Liger vs Owen Hart, junior title contendership, NJ 1/30/90. For a long while this was thought to have taken place in February based on when it aired, but it's actually the last match in a January tournament. Both come in with 3-1 records in the round-robin, so the winner gets Sano. Lots of technically sound juniors content in the body, but things don't get especially exciting until the last quarter or so. Owen really creams Liger with a dive.
Sano vs Liger, IWGP jr. title, New Japan 1/31/90. In their third match in September, Sano retained the junior title with a tiger suplex. This, the fourth and final match, builds off the first three matches and adds tons of intensity. Liger debuts the second and 'main' Liger outfit. Liger busts out crazy high-flying moves that he dropped a few years later. Undeniable must-see.
Takada vs Yamazaki, UWF 2/9/90. Pretty much a shoot-style sprint, with all kinds of point action and some dandy exchanges.
Jumbo & Yatsu vs Kengo Kimura & Kido, NJ 2/10/90. New Japan versus All Japan, one night only! CRAZY CRAZY HOT CROWD at Tokyo Dome. Ridiculous heat for everything.
Tenryu & Tiger Mask (Misawa) vs Choshu & George Takano, NJ 2/10/90. Surface-of-the-sun level heat, tons of bombs and hate, weak '80s-style non-finish. Two out of three ain't bad, it's GREAT.
Suzuki vs Nakano, UWF 2/27/90. Oh man is there all kinds of hatred in this. Suzuki is GREAT and Nakano brings it too.
Takada vs Fujiwara, UWF 2/27/90. Fujiwara is off the charts, bouncing around like he's not old enough to be Takada's grandfather.
Fujiwara vs Yamazaki, UWF 4/15/90. Shoot-style that's mat-focused and over 15 minutes is typically not my cup of tea. However, I make an exception for these two, since they deliver all kinds of nifty counters and cool submission setups. Plus, when they DO go to strikes, they aren't playing patty-cake.
Yamazaki vs Nakano, UWF 5/4/90. Nakano has no chance, right? But the match keeps going, and he keeps finding openings, and the crowd gets behind him...
Choshu vs Hashimoto, NJ 5/28/90. I believe this is part of a singles tournament. I *know* this is part of a heated rivalry which stretched out over many years and consisted (at least through the '90s) of no-nonsense hard-hitting bouts that always could go either way.
Takada vs Nakano, UWF 5/28/90. Nakano is shorter, lighter, fatter, and loses most of the time. Takada is Takada. Nakano fights until he runs out of gas and keeps trying anyway, eventually landing some big shots. I love me some Nakano.
Mutoh & Chono vs Hashimoto & Masa Saito, NJ 6/26/90. MuCho took the tag titles from Hash & Masa in April. Now comes a bigger and better rematch, albeit in a non-title setting. Masa delivers as only he can, and the finish is the sort of thing you'd more expect in the US (meaning it comes as a pleasant surprise).
Bull Nakano vs Manami Toyota, All Japan Women 7/21/90. Bull is the monster veteran, while Toyota has yet to fully develop her array of suplexes. Thus young Manami is a big underdog, and she has to try and sneak a pinfall in order to survive. If that pin doesn't come, she's gonna DIE.
Tenryu vs George Takano, SWS 10/19/90. Takano pinned Tenryu with a German suplex in a tag the night before, and opens things up by EATING TENRYU ALIVE with superior speed. Short (by Japan main event standards) and sweet (by any standards). Note the bizarre production qualities like an ultra low-end clock in the corner of the screen and incredibly awkward shots of announcers. But don't let that distract you from the match!
Mutoh & Chono vs Hase & Sasaki, IWGP tag titles, New Japan 11/1/90. Hase & Sasaki are huge underdogs. Hase at this point has recently upgraded from the junior division, and Sasaki has accomplished next to nothing of significance. Mutoh & Chono have been groomed to be main-eventers and company cornerstones, which of course happened. Thus the match has two things: lots of face heat for the underdog team, and a bit of overconfidence from the team I've dubbed 'MuCho'. The end result is one of the better tag title matches NJ has ever seen.
Hase & Sasaki vs Koshinaka & Iizuka, tag titles, NJPW 12/13/90. The month before, Hase and Sasaki were loveable underdogs. Now they're arrogant champs. The transition might seem abrupt but who am I to argue with what works? HOT finishing run.
Hase & Sasaki vs Koshinaka & Iizuka, New Japan 3/14/91. Handheld; very watchable. Rematch of their tag title battle from three months earlier. HaseKen briefly lost the belts in December and regained them the week earlier. This is non-title of course, but it's a strong effort for a house show. Good in the same ways as the initial scrap, so if you liked that one, give this a try. Haven't watched the first one? Do yourself a favor and grab it.
Sano vs Masa Funaki, SWS 4/1/91. Funaki figures Sano isn't nearly ugly enough and repeatedly chucks palm strikes at his mush. They had a match two days before where Funaki won with a suplex followed by a cross-armbreaker. 123 MB.
Liger vs Owen Hart, New Japan, Super Juniors '91, 4/28/91. Not the final, despite it often being credited as such; however, a spot in the semis is at stake. Much more energetic and action-packed than their bout the year before, in part because the crowd is more responsive. That said, they still save the big stuff for the last quarter. Finish is MASSIVELY brutal.
Tamura vs Kakihara, UWFi 5/10/91. The first UWFi bout. Both of these youngsters look great; sharp execution, plenty of struggle, and the quality ground game one expects with Tamura in there. Oh and it takes place in front of a really appreciative crowd at a venue in Tokyo. Kora-something.
