Quebrada Pro Wrestling, Puroresu, & Mixed Martial Arts Reviews by Mike Lorefice

AJPW G+ Puroresu Classic #10 4/3/03
UN Heavyweight Title Trilogy
Billy Robinson vs. Jumbo Tsuruta

3/5/77 Akita Shiritsu Taiikukan, 2/3 Falls United National Heavyweight Title Match: Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Billy Robinson 23:03 [11:03 (9:32 shown), 7:54, 4:06]. Robinson is a great technical wrestler at any length, but the faster the pace, the better he is because he's going to keep countering. Thus, the match becomes an anything you can do I can immediately counter sort of battle of one-upmanship, and he's just an off the charts worker in that format because he conveys the urgency & desperation he feels about not letting his opponent get the better of him. These two just had all the answers, and that was really the story of the match, told through the series of sequences that kept proving the point in different ways. Though Baba made up for it with his effort in the great 7/24/76 match against Robinson, this was the highest level Robinson has reached so far in a Japanese match because he finally had an opponent that was a great wrestler in his own right. Jumbo could thus equally follow him, match him, or push him by initiating himself. A scenario where they could realistically tell a complete story while going all out in the process obviously helped a lot as well. They just went back & forth using their speed & precision to force one another to raise their level to answer yet again. There's little stories & plays off previous moves here and there, but for the most part the story is simply that nothing is going to last, there's always a counter, and they're going to hit it sooner rather than later, in a quick precise fashion that's just beautiful to watch. Jumbo had been wrestling a little less than 4 years at this point, but he's just amazing in this setting that allows, no forces, him to use his speed & technique to max levels & encourages him to be emotional about it. When Robinson was wrestling Inoki or Baba the skill difference both in real & fake styles was just so immense it's hard not to feel that it's ridiculous that he can't beat these guys easily much less at all, but Jumbo is already near Robinson's level of greatness, probably the 2nd best wrestler of the decade. This isn't just a technical match though, one of Robinson's greatest attributes was his ability to get over his will to win. It's hard to describe how he can take some kind of random action & make it seem so important, but take the sequence starting with Jumbo knocking him over the top to the floor with an elbow. It's not really even a sequence, it's just that Robinson can get over that he doesn't like losing & is upping his game to ensure that won't happen, so after another big bump on a dropkick, he just comes at Jumbo harder, with more intensity & urgency, & he gets knocked down again, but this time it's a double shoulderblock & Jumbo goes down too. This would normally be part of a 2 or 3 part transition where Robinson takes control, but it's not even that, in fact, Jumbo beats him to the next hold & almost submits him with a Boston crab. So in the end, Robinson hasn't changed the match in terms of control, what he's done is escalate the fans perception of the importance of control, made it feel more urgent, and gotten over how seriously he takes it, and thus we should take it, the dire importance to him (and thus us) of being better than his opponent, even if, he may not be at the moment. The 2nd fall drags some because although Robinson shows several nice escapes from the headlock, Jumbo just keeps going back to it & they take their rests until Billy hits a big backdrop out & they sprint to the finish then keep that pace going for the third. The first & third falls are both great, the first being the longer more hold/counter hold variety & the third being the energetic sprint to the finish. The finish where Robinson rolls through the rolling clutch hold & uses his weight on Jumbo to get the flash pin is fluky, but it's actually perfect for this match because they always have the answers & better whatever the opponent tries on them, so it was going to take someone finally just getting caught off guard by the latest surprise. There's flashier offense today, but this was an amazing workrate match for its time that still looks impressive because sequences of counters are a lot more difficult & thus impressive than a bunch of great moves that the opponent just stands/lays there & takes. ****3/4

