Within the 1989 Wrestling Observer Yearbook, Jeff Bowdren staked his declare as to the 100 best matches of the 80s. Over thirty years down the road and with the advantage of the web and streaming companies, Liam Byrne goals to have a look again at every match (the place out there) that made the record. With a deal with the context through which these contests passed off, take a stroll again by way of time as we take a look at The Wrestling Basic.
In comparatively current years, there was considerably of a backlash, in some locations, in regards to the collection of matches between Tiger Masks and Dynamite Child. Maybe by the way, a lot of that extra unfavourable criticism arrived at a time when an rising quantity of details about Child’s true nature behind the scenes got here to be understood extra broadly amongst wrestling fandom, in addition to wider entry to wrestling from completely different eras and promotions than ever earlier than. Nevertheless, and while Jeff Bowdren is just one man with no better opinion than you or I, Tiger Masks versus Dynamite Child in some iteration reveals up on the record the identical variety of occasions because the epic trilogy between Ric Aptitude and Ricky Steamboat. The April 23, 1983 model even ended up hitting the record on the quantity two spot. No matter revisionism suggests about it for some individuals, it was being lauded on the time and maintains a whole lot of constructive reward at present.
The attention-grabbing factor about three of the matches ending up on the record is that the boys – based on Wrestledata – solely met seven occasions in singles competitors. From a cross-section of all of 80s wrestling, that leaves them with a charge that was practically 50% by way of matches that made the record. Staggering whichever method you slice it. The opposite quirk of watching these matches by way of a contemporary lens is that six of them are on New Japan World: two of the three on the record, alongside 4 different contests. From April 23, 1981, by way of April 21, 1983, it’s attainable to witness the altering and rising nature of what they delivered to the squared circle. With the entire matches between the 2 males out there for viewing by way of on-line mediums, it might be churlish to not discover past those who made the record. This was not Kofi Kingston versus Dolph Ziggler; the evolution of this feud may be seen in comparatively quick order.
A Dynamite Child as but untethered to Davey Boy Smith and the WWF first traveled to New Japan in 1980. Having spent a tour largely teaming with Stan Hansen and opposing Tatsumi Fujinami, Child returned the next yr because the promotion sought to bolster their Junior Heavyweight division. Finally, this might incorporate extra common excursions for Dynamite, however at this second it took the type of licensing the favored ‘Tiger Masks’ character from manga in an effort to recreate their very own model. Bestowed upon Satoru Sayama, the gimmick’s debut passed off on the ultimate day of Child’s solely tour of the yr.
Watch on NJPW World: https://njpwworld.com/p/s_series_00034_1_1
Not the shorn-haired savage that he was within the years to return, Child’s foremost position right here was to behave as a foil by way of which the impressiveness of the Tiger Masks character may shine. Acclimatisation to masked wrestling for Sayama may clarify away a few of the awkwardness by way of transfer execution, while Child’s preliminary response to the character had him present extra concern and shock than he often related to him. It was actually as if he had by no means met somebody with this skillset earlier than. After the early theatrics, issues largely settled right into a by-the-numbers Junior Heavyweight contest. The tone for extra heated exchanges sooner or later was set with Child aiming to tear off the masks, earlier than each males took the combat to ringside. Issues weren’t but on the stage they’d attain, although by the point Tiger Masks gained with a German suplex, there was undoubtedly one thing thrilling in regards to the two as a pairing.
New Japan clearly realized the potential as they have been booked reverse one another 4 occasions over the course of 1982, not together with their showcase bout in Madison Sq. Backyard. New Yr’s Day noticed two WWF titles competed for in a New Japan ring, with Dynamite and Tiger’s battle for the Junior Heavyweight belt taking part in second fiddle to Bob Backlund’s protection of the World Heavyweight championship towards Tatsumi Fujinami. It was Fujinami who had final held the Junior strap, although it had been vacated primarily – it appears – as a method so as to add additional significance to the matches between Child and Masks.
