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CIRCA
The Best of the British Bulldogs
in Japan
October 14, 2004

by Denny Burkholder
Courtesy of WrestleLine.com

 

As a fan, my comfort zone is definitely within the US & Canadian borders, preferably the 1980s, with the 90s a close second. 
 
Being a 1980s American wrestling fanatic, I'm of course very big on The British Bulldogs. Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid were the kings of the tag team mountain at a time when being tag team champions was actually a great accomplishment. They were superb as a duo, and I remember their matches with The Hart Foundation, Greg Valentine & Brutus 

Beefcake, and the Islanders with great fondness. As good as those matches are, I've seen them all... it was time to find some Bulldogs matches I'd never watched.

Golden Boy Tapes to the rescue. "The Best of The British Bulldogs in Japan" compilation runs about two and a half hours, and features 12 matches pitting the Bulldogs against various wrestlers in Japan. If you're not familiar with Japanese wrestling, you'll still recognize some of their opponents. There's a pre-WWF Ted DiBiase, there's Dean Malenko and his brother Joe, Stan Hansen, Terry Gordy, Harley Race, Doug Furnas & Dan Kroffat (Phil Lafon). the matches occured between 1985 and 1989... the prime era of the Bulldogs.

The video quality is very good to excellent, the matches are rare gems from one of the best tag teams ever, and the tape arrived at my doorstep very, very quickly. The price: a mere $7.00 U.S. A small price to pay for some choice footage!

On with the show...

1. British Bulldogs vs. Kuniaki Kobayashi & Higo Hamaguchi
(2/5/85)

Dynamite's wearing the light blue tights with a lightening bolt, Davey Boy's in the similarly-designed red tights. An excellent match by both teams, except the finish was a letdown. This early in 1985, the year the Bulldogs made their big splash as a regular team in the WWF. Every time Dynamite does ANYTHING - the patented snap suplex, a bodyslam, or even kicking out of a pin attempt - he acts like he's trying to murder his opponent with one blow, either by throwing him into the upper deck or drilling him directly through the mat. That's part of what attracts people to his work. Every move was impressive because he sold it like it SHOULD be impressive. There was no half-assing with Dynamite Kid.

Davey Boy still looks a bit green in places, but you can tell he's been trained well and has learned from the quality talent he was surrounded by at that time. He still shows a favoritism for power moves (you'll see the running powerslam in this match, along with a variation of the same move off the turnbuckles).

Both guys are absolutely ripped. Of course, today we know why. Dynamite Kid's matches are often characterized as being "ahead of their time," and this one is right up there with the rest. You get things like the vertical piledriver reversal, a plancha to the outside, and other moves that would have been highly unusual for this time, certainly to an American wrestling fan if not the Japanese. Great match with a disappointing finish, which apparently was a double countout or double DQ.

2. British Bulldogs vs. Tiger Mask & Magic Dragon
(6/2/85)

THAT'S what I'm talking about. Tiger Mask here is Mitsuharu Misawa, the second incarnation. Magic Dragon is Kazuharu Sonoda. Not the longest match in the word. Dragon's got a bit of a paunch and seems to slow things down. Lots more mat wrestling in this, as opposed to high-flying stuff. Misawa is so fluid with his reversals and move sequences, he looks as though he's two or three moves ahead of his opponent most of the time. Davey Boy kept up very well, though. There were few (if any) wrestlers who could outpace Dynamite Kid in his prime, so Kid & Misawa in the ring together was golden. Bulldogs take the win as Dynamite superplexes Dragon for the pin.

3. British Bulldogs vs. Kuniaki Kobayashi & Shinichi Nakano
(6/4/85)

-- Here, we get to see more of Davey Boy, to varying results. It's strange to see Davey using the surfboard as a staple of his moveset. Toward the end, Davey catches Kobayashi with a sick powerslam out of nowhere. A pretty good match, which I'd rank below the first match on the tape that featured Kobayashi. But come on; an average British Bulldogs match is still fantastic in comparison to the very best of some other tag teams. The Bulldogs win after Dynamite KILLS KOBAYASHI DEAD with a short clothesline and polishes him off with a superplex. Not to sound like a broken record, but Dynamite Kid's bodyslams look more powerful than most powerbombs. The guy just beat the shit out of people.

4. British Bulldogs vs. Stan Hansen & Ted DiBiase
(11/23/85)

If you've never been into the Japanese scene, and you're looking for one good reason to start with this tape, here's your match. Especially if you're a big fan of old school American wrestling. Being a huge DiBiase and Hansen mark, this match alone sold the tape in my case.

