The Big Tour: AJPW Real World Tag League 1980

28th November 1980 – 11th December 1980

All Japan Pro Wrestling presented the fourth annual Real World Tag League which ran between November and December of 1980 and reigning champions Dory & Terry Funk look to become three-time winners against six other tandems. Terry will be hunting for revenge on the team of Abdullah the Butcher and Tor Kamata after the Texan failed to retrieve the NWA United National Title on the 1st November from the Man from Sudan and Funk vies to capture another shot.

Amongst the other challengers for the Funks’ trophy are Giant Baba and Jumbo Tsuruta, themselves former champions in the 1978 tournament. There is no other Japanese duo in the tournament with the remaining teams all Gaijins tandems. Rounding out the tournament are the teams of Dick Slater and Ricky Steamboat, Jim Brunzell and Nick Bockwinkel, The Sheik and The Great Memphisto and English duo Les Thornton and Billy Robinson.

Night One – 28th November 1980 – Korakuen Hall, Tokyo

The tour got underway in front of a sold-out crowd of around 3,000 Puroresu fans. As we mentioned in the November 1980 round-up, the opening night featured a wild angle involving four teams in the tag tournament.

Abdullah and Kamata faced Steamboat and Slater and the former prevailed as the winners via disqualification as the American duo retaliated to Abby and Kamata’s rule-breaking. As four men brawled around the arena after the decision, The Funks emerged into the arena for their main event bout against Sheik and Memphisto.

As the main event was about to get underway, the previous match still continued in the bleachers and the brawl began to head back towards the ring. All eight men ended up brawling in a wild scene.

Eventually control was resumed and The Funks won the bout via count out after around 11 minutes of crazy action. However post match, the Funks took their opponents into the bleachers to give the Korakuen crowd some more up close action.

Night Two – 29th November 1980 – Municipal General Sports Ground Suzuyo Memorial Gymnasium, Shimizu, Shizuoka

The next night Dick Slater and Dory Funk Jr. treated the 6,300 in attendance to a 30-minute time-limit draw. Ricky Steamboat pinned the young Prince Tonga in under 15 minutes while The Sheik and Terry Funk brawled wildly which led to the Texan winning via disqualification close to six minutes.

In tournament matches, Baba and Tsuruta defeated Thornton and Robinson as Brunzell and Bockwinkle tasted defeat to the team of Abdullah and Kamata, who topped the league with two wins from two.

Night Three – 30th November 1980 – City Gymnasium, Hakodate, Hokkaido

Only the one tournament match occurred on the third night of the tour as Brunzell and Bockwinkel got themselves on the board with a disqualification win over The Sheik and Great Mephisto. This was a show dominated with tag team matches but non-tournament bouts. Abdullah and Kamata defeated Great Kojika and Baba, The Funks overcame Prince Tonga and Jumbo Tsuruta as Robinson and Thornton managed to grab a win over Rocky Hata and Mr. Sakurada.

Night Four – 1st December 1980 – Nakajima Sports Center, Sapporo, Hokkaido

This event had the television cameras present which saw the match of the night accolade go to Ricky Steamboat and Jumbo Tsuruta as they battled to a half-hour stalemate. In only their third one-on-one meeting, Nick Bockwinkel and Giant Baba went to a double count-out.

The former AWA World champion clamped a figure-four leglock on Baba which forced the big man to roll under the bottom rope. Both men tumbled to the floor but Bockwinkel slapped on the leglock again on the outside. Baba was unable to break it and both men were counted out.

In a bloody war, long time enemies The Sheik and Abdullah clashed in a match that went 7:40 with The Butcher winning via DQ after The Great Mephisto interfered on the Sheik’s behalf. They double-teamed Abdullah and wedged his head in the top rope until Tor Kamata emerged for the save. After the decision, all four men brawled in the crowd which continued for several minutes.

The main event saw the only tournament match of the night as The Funks grabbed some more points with the win over Billy Robinson and Les Thornton.