The title could have been up for grabs, however the shrunken statue of Tiger Masks that was showcased earlier than the match was seemingly a present for the masked wrestler moderately than a secondary prize. This match showcased a Child shorn of hair and enhanced of physique, yet another in line with the best way many keep in mind him from his run within the WWF. With the Tiger Masks gimmick bedded in by this level, it was additionally a Child that was not shocked or afraid of what he was up towards.
This Dynamite radiated imply.
Realizing that he could not be capable of match the athleticism of his opponent, Child focused the left knee early and infrequently. A cynic may take a look at Tiger Masks’s subsequent kick flurry half method by way of the competition for instance of an egregious lack of promoting, however when you may have the commentators dropping phrases like ‘superhero’ into their discourse, it spoke to precisely what stage they have been presenting the masked man.
Like all good tragedies, it was Child’s hubris that threatened to lose him a match he was clearly in command of. Pulling Masks up off the canvas at two after a tombstone and a diving headbutt in an effort to repeat the spots finally noticed him come up quick on the second aerial maneuver. A determine 4 utilized extra stress to the already-attacked limb, but as soon as once more Child’s exuberance value him, this time for good. A number of additional makes an attempt on the leglock have been kicked away, earlier than Masks prevented a cost within the nook and held Child down for the three with a schoolboy.
Watch on NJPW World: https://njpwworld.com/p/s_series_00040_1_3
While this match was a very good showcase of Dynamite as a junior heavyweight heel, the end was anticlimactic and got here out of nowhere. This appeared to be a case of the promotion wanting Masks to win, but preserve Dynamite robust sufficient to warrant a rematch at a later date. A pre-match promo by the loser was largely drowned out by the vociferous noise of the gang, although no matter was mentioned alongside the domination of his opponent at occasions throughout this match meant the 2 met simply over three weeks afterward January 28.
With every of the primary three encounters, the boys have been afforded further minutes within the ring to inform their story of wrestlers who had a burgeoning hatred for one another, but may additionally largely telegraph their opponent’s each transfer. Throughout the opening minute, Tiger blocked a strike from Child instantly following a rope break, nicely conscious of the chance that Dynamite would bend the foundations. Seconds later, it was the Brit displaying off what he had discovered from their current encounters as he cracked Masks upside the top with an enziguri-style kick.
In contrast to the final match, this was a extra even encounter because it was initially the champion who took management; the effectiveness of the offense helped by Child’s willingness to bump massive and laborious on strikes as easy as an Irish whip to the nook. The truth is, Tiger was largely in a position to nullify Dynamite’s assault, neutralizing him with submission holds and halting tried comebacks with fast kick flurries.
In a callback to final time, the challenger did finally land a tombstone piledriver, but this time selected to go for a pin instantly. Masks was in a position to kick out at two, in addition to keep away from a ensuing prime rope headbutt, but in an effort to additional escalate the stress, he would additionally miss an tried dive off of the highest rope. While Masks was recognized for his athletic strikes, it was uncommon in these contests that he would launch himself in such a way.
Sensing the necessity to elevate his sport but additional, a suicide dive did join moments later, earlier than a end that harkened again to their first match. This time, Child was in a position to reverse an tried German suplex, just for Tiger to reverse the reversal and rating the three rely with the suplex and bridge. There could have been a component of luck within the earlier victory that yr, but this had proven that the masked man was greater than able to outwrestling his foe when it mattered.
The summer time of 1982 noticed the boys meet thrice in a little bit over one month, taking in Ishikawa, Tokyo and New York. Two of those matches have been thought of worthy of being on the record. It’s maybe poetic that the primary one is the one which doesn’t make it, which means that Bowdren hailed the ultimate trio of contests as those that have been amongst the very best the 80s needed to supply.
With longer hair and a sweatpant-clad Bret Hart in tow, Child re-entered the ring to problem Tiger on July 23, although with out the WWF Junior Heavyweight Title on the road. Having been afforded the longest time within the ring for a match so far, it wasn’t stunning to see the early exchanges through which Masks wowed the gang with flipped escapes and spins into drop toeholds have been punctuated by some groundwork. Although each males knew the way to speed up into a formidable sequence of counters and reversals to pop the gang, the prolonged minutes within the ring necessitated some downtime as the 2 fought for management on the mat as nicely.
