Vader & Bam Bam Bigelow v Keiji Mutoh & Hiroshi Hase (New Japan Pro Wrestling, 5/1/92)
God DAMN this was great. I rambled about their first match a couple days ago, and while I really liked it, it more or less felt like an extended squash. I mean, the natives got their shots in and came close enough down the stretch, but on the whole Vader and Bigelow mauled them for around 20 minutes. Here, the natives come out and really take it to the monsters, and it feels like a far more even contest as a result.
In the first match Vader was killing Hase dead by punching him flush in the face, just halting any momentum with a big left hook or castigating him with a lariat. Mutoh would try and get something going on offence and Bigelow would brush aside a dropkick and flatten him with a splash. It was like a couple of pike trying to tackle a pair of Great Whites. This time, even from the first Mutoh/Bigelow exchange, the challengers bare less resemblance to a couple pike than, say, a couple tiger sharks (I have no idea if any of that actually makes sense since my knowledge of sharks isn't, uh, good, but I'mma roll with it anyway). Mutoh ducks Bigelow's enziguiri, dodges his strikes, and generally avoids all initial fat man offence. Then the Hase/Vader exchange confirms that the natives are far better equipped this time around, because Hase actually OUT-STRIKES Vader. There's another really cool moment where Vader goes to hit him with a short-arm lariat, but Hase has it scouted and counters with a Fujiwara armbar. Total reverse from the first match, because the natives control the majority of the first 7 or 8 minutes.
Then Bigelow says "Hey, Hase has a big ol' pressure bandage on his head. Let's fuck him up." And so they do. Bigelow comes in and peels the bandage off, and the look he gives the crowd is great because there's this collective "oooooh, shit" reaction. I love how he and Vader work over the cut - no fancy bullshit, just two big bullies wailing away on an open wound. Hase REALLY has the plasma flowing too, so Bigelow holding his limp body up so Vader can pepper him with jabs gets some great heat.
I really like Bigelow's role in the team. Just about any other partner and he'd be the chief asskicker of the duo, but when VADER'S your partner you practically take a backseat by default. This being the case, he's content to let Vader be the guy that'll Kermit Washington your face through the back of your head while he'll stick to throwing headbutts. I've watched three Vader/Bigelow tag matches over the last few days and I don't recall Bam Bam throwing more than a handful of punches in any match. In general they sort of look weak compared to Vader's anyway, but his headbutts look great, so he doesn't deviate. He's also the guy that'll come in after Vader's bludgeoned the opponents with fists and start to wear them down with a headlock or whatever. Doesn't come across as a "rest hold", though; all of their opponents have been faster than them, so a 400 pound guy lying on your head is a pretty smart spot in theory. Also doesn't have it locked in long enough for it to reach "downtime" territory. I dug his variation of that here, coming in after Vader's routine mauling and very briefly going for a headlock, only to realise there's a better option and throwing the fucking CLAW on Hase's gushing forehead! Crowd booes mercilessly and it was awesome.
Hase's comeback is kinda weird, because he doesn't fight his way back into things long enough to be able to make the hot tag to Mutoh, rest up on the apron for a couple minutes before getting back in to help his partner and then all parties heading Hell on wheels to the finish, which is what I was expecting. Instead, he makes his comeback and Mutoh gets in the ring anyway, once Hase has already regained the advantage for his team by himself, at which point they decide to take out Bigelow on the floor (with a nasty front suplex onto the barricade spot) while they hit Vader with a bunch of bombs in the ring, presumably because they've decided he's the one they're gonna try and pin. It's only once Bigelow is hurt outside and Vader is in bad shape inside that Hase decides to make the tag, which still gets a huge pop because we all know it's moonsault time. I'm not saying it was *bad* or anything, and I guess you could look at it as Hase showing he's fired up SO much since last time that he can make a comeback on his own, but it just seemed... weird, is all.
I also had no idea who won this going in, so I was buying a couple of the nearfalls down the stretch. Hase and Vader know how to work a chokeslam spot, btw. Vader just wraps both hands around his throat and powers him up while Hase kicks his legs in a feeble effort to escape. Then he gets dropped on his fuckin' head. Looks totally uncooperative and nasty. This was a blast.