Fujiwara vs Wilkins, PWFG 5/19/91. Wilkins is solid, but this is one of those Fujiwara matches where he just Does Stuff and it's good because he's Fujiwara.
Anjoh vs Tamura, UWFi 7/3/91. A gentleman named Tabe created two 'Best of Tamura' sets, which is where pretty much all the Tamura footage I'm hosting comes from. The complilation is a mix of 'best bouts' and 'important moments'. It is not 'every good Tamura match'. I can prove that because it doesn't include this match, which I had to buy the full show for (from Tabe) (for a very reasonable price) (no really, look him up). ANYWAY. This match frigging rules a whole lot. Tamura is incredible, the crowd is incredible, and there's even some storytelling as spunky young Tamura gets fired up and manages to keep hanging with the more experienced Anjoh.
Vader vs Hashimoto, NJ 7/19/91. Similar to their '89 battle in that Vader's arm is a target and they hit each other a lot. Different in that Vader is all about punching Hashimoto directly in the face, and that it goes a bit long for two tubby dudes in a probably hot building. Face punching outweighs occasional sluggishness.
Sano vs Minoru Suzuki, PWFG 7/26/91. Top of the line shoot-style, plenty of strikes that do not strike me as fun to be on the receiving end of.
Tenryu & Fuyuki vs Yatsu & Nakano, SWS 7/26/91. Chunky heavyweights who hate each other. So you can tell Tenryu is in charge. That's a good thing.
Choshu vs Hashimoto, NJ G-1 Climax 1991. Handheld, but quite watchable. Hash lays a huge beating on the king of lariats.
Vader vs Mutoh, NJ G-1 Climax 1991. Handheld but very watchable. Great match, and a preview of the Vader vs Sting bouts. Vader dishes out some shots that can be heard by the handheld camera, which isn't close to the ring. Quite the finishing run. I'd put this in the top 5 of Mutoh singles matches, and the only reason this isn't super-famous is that it might not have been taped by the company. If it was I'm assuming it would have aired on an episode of Classics. Even the post-match is memorable!
Chono vs Hashimoto, G-1 Climax '91 Semi-Final, New Japan 8/11/91. They went to a draw earlier, and now have a tie-breaker to determine who goes to the final. I really love the last third or so of this, with each man methodically building to his trademark finisher. 128 MB.
Chono vs Mutoh, G-1 Climax '91 Final, New Japan 8/11/91. Easily among the best NJ heavyweight matches of the decade, and quite likely the best singles match from either man's career. Special deluxe cap from NJ Classics, very much must-have.
Fujiwara vs Lato Kirawarik, PWFG 8/23/91. This is a match that almost defies explanation. Lato is a big dude who doesn't look to have much in the way of training, so Fujiwara just has fun with him (aside from a couple moments when Lato gets fed up). It's like some middle-aged ex-cop randomly decided to get in the ring.
Nakano vs Tamura, UWFi 9/26/91, JIP. Tamura looks for his first win over a veteran, and he has Nakano beat on skill. However, he doesn't have Nakano's knockout ability. Will the good-looking kid upset the hard-hitting pro?
Fuke vs Wilkins, PWFG 9/28/91. These two match up nicely, and there's a crafy finish in this one.
Nakano & Tom Burton vs Tamura & Miyato, UWFi 10/6/91. Just looking at the teams tells half the story, and both sides play their roles to perfection. It's tempting to write Burton off at first glance as someone who's too bulky to do shoot-style properly, but he does fine.
Tenryu vs Yatsu, SWS 10/29/91. In the Choshu vs All Japan feud, they hated each other. In the Jumbo vs Tenryu feud, they hated each other. And in a new promotion they hate each other. There's something to be said for consistency.
Choshu vs Hashimoto, Greatest 18 Club Title, NJ 11/5/91. Here, let me tell you everything I know about the Greatest 18 Club: it produced this match and it went away when its holder won the IWGP title. Anyway, this match is yet another piece of the saga between these two, and it isn't mindblowing but it's plenty heated.
Hogan vs Tenryu, SWS 12/12/91. Ah, the versatility of Hogan-in-Japan. It's really something to see him flip the switch and build to an *epic* climax. If he could pull this off with someone he hardly ever worked with, just imagine if he'd spent more time in Japan and was more experienced in doing this sort of match.
Yoshida & Takako Inoue vs Hasegawa & Debbie Malenko, AJW 1/5/92. Fast-paced match for the company's secondary tag titles. Features an insane, must-see impact move.
Tenryu & Hara vs T. Ishikawa & Fuyuki, SWS 1/6/92. Main event at a too-big venue; I bet that they heavily papered the arena to fill it up. That results in a really subdued crowd for a really hard-hitting match with a good underdog story. There's maybe too much beef seeing as they run out of gas in a couple spots, but the beef generally works in our favor as they hit each other as hard as they can.
Liger vs Honaga, WCW vs IWGP junior title match, New Japan 2/8/92. Honaga and Liger traded the IWGP belt the year before, and now Liger comes in with the WCW strap. Honaga controls most of the way. At first it's a bit dull, but eventually the damage piles up to the point where Liger needs more than just his usual comeback routine. But does he have enough to put Honaga away once the damage is done, or will Honaga triumph once again?
Tenryu & Hara vs Kitahara & S. Nakano, SWS 2/14/92. So here's a good rule of thumb when facing Tenryu & Hara: don't face Tenryu & Hara. This is a lesson Kitahara and The Least Nakano learn in a very painful way. Granted they fight back in spirited fashion, but, c'mon...