A collection of armwringer reversals and two subsequent strikes through which Masks landed on his toes (ignoring the slip on the primary one) had the followers applauding and signaled considerably of a mid-match reset. This served because the prelude to Child exerting his bodily dominance with a number of backbreakers and a gutwrench suplex, offense with the aim of slowing down Tiger as a lot as ending the match. A neat callback to the same old end between the 2 males noticed Child block a German suplex by wrapping his foot round Masks’s leg, earlier than completely folding him in half with a again suplex.
Although the interference from Bret Hart within the closing stretch—kicking Masks to attempt to break a determine 4 leglock which noticed Child seize the ropes—and the confusion that causes could also be why this missed the record, it as soon as once more noticed the stakes raised by way of the strikes each males used to attempt to put the opposite away. A Area Flying Tiger Drop clipped Child at ringside, who retaliated with a tombstone on the ground. The followers at ringside have been no safer as a again physique drop noticed the Brit wipe out the primary three rows, but one way or the other he was nonetheless in a position to beat the rely for his first victory over his nemesis.
Watch on NJPW World: https://njpwworld.com/p/s_series_00045_2_1
Oddly sufficient, it’s the first of the matches that makes the record that’s the just one which doesn’t seem on New Japan World. Nevertheless, the great thing about the trendy web meant that this pivotal contest of their feud isn’t misplaced to time.
By the point you may have sat by way of 4 matches between Dynamite and Tiger, it turns into largely about what the final three needed to supply to make them worthy of a spot on the record. Going down on August 5, the fifth match noticed them join the dots on what they have been in a position to supply in a method that they hadn’t fairly managed up till now.
What was good grew to become spectacular.
The kinks that had seen the occasional blown transfer or sequence have been ironed out, while the 2 males headed to the ground a number of occasions as they offered their want to inflict most ache on their opponent. With that got here further threat as Child was thrown out of the ring from the suplex place, earlier than the Tiger collided laborious with the ropes minutes later as Child prevented a flying sort out. When the foundations are so robust and the narrative developed, dangers might be taken and make every thing that rather more of a spectacle.
It was additionally the primary with a extremely decisive winner. Having kicked out of the flying headbutt, Tiger seized the prospect after sending Child to ringside. Eschewing the Area Flying Tiger Drop for a no-messing no-rope plancha, he adopted with a gutwrench suplex, turning it right into a modified tombstone that regarded prefer it shortened Child’s backbone a number of centimeters. A moonsault press landed completely, conserving Child’s shoulders all the way down to the canvas for a decisive three rely. This wasn’t an opportunistic German after a reversal the place one may declare the ingredient of shock; this was Tiger exerting his superiority over Dynamite—an unsurprising ending given a relative interval of drought earlier than their subsequent Japanese contest.
Simply over three weeks later, the Dynamite Child/Tiger Masks touring providing was showcased at Madison Sq. Backyard beneath the WWF’s banner. Coming in at simply over six minutes, this was the definition of a ‘best hits’ assortment. The spin right into a drop toehold; the monkey flip with Masks touchdown on his toes; a Tiger feint kick sending Dynamite scurrying at ringside; massive Child bumps on a again physique drop; a missed diving headbutt finally resulting in a moonsault press for the Tiger Masks win.
