Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Antonio Inoki vs. Andre the Giant 10/07/1976

Back Story:

So it may seem I'm in a bit of an Antonio Inoki obsession. I wasn't into puro when he was at his peak, and after watching IGF 8, I really want to know who the hell this guy is and why he was so popular. So I, like millions of people, went to Wikipedia for my information. On his Wiki page there is a list of shoot fights that he was in, and on this list, directly after Muhammad Ali, is ANDRE THE GIANT. In a shoot fight. This of course is preposterous. But nonetheless I had to watch it. So I tracked down the footage and popped it in. What I found is basically the very soul of what IGF's booking philosophy is 30+ years before its inception.

The Match:

Andre the Giant is a big man. When these guys start to lock up it looks like Inoki is in danger of being mauled by a bear. The good thing about this match is despite looking so small, Inoki still carries himself like the baddest man on the planet. It's not very often that a guy can carry himself as a badass and still play an underdog. Inoki gets to play his game after countering out of a head lock and locks up the Giant's arm. Andre gets the ropes but there's no rope breaks here. Andre finally counters by dead lifting his opponent over his head and dropping him to the apron. Andre was great at selling his arm and when Inoki came in it was with a PURPOSE. "I'm gonna mess that arm UP!" He hits a couple of dropkicks but Andre eventually catches him to show some dominance. This ain't gonna be easy.

At about ten minutes in Andre officially gains control. Doing some neck work. What the hell is that move called where you but a guy's head between your legs and you jump up and down? the fellow calling the match said "jumping head scissors." I was hoping for something a little cooler, I'm sure Gorilla Monsoon had a better name for it. Anyway, Andre does it here and I wish that some big man would add it to their arsenal today. Khali would be cool if he could jump. Andre then trades in the neck for the leg. His moveset is actually pretty neat in a weird way. He then trades in the leg for the back when he goes for a surfboard. I'm not sure if Andre doesn't have the patience to actually pick a body part and work it or if he just wants to hurt everything.

After being knocked out of the ring, Inoki comes back with another drop kick and starts hitting some chops. The crowd is eating it up. Andre misses a charge in the corner and looks like he's knocked loopy. Inoki goes to take advantage but Andre takes him down and starts working the leg again. Inoki chops him a couple of times in the head but Andre shrugs this off and hits his own GIANT HEADBUTT of his own. Inoki goes for an arm bar but fails. Andre pays him back by putting him under the bottom rope and standing on it so that the rope strangles Inoki. GENIUS.

Eventually they're standing and Andre puts Inoki in a cobra clutch maneuver. Inoki in an attempt to escapes leaps over the top, but is pulled back in by Andre. Inoki goes for it a second time and they spill out ot the floor. Andre goes for his GIANT HEADBUTT and hits the ring post instead. They make their way in and we have ANDRE BLOOD!. They do an awesome spot where Andre picks him up in an Argentine Back breaker and Inoki kicks off the the top rope flipping back to the floor and this momentum carries Andre over so that Andre is on his back and Inoki has his back on Andre for a pin. Very cool. Andre kicks out at two with AUTHORITY. The ref goes to check on Andre's head and the Andre repeatedly tosses the ref away. The ref calls for the bell and they continue to fight.

Inoki Wins via TKO.

They announce the winner but Andre continues to kick Inoki out of the ring so that he doesn't get to bask in the win. The ref finally raises Inoki's arm but Inoki takes it away and basically says let's keep going. You know, because he's a badass. And so they do and it takes about five ring boys to pull The Giant back. Inoki is awesome here, telling everyone to get back despite it not working out just moments ago. Eventually after much shenanigans, Andre leaves, presumably to drink 24 liters of wine. They hold a title ceremony afterwards and the crowd is throwing not only garbage but their SEAT PILLOWS at the ring. Who in their right mind thought that finish was going to go over?

I mean this is it folks. This match was actually kind of fun to watch because Andre is amazingly agile here. They do some really cool plays on the big man/little man game and Inoki is really, really over. But this finish was non-sense, and the crowd thought so too. It's worth watching if you're a fan of either guy, and it's always fun to see a crowd get so pissed at a finish that they would throw stuff at the ring. But be warned, it's not for everyone.

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