Night Five – 2nd December 1980 – Municipal General Gymnasium, Asahikawa, Hokkaido

Slater and Steamboat was back in tournament action in a great long battle against Bockwinkel and Brunzell that went to a 45-minute draw. In another tournament match, Baba and Tsuruta defeated The Sheik and Mephisto would were still without their first points of the competition.

In a non-title match, Terry Funk faced NWA UN Champion Abdullah the Butcher but the pair failed to control themselves, both Dory Funk and Tor Kamata interfered and the match ended in a double DQ.

Night Six – 4th December 1980 – Ehime Prefectural Citizen Hall, Matsuyama, Ehime

The roster rested on the 3rd December and returned in front 4,000 in Matsuyama on the 4th with a series of one-on-one bouts that saw Steamboat and Brunzell wrestle to a 30:00 time-limit draw. Dick Slater and Abdullah brawled to a double count-out while Tor Kamata was disqualified in his bout against Jumbo Tsuruta.

Nick Bockwinkel defeated Rocky Hata in quick fashion and in tag team action The Funks defeated Baba and Tonga in 18:35 in a non-tournament bout. In the only League match of the night, the English pairing of Robinson and Thornton defeated The Sheik and Mephisto, who ended the night with no points in the tournament so far.

Night Seven – 5th December 1980 – Prefectural Civic Hall, Kochi

The Nippon TV cameras were in attendance for the double main event that featured two tournament matches as Robinson and Thornton and Brunzell and Bockwinkel ended up battling to a 45:00 time-limit draw. No points were awarded in the final bout of the evening as Abdullah and Kamata faced the Funks. The referee counted Dory and The Butcher out of the ring for the double count-out decision as the pair brawled into the stands.

Night Eight – 6th December 1980 – Prefectural Niage-Machi Gymnasium, Oita

On the eighth night of the tour, another 45 minute time-limit draw took place as Baba and Tsuruta drew with Slater and Steamboat to share the points and Kamata and Abdullah gained another win over Thornton and Robinson via count out.

In other bouts, Dory Funk Jr defeated The Sheik via DQ in a short match timed just under five minutes. Dory’s brother Terry pinned Jim Brunzell in 12:40 and Nick Bockwinkel squashed The Great Mephisto in under three minutes.

Night Nine – 7th December 1980 – Civic Gymnasium, Nobeoka, Miyazaki

The Funks defensive of the Tag League trophy continued as they defeated Steamboat and Slater in 37 minutes in front of 3,100 fans in Miyazaki. Unfortunately, this match was not televised.

In non-tournament tag action, Prince Tonga and Jumbo Tsuruta were defeated by Nick Bockwinkel and Jim Brunzell. There was plenty of singles action as Tor Kamata won a DQ victory over The Sheik, Billy Robinson and Abdullah went to a double count-out and Great Mephisto was defeated yet again in a short match, this time Giant Baba defeated Mephisto in just over two minutes.

Night Ten – 8th December 1980 – International Gymnasium, Nagazaki

The Funks feud with Kamata and Abdullah continued as the pairings faced off in singles competition. Abby and Dory brawled to a double count-out as Terry won a DQ decision against Kamata. This war is far from over.

In the only tournament action of the night, Baba and Tsuruta took the points with a win over Bockwinkel and Brunzell in 20:35 to the delight of the 3,750 in attendance. In another tag match, not included in the tournament, Slater and Steamboat went to a double count-out against Robinson and Thornton.

Night Eleven – 9th December 1980 – Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, Osaka

The TV cameras returned in front of a sell-out 7,800 spectators in Osaka and they were treated with some great action. In a singles match, the crowd were hot for a 30:00 time-limit draw between Dick Slater and Billy Robinson.

In addition, The Sheik and Ricky Steamboat provided some up close warfare as Steamboat prevailed as the winner with a 3:43 timed disqualification win but the match spilled into the bleachers before the bell and after the announcement of the decision. Both men left the arena a bloody mess.

Two tournament bouts took place with The Funks taking the lead at the top of the table with a win over Brunzell and Bockwinkel while Abby and Kamata managed a huge win over Baba and Tsuruta via DQ in the main event.