Regardless that it does fall quick in comparison with the Japanese choices, it’s simple to see why the match from Madison Sq. Backyard obtained the response it acquired and continues to be thought of a pinnacle match. Throughout a time interval when tape buying and selling was restricted to a choose group, the world broad net didn’t exist and entry to wrestling from around the globe relied on having contacts in the proper locations, individuals simply didn’t get the prospect to see this high-octane fashion of wrestling. This present was the MSG debut of each Dynamite Child and Tiger Masks, and the cardboard had began off with matches involving Tony Garea and Killer Khan (no knock on Khan, by the best way) and would observe this match with bouts akin to Swede Hansen versus Salvatore Bellomo and a tag workforce midget match. Subsequent to a few of the different wrestlers the gang in New York would see, Tiger Masks and Dynamite Child felt as if they’d come again from the longer term to indicate what wrestling might be like. The gang have been audibly and visibly impressed all through; strikes just like the Child’s intestine wrench suplex, Masks’s spinning drop toe maintain and even the missed diving headbutt that led to the end had an influence and crispness that will dwell lengthy within the reminiscence for any viewers member who had the prospect to see the 2 males in motion.
Watch on NJPW World: https://njpwworld.com/p/s_series_00046_1_1
It was nearly eight months earlier than the boys would reconvene for his or her final encounter. Returning to the scene of their first match (and the fifth, the primary on the record), Kuramae Kokugikan, this was a Dynamite Child simply over a yr from his transfer to the WWF; a Tiger Masks literal months away from ‘retirement’ that ended when he turned up in UWFi in 1984. It was just about the tip of an period for these two—the final real-time they may meet earlier than their lives went in very disparate instructions.
Watch on NJPW World: https://njpwworld.com/p/s_series_00049_2_2
Including one final little little bit of spice to the combination was the introduction of the NWA Junior Heavyweight Title into proceedings. Held by Tiger since Could 1982, it was the primary time this was the belt up for grabs. Sitting within the third spot from the highest behind Antonio Inoki versus Masa Saito and Riki Choshu defending the IWGP Heavyweight Title in the primary occasion towards Tatsumi Fujinami, this match sat alongside two different infamous feuds of the period, taking its rightful place because the notable rivalry within the JUnior Heavyweight division.
Over the course of the over-twenty minutes the boys fought in whole, the time afforded them the chance for callbacks to spots and moments that rewarded the gang who had adopted their feud over the previous two years. Although it lacked the preliminary fireplace of a few of their earlier encounters, Child touchdown on his toes out of a flip appeared to mock Child’s athleticism, earlier than the masked man confirmed his aerial prowess early with a wonderfully executed tope suicida, in addition to sending his opponent scurrying away from a tiger feint kick. When Child tried to land a tombstone piledriver, the gang in attendance cheered wildly for Masks’s escape as they knew how probably harmful the transfer was.
The match wasn’t with out controversy. A crossbody from the apron to the ringside ground by Masks despatched each males over the railings. With this grounds for an automatgic countout based on the foundations of the time interval. The interval of scuffling afterwards, the involvement of the referee to interrupt them up, and his choice to finally restart the match was odd seen by way of up to date eyes, but the restart noticed every thing kick into a better gear: a tombstone and a prime rope headbutt Child’s first offensive manoeuvre of the second interval of motion.
Giving up all pretenses of it being a scientific contest, the 2 brawled round ringside, with a few Irish whips with such velocity they threatened to wipe out the entrance row. Issues nearly spilled fully uncontrolled as Child smashed a bottle on the metal put up, headbutted the referee and tried to go after Tiger with the jagged fringe of the glass. It was as if Child had fully misplaced it, but one way or the other this wasn’t the tip of the match. There was nonetheless time for some dueling tombstones at ringside earlier than a second double countout lastly put the match, and the rivalry, to mattress. Although Tiger had been dominant by way of wins and losses, it felt proper that the 2 males who had been connected to one another in such a way battled to a no-contest of their closing outing.
Wanting again on the collection of matches, the complicated reserving and bloat by way of timing harm issues when it got here to the competition that ended up putting the best on the record. The sense of issues spiraling uncontrolled should have been thrilling on the time, but it surely hurts issues on reflection.
The most effective of the matches? The fifth contest—one which additionally cracked the highest twenty3was the final word combination of reversals, high-flying and that little fringe of nastiness that each managed to carry to the proceedings. Even when they aren’t at all times held in as excessive a regard as they as soon as have been, it wouldn’t be time wasted to spend a few hours watching Dynamite Child and Tiger Masks do what they did finest.