Written By Alfredo Esparza
All Japan Retro #2: Jumbo Tsuruta
Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Shohei “Giant” Baba in a Champion Carnival 1976 tournament match
Taped 5/1/1976 at Nippon University Public Hall in Tokyo, Japan
This was a good match. A lot of the match was spent on the mat with Baba working on Jumbo’s left arm and also getting him in headlocks. Jumbo worked on Baba’s left leg throughout the match. There were times each would struggle to escape from each other’s holds and whenever Jumbo did he’d go quickly on the offensive and try to get Baba in a pin attempt. Early on, Baba had Jumbo in a cobra clutch and tried whipping him off the ropes for a backdrop, but Jumbo reversed and sunset flipped Baba for a near fall. Baba was quicker at this point in his career so he’s able to do a little more than he did as he got older, so he’d also do a quick spot like going from a front chancery on Jumbo into a neckbreaker and trying to get a pin. Middle of the match, Jumbo had control and had Baba by the shoulders. He switched over into a piledriver and got a 2-count on Baba before Baba reached the ropes. They have a test of strength with Baba gaining the advantage but Jumbo staying off the mat by bridging his body upwards. Baba at one point sat on him, but couldn’t take him down. Jumbo then used a rapid-fire spinning toehold to wear down Baba. Baba kept trying to escape and would eventually do so by kicking Jumbo off him. Late in the match, there’s some near falls with both getting 2-counts. Baba threw a couple of kicks but Jumbo hit the ropes and landed a knee right at Baba’s head. He followed that up with a dropkick but Baba blocked it. Baba backdropped Jumbo and got the pin. They shook hands after the match and raised each other’s arms in the air.
WINNER: Giant Baba
Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Jack Brisco in a 2/3 falls match for the vacant NWA United National Title
Taped 8/28/1976 at Nippon University Hall in Tokyo, Japan
FIRST FALL: Good first fall with Jumbo quickly going for a pair of headscissors at Brisco. Brisco escaped and had Jumbo in a bearhug followed by a headlock. Jumbo escaped the headlock by lifting up Brisco in the air and dropping him to his knee for a backbreaker. Jumbo got a near fall after that. Jumbo worked on Brisco’s back for much of the fall. Had him in a camel clutch before Brisco broke free by reaching the ropes. Jumbo went with an elbow drop on Brisco. Brisco followed that up trying to get Jumbo in an abdominal stretch but instead he went thru the ropes to the outside. They fought near the ropes for a bit before Brisco got back in the ring with a sunset flip and near fall on Jumbo. Jumbo went for a Boston Crab, but Brisco broke out of the hold. Jumbo then hit a couple of dropkicks and then caught Brisco with a belly-to-belly suplex for the pin. They show a replay of the finish.
SECOND FALL: Brisco got stuck in the ropes early in the fall. Despite the bad start for Brisco he controlled most of the second fall by working on Jumbo Tsuruta’s left leg. He slammed Jumbo’s leg into the ring apron and then into the ringpost. Jumbo and Brisco fought as Jumbo tried to get back into the ring. Jumbo caught Brisco in a headlock, but Brisco lifted him up and dropped Jumbo’s knee into his own and then applied the figure-four leglock. Jumbo tried to fight him off, but eventually submitted to the leglock. As Jumbo laid on the mat, Brisco walked over to him, pointed at him and had a few choice words for him.
THIRD FALL: Jumbo started the fall unable to get up, so Brisco attacked his left leg. Brisco sent Jumbo to the outside and continued to work on his leg in and out of the ring. Jumbo made a comeback with a chop, but Brisco kept going after Jumbo’s leg. Brisco attempted a figure-four leglock while Jumbo tried fighting him off and was able to knock him down. Jumbo hit a jumping knee at Brisco but it hurt him as well. They bump into each other after colliding off the ropes. Brisco went for a kneedrop but Jumbo moved. Jumbo used a double under-armed suplex and got a 2-count. Brisco then caught Jumbo with a backdrop and again went for the figure-four leglock, only Jumbo is able to grab Brisco and roll him up into a small package for the pin. Good match.
