43. Vader vs Antonio Inoki (NJPW 7/29/88)

Vader’s NJPW debut saw him demolish Antonio Inoki in under five minutes. What a perfect way to debut a monster heel: have him easily defeat the company’s top babyface! Of course, the babyface has to get his/her revenge…in their rematch, it ended in a lacklustre countout, following a decent match. I expected so much more…so instantly watched the third match between them (well, the third match on NJPW World). And while better than their second match, this one still remained in the ‘average’ zone of quality.

All I remember of their second match were the two wrestlers exchanging armbars for much of the middle section. The post-match brawl was entertaining, but too little, too late! The monster heel, Vader, appeared not to want to use his immense size and strength advantage! To be quite honest, it was dull. I expected a lengthy battle, the babyface Inoki absorbing lots of punishment from Vader but persevering through it all.

I didn’t get that, and although this match had more action, it still felt like the two wrestlers were holding back. There just wasn’t much to it. Yes, there were more suplexes than armbars, but it all felt like by the numbers heel vs babyface action. Vader would keep Inoko grounded, building Inoki up for the big comebacks…and Inoko’s comebacks just lacked that burst of excitement that you should get when a babyface comes back!!!

The only thing I’ll really remember from this battle is Inoki slicing Vader’s upper arm open with a sceptre of some kind! Yes, in full view of the referee, Inoki attacks Vader with a foreign object. It doesn’t warrant a disqualification, however. That baffled me! However, it gives us the great visual of Vader howling in pain, clutching a gaping, bleeding hole in his arm!

So yes, it was better than their middling second bout. At least this one didn’t end in a countout! But it left little to no impression on me. Perhaps I expected too much. They were capable of having that bout I imagine, however, almost eight years later…

Hammy’s Rating: *** (out of 5)

(Click here for more of ‘A Wrestling Match A Day‘)

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