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I’ve got to confess something. I have a serious, wrestling-related, man-crush on Stan Hansen. Have for years, and it’s time to admit it.
For me, Hansen is one of the best to ever step into a pro wrestling ring, by any metric you care to apply. Five-star matches? He has multiple, according to Dave Meltzer. Longevity? Hansen had more than two decades as a major name, wrestling both in the U.S., and in Japan. He was able to hold up in the grueling Japanese style in lengthy matches and was known for his rugged presence and style — a reputation helped along by being so near-sighted that he was notoriously snug in the ring.
First a little context: after several years as a top gaijin heel for New Japan Pro Wrestling, Hansen jumped at the end of 1981 to NJPW’s main rival in the country, All Japan Pro Wrestling. He made his debut with All Japan in December of 1981, seconding Bruiser Brody and Jimmy Snuka in the 1981 Real World Tag League finals against the Funk Brothers. However, this bout with Hara was his first match in AJPW since making the move, although he did work a few tours in the mid-70s for the promotion, albeit with a beard and shaggy blond hair that was more Moondog than cowboy.
There’s a packed house in Kisarazu, a city in the Japanese province of Chiba, on this night. The anticipation for Hansen is palpable. From the second his music starts, many of the fans come to their feet as he stalks toward the ring. Hansen’s known for being a heel in Japan, but the starstruck crowd starts chanting his name mere seconds into the match, as Hansen physically overwhelms his foe. Even a chinlock advances the tale being told. Note the mannerisms of Hansen, the extra torque he puts on the hold as he wrenches Hara, and the facial expressions of Hara.
Every time Hansen Irish whips Hara into the ropes, or goes into the ropes himself, there’s a discernible buzz from the crowd as they await the Lariat … Hansen’s signature and brutal-looking clothesline finisher. After a couple of teases, including a jumping knee that fells Hara with ease, Hansen unleashes his signature strike to the delight of the crowd. The only unfortunate circumstance is that there’s a nonsensical camera cut as Hansen delivers the move, detracting from its apparent devastation. Hansen makes the cover and wins a match with a 45-minute time limit in less than three.
Give Hara credit for treating Hansen’s lariat like death itself. Young boys in matching red windbreakers (including a young Haku) come out and give Hara the full stretcher treatment. As he is carried to the back, his foot quivers a bit to add just a little extra seasoning to this delectable entree of salesmanship. It’s a solid piece of business that, in hindsight, would have meant more had Hara not been back in the ring two days later.
Final Rating: 5.5
I’m a big believer that the quality of a match depends, in part, on how effective the match is in accomplishing its goal. The objective here is to establish Hansen as a force to be reckoned with in All Japan, and they overachieve in meeting that objective.
You can bet your hat and your boots, cowpoke, this won’t be the only Stan Hansen match as part of the project.
A throwback showcase of scientific wrestling.
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