Written By Alfredo Esparza
NJPW WPW Classics #1
One of the cool things about New Japan Pro Wrestling having saved so much of their footage is that you end up watching some wrestling from a few places were footage wasn’t really saved. They had relationships with promoters who in the ’70s and early ’80s weren’t really saving footage and fortunately we get some matches from Mike Lebell’s Los Angeles territory and from Mexico’s UWA (LLI/ Promociones Mora). What we do get from L.A. is mostly old film footage or early 1980s TV which by that point the territory was on a decline. That’s a similar situation with UWA that most of what you’ll find that didn’t air on NJPW TV from that promotion is mostly hand-held footage in the ’80s and TV from the early 1990s when the promotion was also starting to slip.
This series of New Japan Classics aired on the Sky-A network in Japan. They varied in time between 90 minutes to 2 hours with the later shows being closer to 90 minutes.
Antonio Inoki & Seiji Sakaguchi vs. Pat Patterson & Johnny Powers © for the NWA North American Tag Team Titles (8/24/73)
Taped at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, California.
The show opens with the Japanese announcers welcoming everyone. One of the guy’s must not be a regular announcer because he forgets to get close to the mic until the other guy moves it closer to him. They interview former boxer Joe Louis before the match. He’s the special referee for the match and promises to call the match fairly. He also talks about an upcoming boxing match.
Pat Patterson and Johnny Powers come out for the match and they ask for an interview. Powers asks the Japanese announcer to talk English. Powers shows that they hold all the titles and says he and Patterson are better than their opponents. Patterson tells the announcer to shut up and tells him that they are better than Japanese wrestlers. Inoki and Sakaguchi enter the ring and the announcers climbs up to do an interview. Powers and Patterson don’t want him on the ring apron and tell him to leave.
Ring announcer introduces Antonio Inoki as “THE FANTASTIC, Antonio Inoki”.
FIRST FALL: A lot of the action is mostly Inoki and Sakaguchi working in armlocks, armbar submissions and wristlocks on Powers and Patterson and those two trying to find ways to break out of all those holds. Patterson kept complaining about them pulling their hair to referee Joe Louis. Patterson does an excellent job bumping and selling for Inoki and Sakaguchi in the fall. As the fall is winding down, it looks like Patterson and Powers are going to make a comeback as Patterson gets Inoki close enough to his corner to have Powers deliver a dropkick at him. He goes for a second one but this time Inoki moves and he hits Patterson. Powers bumps into Patterson and they both go to the outside. Inoki hits a chop on Powers. Sakaguchi then chops Patterson. Inoki slams Patterson and then hits a brain buster on him for the pin in the first fall.
SECOND FALL: Joe Louis and Johnny Powers have a staredown as the bell rings for the 2nd fall to start. Early in the fall, Patterson climbs to the top rope but Inoki cuts him off by punching him and that sends Patterson slipping into the top turnbuckle where he stays briefly to get a reaction and then falls off. Heels dominated this fall. Patterson worked on Sakaguchi’s leg on the outside by slamming his left leg into the ring post. Powers did the same. They spent most of the match working on Sakaguchi’s left leg. They dropped a few knee drops on his leg. They work on Sakaguchi’s leg for much of the match until Sakaguchi is finally able to tag in Inoki who comes in and attacks Patterson and Powers. Inoki punches at Patterson who is now bleeding and is a little dazed as he can’t find his corner. He finally reaches for Powers and tags him and Powers fouls Inoki but the ref doesn’t see it. Inoki is able to tag Sakaguchi who lifts each in the air in a chokehold and slams them down. Powers is able to get Sakaguchi in a figure-four leglock, but Sakaguchi’s close to the ropes. Louis doesn’t call to break the hold for some reason. Sakaguchi gives up so Powers and Patterson win the 2nd fall. Some questionable officiating from Joe Louis in this fall!
THIRD FALL: They cut away briefly during this fall as we get Inoki chopping at Powers and suddenly it edits back to Powers and Inoki both in a figure-four leglock and rolling out of the ring. Referee Joe Louis disqualifies Patterson and Powers. They keep the titles because it ended in a DQ. Patterson is heard telling everyone that he’s going to do the same in Japan. Sakaguchi still wants more against Patterson & Powers.
Match was ok. The way they edited the third fall was a letdown. Very similar to when you watch a movie or a TV show and you stick around for the final scene and it doesn’t live up to your expectations. That’s how I felt this match went.
Winners: Antonio Inoki & Seiji Sakaguchi
Antonio Inoki vs. Johnny Powers © for the NWF Heavyweight Title (12/10/73)
Taped at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium in Tokyo, Japan
They play the Canadian and National anthems before the match begins.
FIRST FALL: Powers worked on Inoki’s left arm for much of the fall. When he wasn’t on offense he was caught in a headscissors submission hold by Inoki and that went on for several minutes. Powers is able to get in a few forearms mid-fall. He works on Inoki’s left leg for a bit by using a spinning toehold and then punching at Inoki’s leg. Inoki used a variety of submission holds on Powers arm during the match. Closing minutes of fall, Powers tried to do a top rope move on Inoki, but Inoki caught him and slammed him to the mat. Inoki quickly climbed up the ropes and hit a kneedrop on Powers. Inoki then applied an abdominal stretch on Powers to get the submission victory in the first fall.
SECOND FALL: Early in the fall it looked like Powers might have fouled Inoki and referee Johnny “Red Shoes” Dugan had to check if he didn’t. Powers denied that he did it. Inoki threw a flurry of chops at Powers. He followed that up with a top rope kneedrop but Powers moved out of the way. Powers then applied the figure-four leglock on Inoki, who tried to reverse it. Powers still had the advantage and put some added pressure on the hold and got Inoki to submit.
THIRD FALL: Powers starts off by dragging Inoki into the corner and slamming his left leg into the ring post. He drags Inoki back into the ring and continues to work on his left leg. Powers places Inoki on the turnbuckles in a tree of woe and punches at Inoki’s left knee. Referee Red Shoes Dugan tries to get Inoki off the ropes. Powers continues his attack on Inoki’s left leg. Inoki tries to break out of Powers grasp by kicking his back as the fans cheer him on. Powers slams Inoki a few times and then goes for another figure-four leglock only he’s close to the ropes and when he goes to lay on the mat, he hits his head on the ropes! AWESOME! Inoki makes his comeback and puts Powers in the octopus submission hold for the win.
Inoki does a post match interview.
Winner: Antonio Inoki wins the NWF Heavyweight Championship
They then show about 10-15 minutes of highlights from the matches to end the show.
SHOW THOUGHTS: The first match was a bit of a disappointment with how they edited the third fall. Second match was pretty good. I liked the finish with Powers trying for his figure-four leglock but being so close to the ropes that he banged his head on the ropes and couldn’t get the hold on properly. That allowed Inoki to get him in a submission quickly and win. There have been so many versions of the “New Japan Classics” TV series that most matches re-aired with different edits to them. I woudn’t be shocked to end up finding that first match in some other Classics show in more complete form.