51. Big Van Vader (c) vs Stan Hansen (IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match, NJPW 12/6/1990)

The first clash between Vader and Stan Hansen for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship was marred by Vader’s grotesque eye injury. All kudos to Vader for still carrying on and having an entertaining match. But it felt like a taster of the brutality the two brawlers were capable of exacting on each other. A number of months later they engaged in another war, where no eyes were ripped out of their sockets. And it’s really very good!

I suspect this is the match Vader and Hansen would have fought if Hansen hadn’t ripped Vader’s eye out of its socket (accidentally, of course!). Like in that bout, there’s even a little scuffle between the two before the bout offically begins! And it just ramps up in intensity from there as the two warriors just beat the living daylights out of each other. There’s no legitimate injury to slow things down, or change the course of the match.

One thing I’m confused about with NJPW is about the use of foreign objects. Both wrestlers clobber each other with chairs, yet neither is disqualified. If there are no disqualifications in championship matches, why don’t the wrestlers use weapons from the opening bell? Not only does Vader use a chair, but he wallops Hansen once or twice with the announcer’s table! And yet the match continued…

These two don’t need fancy suplxes, flips or extended, overly choreographed sequences. It’s just two brawlers throwing scary-looking strikes at each other. But, just like their previous match ended in a double countout, the ending to this one is just as ridiculous. I can’t even tell you who won! My Japanese isn’t up to scratch. But up until those last few minutes, this is a ferocious fight that is as intense as any wrestling match you’ll see. I much preferred it over their infamous battle that almost cost Vader his eye!

Hammy’s Rating: **** (out of 5)

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

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