July 24, 2005
WWF World Championship
Bob Backlund © vs. Antonio Inoki
New Japan Pro Wrestling
November 30, 1979
I was under the impression for years that this match contained a legitimate doublecross, but I later found out that wasn't the case. Nonetheless, this is for the WWF championship, and they did do a phantom switch here, only for Backlund to take the belt back and bring it home with him a week later. The matwork in this match rocks! There is a struggle for every bearhug, for every single leg, for every go behind -- nothing comes easy here, much like Devil/Chig. Inoki keeps trying to neutralize Backlund, but Backlund is too fast and he has trouble keeping him stationary. They work a side headlock and headscissors for a few minutes, which is more fun than it sounds, with Backlund trying everything he can and nothing working, at least not for any length of time. The holds are credible here because they're so locked in -- I think about the bodyscissors in RVD/Orton on RAW in 2004 and how loose it looked compared to this. Backlund does eventually fight out, but he ends up right back in the hold the second he breaks free. It was most likely rare in this age for Backlund to find a challenger who could keep up with him on the mat, but that's the story being told here, as Backlund tries all of his usual tricks and none of them seem to be working. He finds a way to get in his own headlock, but he can't sustain it, even when he tries to speed up the pace, as Inoki is right with him every step of the way. They have their first of two great standoffs before Backlund gets outwrestled yet again, but he's finally figured out a strategy -- work on Inoki's leg.
Inoki sells the leg well enough, limping when walking and trying to shake out the pain. They also do enough fun stuff between the stationary moves to create movement and speed things up, with Inoki often getting sudden bursts of energy and catching Backlund totally off guard. Again, the battle is in place for every move, as they trade attempts for a vertical suplex several times before Inoki wins that struggle. Bob shifts his focus and tries to go vertical, and in an amazing showing of strength, picks Inoki up off the ground in an armbar position and places him on the top rope, which causes some slapping and brief brawling to take place, with Inoki even getting a really good near fall on Backlund in the meantime. By the time Bob has an idea of what to do to counter Inoki, he's too weary to fully capitalize, as his belly-to-back suplex and piledriver do the trick, but he's so drained that he can't move in for the kill. He decides to take a big risk, which doesn't pay off and leads to Inoki having another exciting stretch of offense. In the same way Inoki was saved by the fact that he dominated Backlund so clearly early on, Backlund was saved by his placement in the ring after the onslaught, as he's in the ropes and Inoki can't get an immediate pin. This buys him some time, which puts them on a level playing field again as they work the final stretch, with Inoki trying a butterfly suplex and it not working and almost falling prey to a sunset flip as well. He can't even keep an abdominal stretch locked on, as Backlund hiptosses him out, and just to remind him who's the champ and who's the challenger, he butterfly suplexes Inoki himself and goes for an abdominal stretch, which works against him with Inoki locking in the octopus.
The finish is a little contrived, with Tiger Jeet Singh showing up at ringside and having to be escorted away, leaving a distracted Backlund open to a pinfall, but it's not enough to drag the match down at all, and the post-match angle with an enraged Backlund going after Singh is great fun! I really need to seek out every match these two have had together, because something tells me the 60-minute draw from 07/27/78 is even better than this!