. Thus Brody would run in a kind of diagonal manner so as to still look like he was running at full pelt when he was really deliberately avoiding catching up to his much slower opponent. I have to admire someone with that kind of dedication to making people suspend their disbelief.
Hansen is a former AWA Champion who was perhaps best known for breaking the neck of Bruno Sammartino with a botched body slam, leading to many lucrative rematches when Bruno managed to return to the ring. Hansen used to tag with Brody and the two are often synonymous with one another, with Hansen nodding towards that by using Brody’s entrance music for this bout. Brody’s entrance theme was absolutely great by the way, as it was a remixed instrumental of the Immigrant Song by Led Zepplin and it suited Brody perfectly, especially when he was storming around ringside and the fans fled for their very lives.
Hansen is way over with the crowd here of course, so this one has good crowd reactions, even though some of Abdullah’s work looks a bit light. Abdullah ends up kicking Hansen to the floor and then using a spike of some kind to jab at Hansen’s face to draw blood. That isn’t a DQ for whatever reason, because Japan. Hansen sells all of this well, being a good babyface fighting from underneath actually. You wouldn’t think that seeing as Hansen was normally a big burly Heel, but he works very well as the gutsy good guy who refuses to stay down. Hansen had range bro.
Hansen ends up taking off his right boot and clobbers Abdullah with it, eventually knocking Abdullah down. The ref allows this as well, but at least he’s let both wrestlers blatantly cheat I guess, so it’s kind of fair if you think about it that way. Ref Higuchi ends up getting knocked down, leading to Jimmy Snuka to join us, seemingly to prevent Abdullah from having his brain turned to fromage-fraise by Hansen’s foot apparel. It looks like the bout is eventually thrown out, with Snuka and Abullah retreating whilst Hansen taunts in the ring. A trip to CageMatch reveals that Hansen ended up winning by DQ, I’m guessing due to Snuka running in?
WINNER BY DQ: STAN HANSEN
Thoughts: This was a fun wild brawl between two nutters, even with Abdullah’s offence not being especially crisp. Hansen made up for it with his babyface fire and selling
The fight picks up again following that, with Hansen wearing the crimson mask.
AJPW World Tag Team Titles
Champs: Jumbo Tsuruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu Vs Revolution (Ashura Hara & Genichiro Tenryu)
Tsuruta was basically THE guy in All Japan at the time, but illness severely hampered his career in the 90’s and he was never able to regain that status. Yatsu is a former amateur wrestler who actually competed at the 1976 Olympics. Hara was a rugby star who eventually moved into Pro Wrestling via the IWE promotion. Tenryu was a former sumo who eventually moved into the Pro Wrestling ranks as a protégé of Giant Baba. Tenryu would eventually leave All Japan to form the SWS group. Check Maffew’s archives if you want more information on that promotion as he’s written some great reviews that are worth your time.
The entrances where the camera pans down from the roof to the ring before someone enters are great stuff as they really remind me of playing Virtual Pro Wrestling 2 on the N64. It shows how much attention to detail AKI put into that game. The challengers refuse to shake hands to start, just to show us all who the Heels are I guess. The crowd are hot for Jumbo and Tenryu going at it, and they don’t disappoint when they get in there, with their exchanges having good intensity and crisp wrestling. Yatsu and Hara do some good wrestling when they’re in there as well, with the bout having that big match feel to it overall.
Like with the other tag matches on this show, there isn’t really anything you could define as a heat segment, even though Hara and Tenryu could probably cut Yatsu off and turn him into paste until the crowd were desperate for Jumbo to get the hot tag. The match ebbs and flows for the most part, with both teams getting a period of control before the other tandem can take over for a bit. It is fun watching wrestlers walking in to break up a pin or submission as it’s done with such malice and it’s great. Tenryu just walks in to slap the taste out of Yatsu’s mouth when he has Hara in a leg hold at one stage for instance and it’s absolutely glorious.
Jumbo busts out the world’s stiffest dropkick onto Tenryu at one stage, and as usual it looks great. Man, Jumbo would just NAIL folks with that one sometimes. Just in general the exchanges between Jumbo and Tenryu are pretty feisty, with both wrestlers perfectly happy to lay a whupping on the other. Tenryu ends up heading to the top rope for his trade falling elbow drop, but Jumbo is able to dodge it and there ends up being no water in the pool. We do get the closest thing to a heat segment following that though, as both of the challengers target Jumbo’s legs and work them over, with Jumbo selling it all well.
Having a bum wheel means that Jumbo’s trademark running high knee attack isn’t as effective, which is a great example of making the work on the body part count. There is the odd sloppy moment where everyone isn’t on the same page, but aside from that there is some really good stuff in this one, especially when the challengers are indulging their inner jerk and just tearing into the Champions. Things eventually break down, with all four wrestlers going at it, leading to some near falls for both teams.
The crowd starts to really lose their minds in the closing stages, with Jumbo getting a couple of very tight near falls on Tenryu from an inside cradle and Thesz Press respectively. The atmosphere is full on classic All Japan Main Event now, especially with the match taking place in Budokan Hall, the scene of so many of All Japan’s biggest moments. Jumbo looks to have it won with another cradle, but Tenryu is able to do the old Bret Hart trick of countering into his own cradle by using Jumbo’s momentum against him and that gives us a clean pin and new Champions.
WINNERS AND NEW CHAMPIONS: REVOLUTION
Thoughts: This was an excellent match. There was the odd moment of sloppiness, but overall the match was great and the clean win was mightily appreciated
The opening segment and tribute to Brody was really well done and the Main Event was fantastic. The undercard didn’t have much in the way of amazing wrestling but it did have good crowd heat and the wrestling in general was to a good standard. For a 2 hour show, this was decent.
AJPW Summer Action Series II 1988 – Tag 6: Bruiser Brody Memorial Night In Budokan (August 29, 1988) – YouTube