Friday, 1 February 2008

AJPW G+ Classics: Rhodes v Race - DVD Review

This edition of The Two Sheds Review sees us returning to Japan for a first-time look at one of the world’s oldest wrestling promotions - All Japan Pro Wrestling. But instead of looking at their recent history, we’re going to look back to 1975, and the DVD release AJPW G+ Classics - Rhodes v Race, featuring such legendary stars as Dusty Rhodes, Harley Race, Abdullah the Butcher, Giant Baba and Dory Funk Jr.
The first match of the collection features Dusty Rhodes against Harley Race. It’s an intriguing match here, very much in the 1970’s style, but then that’s a pretty obvious thing to say. Unlike today’s wrestling, there’s no flashy moves, no flashy style, just good, solid wrestling between two wrestlers at the top of their game, telling a good story. Rhodes thought he had the win after dropping his big elbow on Race as he lay prone on the mat, but the handsome one managed to get a foot on the rope. Recovering well and take Rhodes down soon afterwards, Race then climbed to the top rope and finished his man off with a diving head butt for the winning pinfall. Solid stuff here, and good to watch as well.
Another former NWA World Champion follows as Dory Funk Jr. takes on the “Madman From the Sudan” Abdullah the Butcher. A completely different style of match here, but that’s to be expected when the Butcher is involved. Abdullah doesn’t even allow Funk to get to the ring before he starts his attack, and there are several more ringside brawls throughout the match, in which Funk opened up a cut to add to the many others on Abdullah’s forehead. The flow of blood sent the cried wild. Each man kicked out of their opponent’s finisher, and when things broke out into a brawl again, even the referee took a chair shot from Funk, and after another brawl through the crowd, Abdullah was declared the winner, Funk’s chair short having earned him a disqualification. But that didn’t stop the brawling. More solid stuff here, and although not technically good, it was still a good match in itself.
Next, it was Japanese legend Giant Baba against the vile German Baron Von Raschke. This was actually the first time I’d seen Baba in action, having read a great deal about him over the years. Raschke, the master of the claw hold, went for his trademark immediately, and used it almost continuously, with Baba only managing to break the hold when he fought back or when he got to the ropes. When Baba did manage to break free, he began to work over the German’s hand, but soon, it still wasn’t enough to keep Raschke down. However, with renewed strength, the big man broke free from another claw hold, and got the pin after a drop kick. Good storytelling here, and a good, if unspectacular match.
Then it was the turn of two more Japanese greats, Jumbo Tsuruta and Rusher Kimura. Now this is what wrestling should be about. From the somewhat frosty handshake at the beginning of the bout, Tsuruta and Kimura really laid into each other, mixing great technical wrestling with a great deal of brawling, getting the mixture just right, with the fans once again roaring their approval, and after Tsuruta caught Kimura with a flying cross body that sent both men over the top rope, the wild brawl at ringside saw both men getting counted out. I really enjoyed this one, and it’s the best match on the DVD so far.
The next match sees the second appearance of both Giant Baba and Abdullah the Butcher. Much like the match with Funk, this one was another wild brawl, although I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed, mainly with Baba’s performance. All he seemed able to do was kick and chop Abdullah’s head, opening him up in the process. Then we got the wild brawling around the ring, before the referee eventually disqualified Abdullah and awarded the match to Baba. The fight didn’t end there though, as Abdullah attacked several ringside officials, before brawling with Baba through the crowd.
Something of a mystery surrounds the next match, with Dory Funk Jr. making his second appearance. However, the match listing for this DVD lists his opponent as ?, so if anyone knows who he was, let me know. Whoever he was, he put on a great performance, matching Funk hold for hold and move for move in a bout filled with nothing but technical wrestling, with hardly a punch being thrown, in a style we hardly ever see these days, with Funk getting the pin with a simple roll-up. This was a tremendous example of technical wrestling at it’s best, and if someone wanting to break into the business wanted me to give them a few examples of how wrestling should be, I’d show them this match.
Abdullah then makes his third appearance, against another opponent I don’t know, although the DVD listed him as Giant Baba. Well, seeing as he was an American, I can tell you that Baba he ain’t! It’s another wild brawl with tables and chairs getting thrown around, and the butcher once again bleeding for his art, before another wild brawl through the crowd, with Abdullah getting the decision this time. More entertaining than the Baba brawl, even though in all it only lasted three minutes.
The final match is an all Japanese battle, with Jumbo Tsuruta going against Giant Baba in what promised to be an interesting match. Out of his three matches on this collection, this was certainly Baba’s best, a technical affair which saw Tsuruta working over Baba’s long legs, before Baba came back with a body scissors. More working over of the Baba’s legs followed, before the big man came back well, and finished with a Russian leg sweep. Sixteen minutes of good action here, and, much like the second Funk match, there wasn’t a single punch thrown. In fact, the only illegal move of this bout saw Tsuruta scraping his boot laces across Baba’s eyes. A good match here.
In conclusion - I really enjoyed taking this trip back in time, and my first taste of the All Japan product was a pleasurable one, with some good solid wrestling action mixed in with a some well staged brawling. They certainly don’t make wrestling shows like this these days, do they? If you’re an avid student of the game I’d recommend getting a hold of this, or any other vintage All Japan shows for that matter. It’s certainly something that I’ll be doing in the future, and if you want to purchase a copy of this DVD online, then visit www.purodvd.com.
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