Kanehara vs Masakazu Maeda, UWFi 2/29/92. M. Maeda's career was short and he mostly faced Kanehara in prelim bouts. 'Prelim' in this case means 'mauling each other to death'. Kanehara sure wasn't afraid to throw down.
Yatsu vs Hara, SWS 4/17/92. Handheld; very watchable. Pretty much what you expect from these two, and it goes just the right length. There's an ill-placed video glitch towards the end but you can fill in the missing second with the POWER OF IMAGINATION.
Hashimoto & Mutoh vs Iizuka & Nogami, New Japan 4/29/92. Iizuka is on fire, taking it to the big names without hesitation and getting the crowd behind him. Nogami manages to hold up his end as well despite a lack of size.
Liger vs El Samurai, BOSJ '92 final, NJ 4/30/92. One of the very definitive juniors matches ever. The best by far for Samurai's career, arguably the best for Liger. Incredibly intense, action-packed, a must watch. 208 MB.
Hashimoto vs Akira Nogami, NJ 6/20/92, some clipping. Nogami won the junior title in '91 in a big upset over Liger. That's the only reason I can think of why Korakuen Hall buys him having a chance here. Man, Korakuen rules so much, and these two go at it enough to earn the heat they get.
Hase vs Sasaki, New Japan 6/26/92. One of those hidden gems that you come across from Japan in the early '90s. Sasaki, who had teamed regularly with Hase, returns from injury looking to prove a point. He gets really aggressive, going after the neck and even choking Hase a bit. Sasaki forces Hase to dish out a lot of punishment or else he'll take a bad loss. And I do mean a lot of punishment.
Han vs Andrei Kopylov, RINGS 7/16/92. The end of the cold war brings us shoot-style enjoyment. 164 MB.
Hashimoto & Hase vs Fujinami & Sasaki, NJ 7/31/92. Sasaki, having made a good showing in his return match against Hase, gets to show whether he belongs in an all-star tag that's the semi-main underneath an IWGP title bout. His skull certainly gets a workout towards the end.
Chono vs Koshinaka, NJ 7/31/92. Koshinaka: skinhead! These two bring out fire and bravado in each other, including a very unique suplex exchange and a dramatic finish.
Toyota vs Yamada, 8/15/92, Hair vs Hair. One of the biggest bouts for both of them. Action-paced, with a great closing stretch and an emotional aftermath. A joshi must-see. 204 MB.
Takayama vs Kanehara, UWFi 8/28/92. Young, skinny Takayama is a beast when on his feet. Kanehara has a big edge on the mat. Will reach or technique decide it? Kanehara beat Takayama with leg submissions on the last three shows.
Anjoh vs Tamura, UWFi 8/28/92. On one hand, this would have been better with a bit less time. On the other hand, there is a whooooole lot of good submission work in this, and they both come across like top-level talents rather than standard midcarders. Good for those who are already shoot-style fans; probably not-so-good otherwise.
Kyoko Inoue vs Mariko Yoshida, AJW 8/30/92. This is a decision match in the '92 Grand Prix. Kyoko has the sole trump card in the match, the splash mountain. Both have incredible agility and this sets up a lot of huge nearfalls for each of them.
Manami Toyota vs (Winner of Inoue/Yoshida), AJW 8/30/92. Really good follow-up to the other match, as Toyota is fresh and thus a big favorite, but her opponent refuses to stay down. I'd recommend against downloading this until after watching Inoue vs Yoshida; the filename is a spoiler!
Tenryu vs Flair, 2/3 falls, WAR 9/15/92. Flair wanted to do this match at Starrcade '88, because he enjoys hard-hitting matches and knew Tenryu can deliver precisely that. Sadly it didn't happen then, but it did happen here, and this even has the kind of crappy finish we would have gotten in '88. Pretty sure this is Tenryu's longest singles match. It's definitely more of a Flair match than a Tenryu match, and the good part is that Flair has more time than usual and three falls to work with so there's some depth. Flair gets to look good and Tenryu's comebacks are hard-earned. Tenryu isn't great on the ground and Tenryu can't do an All Japan-style big nearfalls epic, so this is about as good a match as one could expect from the two of them. And it IS good!
Choshu & Hashimoto vs Hase & Sasaki, New Japan Tag League '92 final, 10/21/92. It's good, though a lot simpler and 'smaller' than one might expect for a final. In some ways this is almost worked like an '80s US tag, with how the middle is controlled and how straightforward the finish is. Less about stiffness (though there is some of that), more about traditional tag structure.
Tenryu, Kitahara & Orihara vs Koshinaka, Kengo Kimura & Aoyagi, WAR 10/21/92. Tenryu's entry to the NJ vs WAR feud. The crowd is *dominated* by New Japan fans, such that Aoyagi of all people gets massive chants (and he's not that much a New Japan guy!). As with the rest of the feud there's enough hate and intensity to fuel a small country. I wouldn't put it on the same level as the tag two days later, but it's a wonderful lead-in and really enjoyable in its own right. Check out how fired up Orihara is at the start and how Tenryu responds. It's the sort of thing you'll only see in Japan.
Yamazaki vs Tamura, UWFi 10/23/92. Tamura is a 3 year pro, and thus is a huge underdog. However he's a genius on the mat and a submission can beat anyone at any time. Yamazaki dominates the standup, which in addition to his experience allows him to stay in the point lead throughout. But it doesn't go to points... 123 MB.
Saito vs Orihara, NJ 10/23/92. The start of New Japan vs WAR. Even though this is a New Japan low-midcarder against a WAR young lion, the crowd is ON FREAKING FIRE. Possibly the most rabid Korakuen crowd ever, and that's saying something. Lots of WAR fans there, so it's the most hardcore parts of each fan base trying to shout over each other. The match itself has enough intensity and pacing to stoke the fire, though at times the execution could be better. It does make you want to see more of the feud, and more is exactly what we got.
