365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

The project continues! And it’s not just about watching some good wrestling I haven’t seen yet, which, ya know … *gestures in the direction of the index of posts to date* … but also seeing matchups I haven’t seen. The more esoteric, the better! So when I saw that, on a day in Japan in 1984, Jumbo Tsuruta and Great Kabuki went against the Fabulous Freebirds, I thought that was definitely a match I needed to see.

The Context

Tsuruta is one of the biggest stars in Japanese wrestling of the modern era and he was a top talent for All Japan for more than a decade, including unifying the Pacific Wrestling Federation, NWA United National, and NWA International Heavyweight titles to become the first Triple Crown Champion in AJPW history. At the time of this match, Tsuruta is currently sans title, and about a month away from half of the NWA International tag champs with Tenryu. He’s also just a couple of days away from defeating Nick Bockwinkel to become AWA World Champion.

You probably know Kabuki for his work stateside, making his way around the territorial circuit in the 1980s. He was also the first wrestler to my knowledge to make use of the “Asian mist” in the ring, usually blowing it onto his hands, as depicted in the picture with this article.

Then there’s Hayes and Gordy, who at this point are nearly two years into their wild and wooly blood feud with the Von Erichs in World Class as two-thirds of the Fabulous Freebirds. The Freebirds actually lost a Loser Leaves Town match to the Von Erichs on Christmas night, and then spent most of January on this tour of Japan before returning to Texas.

The Match

I’ve always enjoyed Kabuki, who I’m most familiar with from his run in World Class. Watching some old WCCW episodes and matches recently gave me a new appreciation for Kabuki, especially during matches with Kevin Von Erich where they just beat the hell out of each other on every meeting. Kabuki had a few forays as a fan favorite in Texas but spent most of his time on the rulebreaker side of the fence. So get ready for some cognitive disconnect in this match, as the All Japan crowd treats him like a returning conquering hero.

Kabuki does the lion’s share of the work in this match, and when the Freebirds have control, they clap and chant his name like a diehard Southern rasslin’ crowd rooting for Ricky Morton to make the tag to Robert Gibson. Kabuki shows some old-fashioned babyface fire on a few occasions, although his mojo takes a permanent hit when Gordy smashes him into the ringpost on the outside. Kabuki comes up bloody — though it’s hard to tell given the quality of the video, Kabuki’s facepaint, and dark hair … at least until trickles of crimson start dripping down his chest.

The Freebirds play fine foils here. They act bewildered at Kabuki’s pre-match ritual of spraying the mist, with some great facial expressions by Hayes that transcend any language barrier. Hayes does most of the work for his team in the match, though Gordy makes the most of his action with the requisite amount of clubberin’, including sending Kabuki into the post. Once they have Kabuki bloodied, both Freebirds bite at his head until Kabuki counters a charge into the corner with a thrust kick — a Kabuki staple, and one that usually stands out in his matches with the Von Erichs. Gordy heads to the top rope but his attack is countered by a face full of mist from Kabuki. Gordy sells the mist like he’s been blinded with toxic chemicals, careening into the seats with Hayes trying to corral him, and ultimately getting the Freebirds counted out.

Final Rating: 5.5

This was an easy night’s work for Jumbo, an intriguing showcase for Kabuki, but an otherwise forgettable match aside from the relative novelty. While this wasn’t the only time these four met in the same match, if there’s another contest that’s reasonably accessible online, I haven’t found it. If you’re a big Kabuki fan like me, it’s worth watching for sure.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

What’s Next

Two in-ring greats walk into a bar.

Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.

4 thoughts on “365 Wrestling, Day 22: Jumbo Tsuruta & Great Kabuki vs. Michael Hayes & Terry Gordy (All Japan, 1/22/84)

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