3/11/77 Tokyo Nippon University Auditorium, UN Heavyweight Title Match: Billy Robinson vs. Jumbo Tsuruta 60:00 [34:19 (14:17 shown), 11:35, 14:06 (12:03 shown)]. Between being majorly disappointed by their 70:00 draw from 7/7/76 & finding the Robinson/Inoki 60:00 draw to be far less entertaining than Robinson's best AJ matches, I came to the conclusion that Robinson is most effective at this 20-30 minute length because his genius abilities to build series of counters & escalate the tension come to the forefront the more active the match is, and obviously the mid range match is going to be more active than the marathon. This theory was proved by the great 7/24/76 match against Baba & the 3/5/77 match against Jumbo, which would have been state of the art, action packed technical matches in 1996 much less 20 years earlier. I was thinking, I guess they didn't learn anything from last years draw, here comes a slow & dead match that will pale in comparison to last week's gem, but they went right ahead & wrestled this as if it was going to be another 25 minute match, and seemingly did 60 minutes at an even more amazing level, somehow actually blowing away their beautiful 25 minute match! I'm not sure I've seen a more spirited hour draw! They were really active & aggressive throughout, but most importantly, they kept the intensity growing higher & the urgency escalating. You can't really do better than arguably the two best wrestlers in the world going all out for an hour, but as amazing as the wrestling was, their emotions are kind of what set the match apart. This never felt like the usual false playing to the crowd to try to manufacture interest, the whole vibe was of perfectionism, and it was very self contained. it was an anguish to always succeed that would be there in equally overwhelming doses if they were wrestling in an empty building. Their drive & desperation to always be winning caused their frustration, both with themselves & their opponent, to grow massive & keep boiling over. Whether or not the match was actually as fast as their match from the previous week, it certainly felt faster because they told the stories & increased the tension better. I don't think I've seen a more urgent 60:00 draw, and because of that, and the way they tied the sequences together so well despite incorporating so many different ideas & styles, almost everything worked. Even on the rare occasions when they were "taking a rest", they were still working the hold& giving the illusion that a desperate struggle was taking place. The first fall is tragically cut more than in half, so it's unclear what gets Jumbo so fired up, but once he gets off his back he's coming at Billy something fierce, & in one of the prevailing themes, Joe Higuchi has to restrain him from attacking Robinson when he's both down & in the ropes. One of the biggest problems with last years draw was they never developed a sense of urgency, tonight they had it more or less from the outset, and kept milking it to ridiculous levels. The way they were able to shift back & forth between the technical match that's their strength & the brawling that makes winning and/or simply hurting the opponent that much more important was one of the aspects that made the match such a winner. It wasn't a match where they said, well the grappling doesn't work so I'm just going to put the wood to the opponent, to some extent it was more that that they'd get so frustrated because the grappling wasn't yet good enough to defeat the opponent that they'd just stoop to the fisticuffs before temporarily regaining their composure & rededicating themselves to doing the things that should lead them to victory. However, these guys had such diverse skills you couldn't really pin them down, so there were a lot of little explosions before someone found an advantage they could run with. The match wasn't the least bit random, but you had multiple threads running in and out if not just occuring simultaneously & when you combined their diversity of styles & techniques with the all out emotion they were putting into it, being so fiery & aggressive, it was often unpredictable in the best kind of way. For instance, in the 1st fall they were escalating the violence of a striking exchange & suddenly Jumbo ducked & Robinson went flying over the top rope to the floor, which ended the striking for the moment, but the striking was also brawling, which continued as Robinson tried to reenter, hitting a shoulder to the midsection then jumping off the apron so he could clothesline Jumbo's neck on the top rope. With Jumbo now getting up slowly, he was prone to Robinson's cobra twist & they went back to technical wrestling, one style continually setting up another, and the two just taking what was available as if it were a real fight. Later Robinson double crossed on his offer to lock up, kicking Jumbo in the knee as soon as he grasped his hand & firing a big forearm uppercut, but as Jumbo was trying to answer with his own uppercut, Billy picked his leg & legbreakered him, so that brawl wound up being Robinson working the knee on the mat, but the powder keg was still ready to explode whenever Jumbo got another opportunity. There was a big flurry of action at the end of the first fall, which Jumbo took back body dropping his way out of Robinson's doublearm suplex then hitting one of his own. Robinson had worked the back for a stretch in the 1st, but his own back wasn't yet recovered & gave out trying for a bodyslam at the start of the 2nd, so Jumbo continued to roll throughout that fall, exploiting the "injury". Jumbo is very fired up throughout the fall, pressing hard to take his title back. Robinson goes over the top with his selling of the back at times, but does a great job of showing he's determined to hang in until he can find his moment to answer. Unfortunately, that moment comes answering Jumbo's dropkick with one of his own, and then they simultaneously throw dropkicks for a double knockdown. Jumbo, of course, is up quicker, but Robinson still has a chance to comeback as there's another double knockdown off a shoulderblock then Robinson grabs a front facelock, but now Jumbo is the one that takes over with the leg pick, going into a Boston crab. I like the lack of transitions in this fall with the healthier Jumbo recovering quicker, and this Boston crab would have been a great finish except the match couldn't end in straight falls. I loved how after Robinson finally made it to the ropes, Jumbo shoved Higuchi out of the way & started stomping on Billy's back. The false notion that an opponent can be perpetually controlled by simply wrapping their neck without paying any attention to the rest of their body annoys me to no end, so it was great that when the transition finally came, it was in the simplest & most obvious possible way, with Robinson taking the top out of a headscissors. Robinson went to work on the neck, and took the 2nd fall with a tombstone piledriver, which the announcer obliviously called a shoulderbuster. Now it was Robinson's turn to dominate by running with the injury from the previous fall. This eventually set Robinson up for the doublearm suplex he thought he'd win the 1st fall with, and there's just this great look of exasperation followed by a disbelieving attempt to psych himself up to go on after Jumbo kicked out. Robinson's frustration begins to boil over, and he pulls out the belly to belly over the top to the floor he famously used against Inoki. They're in and out of the ring throughout the 3rd fall, which increasingly has more elements of brawling as they're just sick & tired of their opponent not giving in to them. Robinson cutely uppercutted the arm that Jumbo was holding on to in order to keep from falling off the apron from Robinson's strikes, but Robinson got cocky after Jumbo took this bump into a table & followed him out only to once again have his body slam backfire, and get his back reinjured when Jumbo instead slammed him on the concrete. Jumbo still can't finish him with the Boston crab though, and time expired just after he hit the doublearm suplex. In a fitting conclusion, Jumbo just kept fighting, stomping Robinson until people got in his way. Robinson actually seemed the level headed one of the two, but then when Higuchi raised both their hands with the announcement of the draw, he slapped Jumbo for one final outburst. There's a lot of time missing, but nothing about what's shown makes me think the match wouldn't become that much richer & more impressive if the footage is ever properly restored. This is match of the decade material. *****

