I love wrestling. That should be fairly evident. It’s that childhood obsession that I never grew out of alongside the countless other childhood obsessions that if I’m perfectly honest, I never grew out of either. I also consider myself to be fairly knowledgeable about that world. I’ve been a fan for a long time, and I know the difference between a lariat and a clothesline (something that has yet to be useful in finding gainful employment). And yet there are countless brilliant matches I have never seen, particularly when it comes to older stuff. So in an attempt to fix that I have decided to go back to the first ever match Dave Meltzer gave five stars too and work my way forward while documenting my thoughts for all you lovely people. Now, a few things before we begin. I am aware Meltzer is not the be all and end all; there are other matches I should see. I’m also not sure how easy it will be to get all of these; I might have to miss out a few, but I will do my best. Anyway, let’s get started.
And what a start. We begin with the original Tiger Mask vs. Dynamite Kid. Their final singles match at the New Japan Sumo Hall show in April 1983. Now, like many I am aware of this feud’s legendary status and yet I’ve never seen it. I’m ashamed to admit I don’t think I’ve ever watched either of these men work.
To be honest, I was quite anxious about watching this match. I was expecting the slow pace that I associate with older wrestling. How wrong I was. If you put this on an NXT card today, it would not look out of place. From Tope Suicidas to Tombstones on the floor, this match has it all. Kid and Tiger Mask are obvious influences on the modern wrestling and even if this is a touch slower, it’s barely noticeable.
The other point worth noting is that I am obviously coming in at the end of this feud. I don’t have the background that those watching at the time would have – something which will probably become a running theme in these articles. And yet, it didn’t matter. Even listening to Japanese commentators, I got the story. Tiger Mask’s determination to continue after being injured following a crossbody over the barricade. Kid almost cheating to beat his opponent. And most important of all, the image of the two of them lying side by side on the floor after being counted out. Having given their all and not being able to find a winner. With no background knowledge at all, you don’t need someone to explain that image.
This match was a great place to start, and it allayed a lot of my fears about watching these earlier choices. It is worked and paced like a modern day encounter, and some of the chain wrestling is brilliant. I genuinely don’t think anyone would have complained if this match had been part of the Cruiserweight Classic. Now I can only get excited at the thought of going back and watching this series from the beginning.