WINNER: Jumbo Tsuruta wins the United National Title
Jumbo Tsuruta [NWA] vs. Nick Bockwinkel [AWA]for the AWA World Heavyweight Title/NWA International Heavyweight Title with Special Referee Terry Funk
Taped 2/23/1984 at Kuramae Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan
This was a match with each champion putting his title on the line. Terry Funk was added in as special referee. Match was pretty good. It started quickly when Bockwinkel charged at Tsuruta with a body press and got a near fall out of it right as the bell rang. Bockwinkel controlled most of the early portion of the match by keeping Tsuruta caught in an armlock. He had trouble escaping and when he did, Bockwinkel would just put him in another armlock or armbar submission to keep wearing him down. Funk kept warning Bockwinkel to stay away from Jumbo’s hair. A few times, Bockwinkel would take down Jumbo by grabbing at his hair. Tsuruta hit a couple of piledrivers but couldn’t pin Bockwinkel. Jumbo and Bockwinkel struggled near the ropes and both went to the outside were they brawled a bit while Funk and a referee who was ringside tried to get them separated and back in the ring. They went back and forth at this point exchanging near falls. Both used piledrivers and body slams to get near falls. Jumbo tried to submit Bockwinkel with a Boston Crab but Bockwinkel reached the ropes. Bockwinkel had Jumbo nearly beat after a couple of piledrivers and a backdrop but Jumbo kept surviving in the match. Bockwinkel then shoved Jumbo into Terry Funk and both of them fall to the outside. The referee that was ringside got in as Bockwinkel got a few near falls before he again threw Jumbo to the outside. Bockwinkel tried to bring Jumbo back into the ring with a suplex, but Jumbo reversed it and caught Bockwinkel with a backdrop suplex to get the win ann become the new AWA World Heavyweight Champion. Jumbo does a post-victory interview.
WINNER: Jumbo Tsuruta wins the AWA World Heavyweight Title.
Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Stan Hansen in the Champion Carnival 1991 Finals
Taped 4/16/1991 at the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium in Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
Jumbo focused his attack on Hansen’s left shoulder early in the match. They exchanged chops until Hansen threw in a headbutt and slipped to the outside. Jumbo kept going after Hansen’s left shoulder and used an armbar submission to wear him down. Hansen gained control of the match when he threw Jumbo to the outside and into the ringpost. He grabbed a case nearby and hit Jumbo with it. They both returned to the ring and Hansen got a couple of nearfalls with an elbowdrop and a DDT. Jumbo then counted by elbow at Hansen and then he got a few nearfalls on Hansen by going with a Thesz Press, neckbreaker and even with a lariat. Jumbo slapped Hanse in the corner and followed that up with a few kicks. He whipped Hansen into the corner and followed with a jumping knee and then went for some more slaps and some knee strikes at Hansen in the corner. Hansen responded with some chops, slaps and forearm smashes of his own at Jumbo. Hansen then hit a shoulder tackle and a lariat. He got a 2-count on Jumbo with Jumbo saving himself by reaching the bottom rope. More chops followed from Hansen and he went for another attempt with a lariat, but Jumbo ducked and rolled up Hansen for a 2-count. Hansen tried for another lariat but Jumbo blocked it and instead hit a jumping knee and got the pin on Hansen to win the Champion Carnival Final! After match, Hansen attacked Jumbo and one of the wrestlers that was ringside. Good match with the closing minutes having a really good climactic finish.
WINNER: Jumbo Tsuruta wins the 1991 Champion Carnival Final.
SHOW THOUGHTS: Really good selection of matches to showcase Jumbo Tsuruta. My favorite match had to be the match against Jack Brisco. A really fun match with some good matwork mixed with them doing some things you really don’t see nowadays like Brisco getting stuck in the ropes. All the matches were good, but to me that would be the one I’d single out. The inter-promotional title vs. title matches are always fun to see. I didn’t get to see these matches until later and mostly just read about them when I was a kid, so anytime I see one of these matches I look forward to watching them. I thought that match with Bockwinkel was good. Terry Funk as special referee and wearing a tuxedo was cool added touch to the match. I liked that he was very impartial as a referee when in most places even by that point in time, special referees would usually mean there would be a swerve coming along and in this match that wasn’t the case. My appreciation for Giant Baba’s work grows because we’re fortunate that we get to see footage of him when he was younger and I find that I enjoy his wrestling style. He might not have been the most talented in the ring as far as wrestling holds but he knew how to work a match well. Jumbo’s match against Hansen is exactly what you expect from these two, a very strongly worked match with a really good finish.