Tenryu & Kitahara vs Koshinaka & Kengo Kimura, NJ 10/23/92. Aaaaahhhh this match! So much heat! So much hate! So much stiffness! The ringside factions threaten to send this into a full-scale war even though there's barely any room to move because of how packed Korakuen is. Team WAR are sort of the babyfaces in this for some reason, and Kimura is essentially in the role we associate with Tenryu, since Tenryu plays 'the heavy'. Finish is a lot 'bigger' than I expected and probably pushes this into MOTYC territory. The very end of the file is like a freaking movie scene. I Love the '90s. I love Korakuen Hall. I love pro wrestling.
Tenryu, T. Ishikawa & Kitahara vs Koshinaka, Kimura & Aoyagi, NJ 11/23/92. Koshinaka has no problems being a total dick when faced with the likes of Kitahara. MAN is Kitahara hated. Did the guy go on a chainsaw rampage through a daycare or something?
Dynamite Kansai & Mayumi Ozaki vs Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada, All Japan Women 11/26/92, 2/3 Falls. A certified joshi classic.
Hotta & Takako Inoue vs Ozaki & Fukuoka, JWP 12/1/92. Hot on the heels of Dream Rush, the AJW vs JWP feud continues in grand fashion. Immense heat, plenty of action, clearly-defined roles, hardly any downtime, an intense finish, and it serves as a fantastic lead-in to the January 15th 1993 tag with three of the four participants. Overlooked at the time, this deserves some love two decades later.
Liger & Kanemoto vs Ultimo Dragon & Orihara, NJ 12/11/92. Ultimo recently took the junior title from El Samurai, and Liger has a shot in a few weeks. It's NJ vs WAR, and it's a heck of a match!
Chono vs Hase, NJ 12/11/92. Chono, the G-1 winner, is on his way to headlining the Tokyo Dome. Hase wasn't even able to compete in it. Does Hase have what it takes to make it a contest, let alone manage the biggest win of his heavyweight career?
Fujinami & Nogami vs T. Ishikawa & Kitahara, NJ 12/14/92. What an incredible show! This is the 3rd best match and it's still really good.
Tenryu vs Koshinaka, NJ 12/14/92. Tenryu: "My good sir, you appear to be bleeding". Koshinaka: "Ah, quite right old chap". Tenryu: "Here, let me clean it with kicks". Koshinaka: "Splendid!".
Muta vs Hase, New Japan 12/14/92. Two years earlier, Muta made Hase bleed like a stuck pig. Now it's Hase's turn for revenge, and he shows plenty of aggression (along with some lessons learned). Famous for the coloration, and although the middle drags a bit they do put together a big-time finish.
Takayama vs Kanehara, UWFi 12/20/92. Finals of the 'junior league', which refers to experience rather than size. More hard-hitting action.
Muta vs Chono, IWGP vs NWA title match, New Japan 1/4/93. Good complement to the '91 match.
Tenryu & Hara vs Kabuki & Aoyagi, WAR 1/8/93, handheld. For as much as I love Tenryu, I was quite skeptical about this. Over-the-hill Kabuki and always-limited Aoyagi as a team, plus this being a handheld, made me wonder if it would be worth my while. Well, it was, and it's worth YOUR while as well. Aoyagi brings his A-game, lobbing kicks and taking a man-sized beating. Tenryu and Hara I shouldn't have to explain, and so I won't.
Kansai & Ozaki vs Hotta & Takako Inoue, JWP 1/15/93. On the one hand, Hotta & Takako wouldn't usually be thought of as a top-flight team. On the other hand, they match up quite well with Kansai and Ozaki, and they work good together. Korakuen is RED HOT and this is must-see for fans of joshi.
Kong & Nakano vs Toyota & Yamada, AJW 1/24/93. Such great video quality thanks to this having aired on AJW Classics. Toyota/Yamada is a more famous team in the west because of their wars with Team JWP, but Kong/Nakano is a much more imposing duo. With no real weaknesses and more accomplishments at this point, they are huge favorites. This of course plays to the strengths of Toyota/Yamada, a team that relies on athleticism and are thus more effective as underdogs. Solis technical work in the first two-thirds, building to a darn big (for Korakuen) end run.
Tenryu, Hara & T. Ishikawa vs Mutoh, Hashimoto & Nogami, NJ 2/5/93. When I saw this match listed on an episode of NJ Classics, my first thought was "I bet that ruled". And it does, despite Mutoh going through the motions somewhat. Nogami is fired-up and takes it to the much bigger WAR side, Hashimoto shows that he's tailor-made for this sort of match, and everyone on the WAR team delivers the beef. There weren't many periods in the '90s where I would say New Japan was better than All Japan, but this is one of them.
Takada vs Tamura, UWFi 2/14/93. Tamura is a big underdog but he has so much raw talent that he's able to hold his own with Takada. Good English commentary from a UK broadcast. 128 MB.
Tenryu & Takashi Ishikawa vs Fujinami & Hase, WAR 2/14/93, handheld. Got to love the WAR crowd dynamic, with loads of NJ fans in there such that both sides have heat. Hase gets to look really good, and Ishikawa absolutely holds up his end.
Choshu, Fujinami, Hase, Iizuka & Kido vs Tenryu, Hara, Kitihara, T. Ishikawa & Fuyuki, 2/3 falls, New Japan 2/16/93. Main event at Sumo Hall, and it's only fitting that NJ vs WAR gets top billing. I'm reasonably sure I've put this feud over enough that y'all should know what to expect. I'll add that it really serves to set the stage for the Tenryu/Choshu rematch at the next Sumo Hall event.