CWF 3/23/77 Miami Beach Convention Hall 2/3 Falls UN Heavyweight Title Decision Match: Billy Robinson vs. Jumbo Tsuruta 31:00 [10:55, 13:00 (9:48 shown), 7:05 (5:08 shown). It was going to be nearly impossible to follow their amazing draw from 3/11, but even if this isn't nearly at the level of the previous two matches in the series, it's impressive just how much material they had. When they repeated themselves, it wasn't really doing their things, but rather continuing threads from the previous matches. It wasn't just the match that was well built, but the series in general, as again each fall told it's own story which then continued into the next fall, but now back injuries & themes of trying to win with doublearm suplexes and Boston crabs had been established. They seemed to change the match for America though, making it more technically oriented, which wasn't a good change because it made the match slower & the performers less fiery. The first fall, ironically, was probably the best all around fall of the night, as it had a really great mix of technical counter wrestling escalating to emotional striking to composed frustration. The best of the challenging sequences saw Robinson escape a hammerlock by using his leg for an outside trip then try to work the leg he tripped, but Jumbo shot him into the ropes with his other leg & tried to monkey flip him on the way back, except Robinson held onto a leg in midair & got right up to hit a leg breaker. However, they focused more on getting each other riled up to generate heat early, with the story of the 1st fall being Robinson's frustration over Jumbo getting the better of him, which caused Billy to go big early. Jumbo's strikes (chops, elbows, but mainly his slaps) got under Robinson's skin, leading to Robinson slapping instead of breaking clean, which Jumbo soon avenged. Robinson just couldn't sustain an advantage, so he unleashed a series of neckbreakers, each with that put him in his place kind of attitude, but still Jumbo just had the better positioning & timing & perhaps even luck as Robinson's one big counter pin attempt wound up in the ropes. Ultimately, Jumbo countered an atomic drop & busted out his big backdrop to take the 1st. The 2nd fall was a muvh slower, more technical fall with Jumbo maintaining his lead with the headlock. Robinson would eventually find a counter, for instance a headstand twist out, but Jumbo would just counter back into the headlock. Robinson finally used his backbreakers to take over then won with a Boston crab, which put him in maintain the advantage mode to start the 3rd, continuing to work the injured back. Jumbo finally got going with a doublearm suplex & cobra twist, and after Robinson hip tossed his way out, trapped Robinson in a Boston crab of his own. Thusfar, everything was well worked up to, and although it was early (weird having a 3rd fall that's half the length of the other two when it's not because time expired) I'd be fine with this being the finish, as it had been a major part of the series & would be a move over wrestler type of story where each guy trapped the opponent, and that's why the Boston crab is good. Instead, because it's America, and Robinson had a fued with Abdullah, he shows up out of nowhere for a preposterous run in, taking out the ref & breaking Jumbo's crab with a chop (I'm unclear why he's essentially saving Robinson even if to attack him himself) & tossing him out of the ring. Robinson gets the 1st blow in on Butcher & has a good run before taking a fork to the throat, at which point Jumbo reappears & pins him with a dropkick despite the fact that it should have been a DQ for Abby hitting the ref. This was worked more as though it was going long than the other two, and was well on it's way to being another great match, but the finish had nothing to do with anything that came before it in this particular match, a match where virtually everything had something to do with what came before it. I loved that they just wrestled this "as though they didn't know it was going to end in a stupid run in" & had an actual legit finish in mind, but in a sense that makes it more tragic. It surely was not a fitting way to end a trilogy that had already delivered two of the best matches of the decade.Yes, screw jobs always suck, but this truly & literally was Butchery! ****

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