Wrestling Grab Bag #2: Tatsumi Kitahara/Rochester Roadblock vs Naoki Sano/Tito Santana

Strange matches in pro wrestling history and the promotions run by Genichiro Tenryu go hand in hand. First in SWS, followed by WAR, Tenryu made a living out of bringing in random men from across the world to team up and fight against each other. Sure, he had his mainstays that formed the backbone of his promotions, but any other conceiavble wrestler was fair game. Thus, we get this tag team match, as a perennial jobber teams up with one of Tenryu’s men to face off against one of the most under-rated US-based wrestlers of all time and a junior heavyweight who never seemed to quite scale the dizzying heights of his time spent in New Japan at the end of the 1980s, early 1990s.

From a personal point of view, this match has two wrestlers I know well, one wrestler I know of by name and a fourth wrestler I’ve never heard of. By all accounts, Tatsumi Kitahara was closely allied to Genichiro Tenryu, having followed a stint in AJPW with runs in SWS and WAR before freelancing for the rest of his career up to date. Sano, I was aware of from his famous run against Liger (yet never having seen the matches…). Tito Santana was a man I’d been a huge fan of when I was younger, an important part of any of the WWF VHS’ I owned. And then…the Roadblock.

The Rochester Roadblock is what makes this match weird in my eyes. Santana in Japan is interesting, but WWF and SWS co-promoted shows, so a lot of WWF talent went out to Japan. Indeed, at this time, Santana probably have somewhat outlived his usefulness in the WWF, so would probably have appreciated the chance to showcase his wares somewhere they might be better appreciated. But…Roadblock? A guy that I remember carrying roadblocks down to the ring on Nitro in 1996? How did Tenryu ever consider him a guy that he needed to put on his books and wrestle in his ring?

Unsurprisingly, the crowd only really pop for Sano and Kitahara, especially Sano who is much loved by the members of the crowd. It is the initial tease of these two getting it on in the ring that gets the crowd going initially, and it is Sano who outwrestler Kitahara in the early going, before Kitahara landed a nice German and snap suplex, one after the other. As soon as Kitahara chooses to tag in the Roadblock, Sano backs off and tags in Tito Santana.

For a big man, Roadblock just looks unthreatening, not helped by the mixture of an awful singlet, hideous moustache and the worst hair of any of the guys in the ring (unless you count the referee). You hope that at least he will throw the smaller guys around with glee, but his offense doesn’t look much better than he does. We see the normal ‘big guy vs little guy’ collisions, before Santana takes him down with a flying crossbody and a couple of dropkicks. Roadblock’s selling just looks awkward, always as if he is on a slight delay to everyone else in the ring. Strangely enough, due to his size, Roadblock is the man in trouble for the first concerted period of time as Sano and Santana use some quick tags to isolate him, but he is able to eventually fight back with an odd bearhug into atomic drop on Satana.

Roadblock’s fairly poor offense is highlighted when Kitahara comes in and absolutely nails Santana with a knee to the gut and a high kick – Kitahara’s strikes look so crisp compared to Roadblock’s tapping and slapping. Sano has had enough at this point though, and breaks a boston crab attempt from Kitahara on Santana. Roadblock does get a chance to re-enter the ring as now his team try and utilise a few quick tags, and hits a fairly decent clothesline, helped by Santana’s always excellent selling. Santana’s beatdown leads to the spot teased earlier, as Roadblock locks in a fairly weak looking bearhug. Every big man must have a bearhug, but this one never leaves the audience in doubt as to the outcome, with Santana nailing Roadblock with several elbows to break the hold.

This ‘tease’ sends us down the home straight as Sano is tagged in to allow him and Santana to double team Roadblock with a double slam. Kitahara breaks up the pin, leaving all four men in the ring. As Sano is chased by Kitahara, he springs up to the top rope and moonsaults over his opponent, landing perfectly to allow him to nail Roadblock with a beautiful superkick. Kitahara and Sano brawl to the floor as the reeling Roadblock is nailed with a Tito Santana flying forearm for the victory.

The match wasn’t at all horrendous, but there is always just the awkward feeling whenever Roadblock enters the ring. Outside of his size, you question what did Tenryu ever see in him as a wrestler – but, weirder things have happened.

Probably on the same card in SWS.

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