Han submission demonstration, RINGS 2/28/93.
Koshinaka & Kuniaki Kobayashi vs Kitahara & Orihara, WAR 3/3/93. Koshinaka is not an especially big or intimidating dude, but he WILL punch you directly in the face if you are from WAR.
Hashimoto vs Fuyuki, WAR 3/3/93. Tubby guys who hate each other is pretty much the reason why I host stuff from Japan. Hashimoto beating the tar out of someone will always and forever be enjoyable.
Han vs Kopylov, RINGS 3/5/93. Han, in his 11th match, is obviously a world-class talent at this point. And he got better! As did Kopylov.
Hara & Fuyuki vs Hashimoto & Ohara, WAR 3/7/93. Ohara, who debuted in '90, did not go on to have a good career. He was mostly a sluggish dullard. Imagine my surprise to see him as more than just a punching bag, but as someone who brings fire and effort. Hashimoto, Hara and Fuyuki all know how to bring the goods, so with Ohara holding up his end this match is able to sizzle. It doesn't hurt that Korakuen is HOT LIKE FIRE. A very watchable handheld.
New Japan vs WAR matches, New Japan 3/23/93. Two matches. First, Hashimoto vs Fuyuki, with Fuyuki in full-on heel mode such that YOU join the crowd in wanting Hash to beat the snot out of him. Second, Choshu & Fujinami vs Tenryu & Takashi Ishikawa, in which Ishikawa is NOT the guy who drops the fall. It's a combination of two singles matches from the January 4th Tokyo Dome show, which the teams split.
Liger & Samurai vs Ultimo & Orihara, WAR 4/2/93. Opening match for WAR's first big show. Lots of heat, especially because there's a lot of New Japan fans in the stands. Liger is off-the-charts, Orihara is TOO athletic for his own good, cheapshots, good pace, YES you want in on this.
Choshu & Hashimoto vs Tenryu & Takashi Ishikawa, WAR 4/2/93. Hm, let's see: replace 1993 Fujinami with 1993 Hashimoto in a match that was already good to begin with. That's the kind of math I can get behind. Ishikawa REFUSED to be a loss post in his last big tag; can he tempt fate twice? More importantly, TEN-R-YU.
Kyoko & Takako Inoue vs Ozaki & Cutie Suzuki, AJW Dreamslam 1. I love how the colors pop now that we have a remastered version of the show. While this match is four capable workers going at it in their prime, that was no guarantee of a strong outing by itself. What makes this special is the interpromotional aspect, which adds motivation for both the wrestlers and the fans. Plenty of action throughout and a big-time finishing run.
Hokuto vs Kandori, AJW Dreamslam 1. Not my cup of tea, but I'm the exception because this is probably the most beloved match of joshi followers. Super-intense with hardly any letdown.
Tenryu vs Choshu, NJ 4/6/93. Their January 4th Tokyo Dome match is far more famous, but this is quite a bit better. It's shorter and tighter, has much less downtime and better execution. Can Choshu get revenge and become the first New Japan wrestler to down Tenryu, or will Tenryu's rampage continue?
Kong & Hokuto vs Kandori & Eagle Sawai, AJW 4/11/93. You expect the Hokuto/Kandori pairing to be intense. What makes this tag so interesting is Kong/Kandori, which is two of the toughest ladies ever to step in the ring. Kong brings the FIRE and makes you want to see a singles match that sadly never happened. Eagle is there to counter Aja's size and does so decently.
Toyota & Yamada vs Kansai & Ozaki, All Japan Women 4/11/93. Generally thought to be as good if not better than their first effort, which is saying a lot.
Han vs Nagai, RINGS 4/24/93. Han is such a total monster with submissions. I've never seen anyone be able to just create nasty holds out of thin air at will the way he does. That Nagai is able to find escapes besides just grabbing the ropes (or tapping) is a testament to his ability. 130 MB.
Hogan vs Muta, New Japan 5/3/93, WWF champ vs IWGP champ (non-title). One of those rare 'Hogan actually tries' matches.
Manami Toyota & Yamada vs Kudo & Combat Toyota, FMW 5/5/93. The FMW duo lost the first iteration of this a month before, and are out for revenge in front of the home crowd. First match was somewhat of a letdown, but this is great fun.
Vader vs Nakano, UWFi 5/6/93. Nakano: the shoot-style jobber you can't help but love. Vader: the dude you can't help but love as he plows through jobbers. A match made in heaven. A very pudgy heaven.
Sano vs Tamura, UWFi 5/6/93. Both men are coming off losses to Takada and want to avoid a losing streak. Both have something to prove. Tamura, having beaten Yamazaki about six months earlier, hasn't managed a high-profile win since. Sano started with the company in December and is still establishing himself with both the style and the promotion. Will the rising star or the in-his-prime veteran come out on top? It's a question you'll enjoy finding the answer to.
Toyota vs Fukuoka, Grand Prix '93, AJW 6/3/93. Slow in parts, picks up at the end. Interesting matchup thanks in part to their many similarities.
Tenryu & T. Ishikawa vs Hashimoto & Ohara, NJ 6/14/93. Another watchable handheld, another good Ohara match. NJ vs WAR managed to make the unthinkable into the normal. Less-unthinkable: a match with Tenryu and Hashimoto being really good.
Hase vs Fuyuki, WAR 6/17/93. Battle of '80s juniors turned heavyweights. What Fuyuki lost in athletic ability from the '80s, he gained in making everyone hate him. Hase has FULL SUPPORT on enemy soil, and Fuyuki is able to hang with him through a good finishing run.