The match only runs six or seven minutes, but all four guys are going 80 miles an hour the entire time. Hansen's moving round the ring like a god damn cruiserweight. DiBiase is at his absolute physical prime, and it immediately shows why Vince McMahon and other U.S. promoters were so keen on signing him. Surprisingly, this one is sort of one-sided toward DiBiase and Hansen, with DiBiase finishing off Dynamite Kid with his famous powerslam while Hansen chokes out Davey Boy on the ropes. Dynamite Kid looks completely jacked in this one, which serves as a sad reminder of why he's in such bad shape today.

5. British Bulldogs vs. Tiger Mask & Mighty Inoue
(11/30/85)

We're about four and a half months before the Bulldogs' first WWF Tag Team Title win at WrestleMania II here, and thus, we're seeing Davey Boy and Dynamite just as they were making their first big splash in New York. This is Tiger Mask II again, I believe, which means Misawa.

Notable about this match is Inoue winning the Emmy for Most Blatant Utilization of a Rest Hold in a British Bulldogs Match with a chinlock completely out of nowhere on Davey... which Inoue totally abandons as soon as he catches his breath. At one point, Dynamite is working over Inoue and Tiger Mask runs through the camera shot making a bee-line for Davey. The camera stays on Dynamite, but something's going on in the corner as the crowd is audibly "oohing" and "aahing" at the off-camera action. By the time we see Davey and Tiger mask again, Davey's outside the ring for some reason and Tiger Mask is in mid-air delivering a plancha to him. Dynamite Kid takes advantage of Davey "distracting" (getting his ass kicked by) Tiger Mask and nails Inoue with the patented flying headbutt for the pinfall. Decent 10-minute match... average for a Bulldogs bout, but that's still pretty damn good by normal standards. Of note were Davey Boy nailing a nice-looking fisherman suplex before that move was commonplace in the U.S., and Tiger Mask showing the world what a proper German suplex bridge looks like.

6. British Bulldogs vs. Yoshiaki Yatsu & Norio Honaga
(12/4/85)

There's a bit more psychology in this match. Watching the wrestlers' reactions to each other's moves is equally as entertaining as the action itself. For instance, Honaga whips Davey Boy into the ropes and gives him a back elbow, and the camera gets a nice shot of the "fuck that" look on Davey's face as he decides to no-sell it and press slam Honaga instead. Shortly thereafter, Dynamite Kid fuckin' DRILLS Yatsu with a belly to back suplex and throws him out of the ring, and Yatsu walks all the way around the ring to re-enter in his own corner. It's subtle, but sound strategy that adds to the match.

We get about 10 minutes for this one, too, with the Bulldogs winning by pinfall after Dynamite superplexes Honaga. A funny spot at the end as Yatsu runs in to break up the winning pinfall and Davey Boy just stands in the corner watching. Dynamite gets up after the three count and looks at Davey Boy, puzzled, and points at Yatsu as if to ask "where the hell were you on that one?"

7. British Bulldogs vs. Harley Race & Jesse Barr
(12/12/85)

Here's a young Jesse Barr right around the time the WWF called him up to play Jimmy Jack Funk, the kayfabed younger brother of Terry and "Hoss" (Dory). While fakin' the funk was his biggest break in the States, here he's teaming up with a legend in Harley Race. The Japanese are well aware of Race's credentials and give the old man a nice pop for his first tag-in. v A much slower pace than we're used to with British Bulldogs matches, but come on man... it was Harley! They weren't gonna break any land speed records in this one without blowing out his pacemaker in the process. You wonder if he was in this tag match to hide his declining athletic ability to begin with. Remember, this was shortly before his own big WWF run, and that trip to New York didn't spawn too many great matches from Race. Nonetheless, Harley does make a trip to the top rope to give Davey Boy a diving headbutt. Dynamite breaks up the pin afterward, because that's HIS move now.

And actually, Dynamite uses his version of the diving headbutt not one minute later on Jesse Barr, and this time Harley Race breaks the pin. Historical irony... it's fantastic! Harley back in... he lifts Davey Boy into position for a spike piledriver, and pauses to turn around and show the fans in each corner how perfect his technique is before planting him. Another pop from the crowd. Davey regained the advantage and tagged in Dynamite, who immediately tries out his version of the diving headbutt on Harley Race. Harley rolls out of the way. Not today, junior. They go outside the ring, and with Dynamite lying on the floor, Harley goes for the divingheadbutt off the apron and connects. Shortly thereafter, all four guys are brawling on the outside, and it's a double countout.

8. British Bulldogs vs. Joe Malenko & Dean Malenko
(1/28/89)

What a fantastic match. This is easily the greatest match on this collection (so far, and I've got a few matches to go) and perhaps the best British Bulldogs match I've ever seen, period. They tone down the quick tag stuff a bit and go toe to toe, hold for hold, counter for counter with the Malenko brothers. The result is some of the most creative and exciting technical wrestling you could ever hope for. Joe Malenko in particular comes up with some of the damnedest variations of arm and leglock.