Night Twelve – 10th December 1980 – Tochigi Prefectural Gymnasium,
Utsunomiya, Tochigi

The penultimate show attracted a sell-out of 3,500 in Tochigi with The Sheik and Great Mephisto finally getting points of the board in the tournament against Slater and Steamboat. However, the biggest attraction of the evening was a time-limit draw between Dory Funk Jr. and Nick Bockwinkel which went a total of 30 minutes.

鶴田祐士 | Yüji Tsuruta🎍 בטוויטר: "ジャイアント馬場&ジャンボ鶴田 Giant Baba & Jumbo Tsuruta  #プロレス #全日本プロレス… "

Night Thirteen – 11th December 1980 – Kuramae Kokugikan, Tokyo

The final night of the tour was also the biggest, as AJPW sold 11,500 tickets in the Kuramae Kokugikan. The capacity crowd witnessed Giant Baba and Jumbo Tsuruta winning the finals of the 1980 Real World Tag League with a controversial win over The Funk Brothers.

The Japanese duo began the match on seven points and a win would make them leapfrog the Funks (8) and Abby and Kamata (8) to a total of nine points. The match spilled to the outside with Terry and Tsuruta on the 42-minute mark and the crowd was anxious that a time-limit draw may be the outcome. With Dory and Baba dishing out punishment inside the ropes, Terry and Jumbo began to climb the ropes to get back in the ring before the twenty count.

Dory sent Baba hurtling into Terry which knocked the Texan off the apron and back down to the floor and this allowed Tsuruta to enter the ring to beat the count and win the bout and tournament for his team on 43 minutes and 30 seconds.

The referee raised the hands of Tsuruta as the streamers started to flow into the ring and the only Japanese team in the competition were declared two-time champions.

Other matches saw Abdullah and Kamata and The Sheik and Mephisto go to a double count-out which scuppered the former’s chances of winning the tournament unless the main event ended without a winner. Also, Billy Robinson and Nick Bockwinkel wrestled to a 30:00 time-limit draw and Steamboat beat Les Thornton via count-out in around 10:25.

The tournament would see the promotion close for the rest of the year until the New Year Giant Series beginning on the 2nd of January 1981.

View highlights of the tournament and full coverage of the final match on the video below.

As many matches of the tour were not televised, here are the results and match ratings for the bouts that we have video footage available.

  1. Dick Slater & Ricky Steamboat vs. Tor Kamata & Abdullah the Butcher – 28/11/80 (***)
  2. Terry & Dory Funk vs. The Sheik & Great Mephisto – 28/11/80 (*3/4)
  3. Giant Baba vs. Nick Bockwinkel – 01/12/80 (**)
  4. Abdullah the Butcher vs. The Sheik – 01/12/80 (*)
  5. Billy Robinson & Les Thornton vs. Nick Bockwinkel & Jim Brunzell – 05/12/80 (***)
  6. Terry & Dory Funk vs. Tor Kamata & Abdullah the Butcher – 05/12/80 (*1/2)
  7. Ricky Steamboat vs. The Sheik – 09/12/80 (*)
  8. Tor Kamata & Abdullah the Butcher vs. The Sheik & Great Mephisto – 11/12/80 (*)
  9. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Billy Robinson – 11/12/80 (**)
  10. Terry & Dory Funk vs. Giant Baba & Jumbo Tsuruta – 11/12/80 (****)

For information on our match ratings click here.

This tour features an abundance of talent that we will see progress during our journey. Jumbo Tsuruta and Ricky Steamboat have not even touched the surface in regards to what their future holds as on the other end of the spectrum, The Sheik is whittling down his career.

Seeing The Funks in tag team action is pleasing on the eye and they deliver great matches consistently and the final is a must-see for a fan of any age and of any experience. Even the wild action that Tor Kamata and Abdullah the Butcher produce is entertaining although not for the purists.

Overall, this event rounds out a great year for All Japan Pro Wrestling as they head into 1981.

As always, thanks for reading…

Will Burns

Source:, All Japan Pro Wrestling,


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