Tenryu vs Hashimoto, WAR 6/17/93. Believe it: this match revolves around limb selling and psychology rather than just stiffness, and is good. Well the "it's good" part is pretty much sealed by the identity of the participants.
Hokuto vs Minami, AJW Grand Prix '93, JIP. Minami is lesser-known among the joshi wrestlers, but she was capable enough to have a heated finish against Hokuto.
Fujinami & Chono vs Tenryu & Hara, New Japan 7/14/93. WAR's top duo takes on two of Shin Nihon's finest. Tenryu wants Fujinami, but Chono will NOT be overlooked! His eagerness to be in the ring is ultimately rewarded by a WAR-style beatdown. As with all things in the feud this match is fueled by hate and stoked by stiffness.
Delfin vs Sasuke, UWA title, title vs mask, MPro 7/24/93. One of the first big matches in company history as Sasuke takes on uber-rudo Delfin. Tons of heat, and Delfin is beyond awesome in his cockiness. 179 MB.
Team JWP vs Team AJW, Thunder Queen Battle, JWP 7/31/93. One of the definitive women's matches of all time. It's a 60 minute iron...woman match, with four 5 minute singles matches and a 40 minute tag with everyone in. Hardly ever letdown, loads and loads of great action, and an amazing close.
Fujinami, Chono & Hashimoto vs Tenryu, Hara & Ishikawa, New Japan 8/2/93. So, New Japan runs a card at Sumo Hall the night before the start of the G-1. No title matches. No big singles matches. 6-man main event. It draws 9000, which is more than the next night with G-1 matches headlined by Hash vs Hase. Such is the power of NJ vs WAR. Tenryu vs Hashimoto is set for the end of the tour, and Chono vs Hara happens the next night in the first round of the G-1. There's a pretty marked increase in quality whenever Tenryu and Hashimoto are in. When they're BOTH in... well, that's why I'm hosting the match.
Fujiwara vs Akitoshi Saito, NJ 8/3/93. Fujiwara ruuuuuuuules it. His *choking* is high-end. The heel tactics, the selling, the finish, he's just such a genius it isn't funny. Saito does fine but there's dozens of other guys you could plug in and it would still work. BOW BEFORE THE FUJIWARA.
Fujinami & Liger vs Tenryu & Kitahara, NJ 8/3/93. Oh mannnn. Liger: babyface of babyfaces! Tenryu: is Tenryu! Kitahara: makes no pretense of being anything but a complete and utter tool! Sumo Hall: red hot! You: are going to download this match!
Hashimoto vs Hase, New Japan G-1 Climax '93. Hashimoto is a month away from his first IWGP win. He's already had four challenges, and has pinned many big names in his career. Hase? Pfffft. Just a good hand, a midcarder. That much is hammered home when Hashimoto starts throwing the big bombs, including some moves I don't recall seeing out of him any other time. It's like he does a powerbomb just because he can. Yet there's a nagging sense that Hase won't go down that easily... 150+ MB.
Chono vs Hase, New Japan G-1 Climax '93 semi-final. A nice mix of action and strategy in this one.Match testimonial
Fujiwara vs Hase, NJ 8/8/93. Fujiwara won their first match three months earlier with a flash armbar. This one isn't nearly as remembered as the May iteration but I like it much more. There's so much to enjoy: swank matwork, charisma, payback spots, and even hardway blood off a comedy spot (which leads to something a bit more serious).
Tenryu vs Hashimoto, NJ 8/8/93. It took several viewings before I was sold on this match. These are not the most graceful athletes on God's green earth, and at times they overreach what their respective paunches will allow. However there's enough effort, action and drama to make this worthwhile. I see that now. Oh how wrong I was... so wrong...
Takayama vs Lydick, UWFi 8/13/93. Takayama, at this point, had little more than size going for him. Lydick is considerably heftier than average for UWFi, meaning Takayama has his work cut out for him.
Sano vs Anjoh, UWFi 8/13/93. No, they weren't Takada-beating headliners, but these two were as consistently good as anyone in the company. Sit your family down by the fire and enjoy some shoot-style. If you don't have a fire, start one. If you don't have a family, grab one off the street. They'll thank you.
Vader vs Yamazaki, UWFi 8/13/93. Lots of drama packed into a relatively short match. Neat post-match promo from Vader, too. 174 MB.
Toyota vs Hokuto, JGP '93 semi-final, AJW 8/21/93. They bring out the best in each other. Hokuto keeps Toyota focused during the body of the match, while Toyota's deep arsenal makes for an exciting home stretch. Plus it's a big match at Korakuen, so you KNOW there's plenty of heat!
Takako Inoue vs Cutie Suzuki, AJW 8/25/93. Two joshi "idols" show that they have a hell of a lot more than just a pretty face.
Toyota, Hotta & Hasegawa vs Ozaki, Fukuoka & Mariko, AJW 8/25/93. Sprint-y AJW vs JWP goodness. Sprint-y AJW vs JWP goodness. This probably would have been better-served with a bit less time, but they do keep the pace up pretty well. Nice to see Plum Mariko in a reasonably high-profile match. She's the namesake of Kawada's stretch plum submission.
Hokuto vs Kazama, AJW 8/25/93. I haven't heard much about LLPW's Kazama before, but she's solid and Hokuto can lead "solid" to a really good match.
Kong vs Kansai, AJW 8/25/93. Follow-up from Thunder Queen. Joshi's heavy-hitters throw everything they have at one another. Finish is sorta weird but it's deliberate and undeniably painful.
