For this episode of Weird Wrestling from the Interwebs, we head to All Japan, which seems to have its cup flowing over with odd teams competing during the middle of the 1980s. Two of these men ‘make sense’ to me, whilst the other two are a surprise for sure.
The match sees Harley Race team up with Crusher Blackwell to take on the team of The One Man Gang and Tiger Jeet Singh. From my knowledge of All Japan wrestling, the appearances of Harley Race and Tiger Jeet Singh are not particularly abnormal, yet the partners are wrestlers I truly wouldn’t have placed in an All Japan ring. One Man Gang. Crusher Blackwell around this time would have still been wrestling in the AWA, whilst One Man Gang would have been touring around stints in the UWF, it would seem.
Blackwell is a man that I felt should have been bigger (pardon the obvious joke) than he ended up being in the wrestling world. A good character, with size and agility arguably in equal measure, he had a lot to offer. According to websites, he was sniffed about by the WWF, but never fully desired to head up to wrestle for them. As big men go, he is one of the more oddly shaped out of the lot, short and incredibly round, belying an ability to leave his feet as and when needed. He doesn’t look like the conventional ‘big men’ that WWF have had over the years – whether that worked against him in the long run is debatable.
One Man Gang would soon leave UWF for WWF, a run in the Wrestlemania IV title tournament one of the bigger singles highlights (and one of my first wrestling memories). He’d adapted the One Man Gang gimmick to be a little less rough around the edges (something I saw in my 1984 Year in Review series where he looked more like a wildman than a biker gang member). An entertaining hand, if not the greatest wrestler of all time.
The finish of this match could probably be telegraphed by the competitors – there are no real obvious ‘fall’ guys. Harley Race and Tiger Jeet Singh are the names, Blackwell and Gang are the monsters, and the match has draw written all over it. Unsurprisingly, it does end in a draw, but there is a fun little five minute match within that obvious ending.
With guys the size of Gang and Blackwell, emphasising the size of the wrestlers through the initial opening of the match makes a lot of sense, and we see Gang and Blackwell fail to lift each other or knock each other down. This draws ‘ooohs’ from the crowd, both men real spectacles to the Japanese crowd. A big boot from Gang sees Blackwell hit the mat, and I legitimately cringed as it looked stiff for the first notable move of the match – only to be followed by a big lariat which looked even more painful. Blackwell, for a big man, works well as a plucky babyface type at times due to his movement, and as Gang comes in for another lariat, Blackwell lashes back, a double clothesline putting both big men on the floor. A couple of misses see Gang hit the turnbuckle before Blackwell hits the mat on an attempted splash, before Blackwell shows his agility by landing a dropkick. Now, it isn’t a very good dropkick, but you can’t argue with a guy that size willing to leave his feet.
Harley Race is brought into the ring and crowd go wild – Harley is clearly the most popular of the men in the match. Race instantly slams Gang with ease, making Blackwell’s initial attempts look laughable. A kneedrop is followed by a missed headbutt, which allows Gang got make the tag to Singh. My knowledge of Singh is less than limited, but his interactions throughout the match make him at the least entertaining. Singh locks Race in a chokehold, before Gang manages to distract the referee long enough for Singh to get out a metal pole from his shoes. Race is able to block the attack and nail Singh with his own weapon, hitting a suplex to follow. The match inevitably breaks down here, as Blackwell and Gang won’t get out of the ring. Singh escapes the pin before the ref can even get down to count and heads to ringside, followed by Race. As the big men battle in and around the ring, Singh and Race head into the crowd, the double countout finish a certainty from the second Singh heads to ringside. The brawl is fun, and eventually, Blackwell manages to save Race from Singh’s grasp. The faces head back to the ring to celebrate for the crowd.
No five star classic, but it perfectly sums up what this is supposed to be about – strange, yet entertaining, matches from around the world. Check it out.