Davey Boy Smith doesn't always get a ton of credit for being a solid technical wrestler, for various reasons. For one, he was always surrounded by men who were better than he was at that style, like Dynamite Kid, Bret Hart, Owen Hart. Also, toward the latter half of his career, Davey developed a more pronounced power moveset, so he simply didn't use chain wrestling to the extent that he probably was capable. But here, Davey keeps up very well with the brothers Malenko.

This match was in 1989. In the years between the 1985 bouts on this compilation and the 1989 match with the Malenkos, Dynamite Kid's legend seems to have grown tenfold in Japan. The first two times he's tagged into the ring, the crowd goes nuts for him. But all four guys did an excellent job, and the Malenkos in particular had the crowd popping for them, too, by the latter minutes. The match ends with the Owen Hart-Bret Hart rollup finish from WrestleMania X (which came five years after this match) with Dynamite Kid pinning Joe Malenko. And it even sends the crowd home happy with handshakes and respect all around from both teams after the match. Excellent, excellent match. Instantly one of my favorites.

9. British Bulldogs vs. Dan Kroffat & Doug Furnas
(5/12/89)

Tom Billington is sporting the Evil Dynamite Kid look now, as he's gone back to the short-cropped buzz cut and now has a goatee. The crowd was very lively for this one, too. Lots of playing to the crowd and test-of-strength type exhibitions between Davey Boy Smith and Doug Furnas.

A pretty decent match that doesn't sit as well following the Malenko masterpiece before it. Dynamite gets the pinfall on Furnas following a fairly sloppy belly to back reversal sequence.

And we get a rematch...

10. British Bulldogs vs. Dan Kroffat & Doug Furnas
(5/20/89)

Dynamite gets the pin on Kroffat after a diving headbutt.

11. The British Bulldogs vs. Jumbo Tsuruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu
(5/24/89)

Tsuruta spends a lot of the match getting worked over by the Bulldogs, who are focusing on wearing down his arms. There's an interesting exchange between Yatsu and Davey Boy where Yatsu keeps getting Davey in the corner and delivering a series of forearm smashes, which the crowd is reacting heavily to. At one point Davey gets sick of taking all the punishment and lays in some thick overhand chops to Yatsu's chest. On about the third chop, Yatsu slaps Davey in the face for interrupting his heat. The crowd goes "oooh" and Dynamite Kid and Tsuruta climb their respective turnbuckles to whip up the fans even more.

Late in the match, they continue to twist andstomp Tsuruta's arm into silly putty. Davey Boy grabs Tsuruta by the hair and goes for the spot where he rams his opponent's head into Dynamite's in the corner. Tsuruta puts on the breaks at the last second, ramming Davey Boy's head into his partner's and scoring the pinfall. Another very good match.

12. British Bulldogs vs. Stan Hansen & Terry Gordy
(6/5/89)

INCREDIBLY hot crowd to start. Dynamite throws shoulderbocks into Gordy repeatedly trying to knock him off his feet, with the crowd getting louder on each hit. He finally floors "Bamm Bamm" and they cheer massively. Looks like both sides have plenty of crowd heat here, but the Bulldogs are crazy over as the babyfaces.

Davey Boy gets Gordy into a press slam and holds him there for a few seconds before finishing the move. HUGE crowd reaction on that one. See that? The Bulldogs were over, and they didn't even need a pet dog mascot to do it! Amazing, huh Vince?

Hansen and Gordy pepper Davey Boy with about eight elbow drops and the heels are in control. Stan Hansen shows Davey Boy that his partner isn't the only one capable of a stiff snap suplex. Dynamite comes in and returns the favor with about 10 shoulderblocks and some fists to the head. Diving headbutt to Gordy gets two. Davey's back in, and the shoulder powerslam gets two. Gordy regains control with a kick to the chin and tags Hansen. Hansen misses with an elbow drop and then whiffs on a clothesline. Davey Boy lands a body press and covers Hansen. Gordy breaks up the count, and now all four guys are in.

Davey Boy press slams Dynamite on top of Hansen and then covers him. Gordy breaks it up again. Davey whiffs on a clothesline and Hansen hits the back elbow. Hansen raises his arm and adjusts his elbow pad, and the crowd goes nuts in anticipation of the lariat. Hansen throws Davey into the ropes and kills him dead with the lariat, and covers for the three count.

That's the end. Very highly recommended for any fan who misses the Bulldogs and wants to check out a few more of their matches at a low price. And if you're a technical wrestling buff, the Bulldogs vs. Dean & Joe Malenko is an absolute must-have.

You can pick up your copy at www.GoldenBoyTapes.com.

 
E-MAIL DENNY
BROWSE THE CIRCA ARCHIVES


  
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