Hokuto & Minami vs Hotta & Takako Inoue, UWA tag titles, AJW 9/5/93. Guest selection by Zach Haley. Hotta's a wrecking ball and Takako's a sadistic succubus, but they're facing the far more established Marine Wolves. So they set out to reinjure Hokuto's legendary bum knee. Hotta has special incentive to do so after losing to Hokuto two weeks earlier in the Grand Prix final. They do everything to destroy it, which brings out a fire from Hokuto's partner Suzuka Minami that we aren't used to seeing from her.
Kanehara vs Takayama, UWFi 9/5/93. Kanehara went 5-0 against Takayama in '92. Given that their matches are defined by stand-up exchanges that seems like a hard streak to maintain, but then it can take a while for a Japanese wrestler to advance past a higher-ranked wrestler. In the meantime they hit each other a whole lot.
Hase vs Fuyuki, WAR 9/12/93, JIP. Not sure why they clipped it; the tape isn't that long. To add to their first match, Hase comes in with a very obvious vulnerability.
Tenryu vs Hase, New Japan 9/23/93. Tenryu has been a thorn in New Japan's side all year, running through the likes of Choshu and Hashimoto (and Hase for that matter). His powerbomb has been the death knell for New Japan's finest. Hase, fresh off making the G-1 Climax final, is in the biggest match of his career: headlining at Yokohama Arena. Hot crowd, hot match.
Tenryu & Hara vs Hashimoto & Chono, WAR 10/1/93. Hashimoto became IWGP champion two weeks before this, meaning he has a reason to go after Tenryu despite losing to him twice during the summer. A good match in general with big peaks for the Tenryu/Hashimoto interactions. They were just magic.
Shimoda, Ito, Asari & Shiratori vs Suzuki, Mariko, Fukuoka & Bolshoi, Captain's Fall elimination, AJW 10/9/93. Dramatic eliminations and, thanks to being interpromotional, it has a big-match feel despite the lack of superstars. Ito and Suzuki really shine.
Kansai vs Yamada, AJW 10/9/93. To say that Yamada doesn't match up well with Kansai would be an understatement. There are moments where Dynamite seems so thoroughly inevitable, you wonder if Yamada has the guts to keep going. Then she does. This is HER home turf and she'll fight until there's nothing left.
Tenryu & Hara vs Fujinami & Kido, WAR 10/11/93. Fujinami pinned Tenryu two weeks earlier and now Tenryu wants revenge. This is considerably more heated than I expected with over-the-hill-technicians tandem like Fujinami/Kido in play, but hey, that's NJ vs WAR for you!
Mutoh & Hase vs Hashimoto & Chono, tag league '93 semi-final, NJ 11/4/93. I'm fairly sure these teams only met twice, the other time being in the round-robin part of this tournament. It's a shame, because they mesh very well. This feels like the sort of high-end tag match that is more associated with All Japan. 113 MB.
Mutoh & Hase vs Hashimoto & Chono, tag league '93 semi-final, NJ 11/4/93, JIP. Upgrade, but incomplete.
Bull Nakano & Takako Inoue vs Kandori & Hozumi, LLPW 11/9/93. Let me tell you, this is what I like in my pro wrestling. You get hate, some hard hits, roles being played, a responsive crowd, and it's hardly ever predictable. Nakano and Kandori know how to deliver the interpromotional warfare.
Hokuto vs Kazama, hair vs hair, LLPW 11/9/93. Rematch from a few months before, as Kazama tries to avenge her loss. Hokuto is supremely confident, and I can't completely blame her considering how much more accomplished she was/is. This and the tag do a wonderful job of setting up a big match in December.
Tenryu vs Hara, WAR 11/11/93. Short, hard-hitting and to-the-point: EXACTLY what it should be.
Tenryu vs Hara, WAR 11/11/93. Bigger screen size and higher bitrate, but it's handheld. An interesting contrast.
Hokuto & Toyota vs Kong & Hasegawa, AJW 11/12/93. High quality video, but some clipping.
Hokuto & Toyota vs Kong & Hasegawa, AJW 11/12/93. Upgrade from the original, though still mediocre VQ.
Han vs Zouev, RINGS 11/18/93. So many tricked-out submission spots in not that long a time. Ah, but that's just the norm for a Han match. We also get plenty of surprises from Zouev as a cherry on top.
Kansai, Ozaki, Masami & Mariko vs Hokuto, Minami, Mita & Shimoda, Captain's Fall elimination, AJW 11/28/93. A bigger and better play on the October match, with good pace and some ginormous bumps. I clipped out three five-minute singles matches; it starts with a 5 minute match between the captains, Kansai and Hokuto, then moves on to 4-on-4.
Vader vs Takada, UWFi 12/5/93. This is Vader's first proper challenge in the company and is handled quite well. It goes longer and forces Vader to show more of his shoot knowledge, and the length in turn has a big impact on Vader's efficacy. The big man was WCW champ at the time, and this match was important enough to lead UWFi to book a stadium show, drawing 46,168. There is still debate as to whether the finish caused a legit injury.
Hotta & Double Inoues vs Sawai, Harley Saito & Kazama, AJW 12/6/93, JIP. AJW vs LLPW action! Lots of bombs and a couple gnarly bumps. I still can't get over how harmless Harley Saito looks; that name sounds like it should belong to a burly ass-kicker.
Aja Kong vs Megumi Kudo, AJW 12/6/93. Kudo's best non-hardcore singles match. Funny how it's with her best singles opponent. Solid big vs little match and Kong really lays in the backfists to drive the point home.
Toyota & Yamada vs Kansai & Ozaki, AJW 12/6/93. One-fall conclusion to this tag rivalry. On one hand, this doesn't live up to the 'epicness' of the first two. On the other hand, they still deliver a ton of action, it still has that big-match feel, and the crowd is pretty darn hot.
Hokuto vs Kandori, AJW 12/6/93. I prefer this to their first match because they don't do random crowd brawling and stick to in-ring intensity. Also there's some off-the-charts stiffness, to the point where hardly any *mens* match comes close. These women are not messing around.
Han vs Pavel Orlov, RINGS 12/8/93. See the thing about Han is that he carries a match in such a way that the other guy looks actively good, as opposed to looking like he's luggage for Han. Who's Orlov? Beats me but it's VOLK HAN so who cares?
Nakano & Asari vs Hotta & Minami, AJW 12/10/93. Young Asari is clearly the weak link. Things go downhill when Hotta punts her in the mouth. Is Bull Nakano enough to help her survive?
Hokuto & Toyota vs Yamada & Kyoko Inoue, AJW 12/10/93. Two back-to-back matches that wrap up the tag league. First, the team coming in with fewer points gets the pin to even things up. Then they face off in the final.
Delfin vs Sato, mask vs mask, MPro 12/10/93. Sato, better known as Dick Togo, is an absolutely stellar athlete for his size. Here, before the wear and tear of the road had brought him down to earth, he shows just how much he rules. Oh and Delfin isn't half-bad either. 137 MB.
Kopylov vs Orlov, RINGS 12/25/93. Semi-anonymous Russians crushing it on the mat. Merry Christmas to us!
Choshu vs Fujiwara, NJ 1/4/94. A matchup that just plan works, as long as it's kept short, which this is. The lariat against the guy who is perfectly designed to counter it!
Kong vs Hotta, WWWA title, AJW 1/24/94. STIFFFFFFFFFFFFFF. No, seriously, this is as brutal a pro wrestling match as you will ever see. Hotta earned a reputation as someone who was reckless with her opponents, plus she's tough as hell. It takes a lot to feel sympathy for Hotta. Trust me: you feel sympathy for Hotta here.
Han vs Yamamoto, RINGS 1/24/94. Can young Yamamoto hang with the lord of submissions? At first the answer is a decisive 'no', but then he listens to someone in the crowd (!!) and shows that he's no pushover. The reaction Han gets for his setups is really unlike anyone else, because the execution is so superb. There have been hundreds of super-legit pro wrestlers, but Han knew how to translate his knowledge into the ring.
Delfin, Shinzaki & Naniwa vs Sasuke, Sato & Shiryu, MPro 2/4/94. Michinoku Pro shows its wares at a red-hot Korakuen. Supremely fun match, and once again Dick Togo does some things that shouldn't be possible for a man with his build.
Hashimoto vs Tenryu, NJ 2/17/94. Hashimoto comes in as champ, having progressed since their first to battles. However, Tenryu has an even more impressive accomplishment: a pin on Inoki at the 1/4/94 Tokyo Dome show, which wound up being Inoki's last loss. Can Hashimoto defend the honor of his company, or will Tenryu at long last triumph over Shin Nihon?
Hashimoto vs Liger, New Japan 2/24/94. Heavyweight champ battles junior champ in a non-title match that's still hot enough to headline a big show. Hashimoto takes some bumps you wouldn't expect, Liger is awesome, this is a great match. 194 MB.
Kong & Toyota vs Nakano & Kyoko Inoue, AJW 3/3/94. An all-star tag delivers at ever-reliable Korakuen.
Hashimoto vs Scott Norton, IWGP title, New Japan 3/21/94. About two weeks earlier, Norton pinned Hashimoto in a non-title match with a powerbomb. He did so without even looking like he was ever in serious trouble. Hashimoto's vertical drop DDT is out of the question, his hardest kicks (and he really tees off here) barely faze the barrel-like chest of Norton, and there's no obvious weakness to exploit. Thus Hash has to make one of his own... but can he do it fast enough to avoid taking the same power moves that beat him not so long ago? 133 MB of better-than-you'd-expect.
Kong & Nakano vs Hokuto & Kandori, AJW 3/27/94. 1993's stiffest rivalry leads to an unlikely pairing against possibly the most powerful team in joshi history! A heavyweight-style epic with heaping piles of hard-hitting, bombs, and drama. Not perfect, but the effort is tremendous and they accomplish most of what they're aiming for.
Miyato vs Takayama, UWFi 4/13/94. Miyato was a UWFi booker who didn't put himself in the spotlight. One is tempted to expect a squash because of the size difference, but Miyato has a significant skill and experience advantage.
Nakano vs Kanehara, UWFi 4/13/94. These two do not exactly flinch at hitting and being hit. Nakano wasn't successful against top names, but against a younger wrestler like Kanehara he's able to slug it out and do well.
Anjoh vs Zangiev, UWFi 4/13/94. For someone who wrestled sparingly, Zangiev is really sharp. Compact and high-end action!
Super Delfin vs Ohtani, J Cup '94. So All Japan has the Budokan booked the same night for the Champions Carnival finals, a guaranteed sell-out. New Japan decides to book Sumo Hall, and have a card with nothing but juniors. And it WORKS. And Delfin tries to kill one of New Japan's own with... well you'll just have to see.
Black Tiger Eddie vs Taka Michinoku, J Cup '94. Wee Taka gets absolutely creamed and it's all sorts of fun.
Sasuke vs El Samurai, J Cup '94. Samurai often gets the brush-off when compared to the Ligers and Sasukes of the world, but not only could he hang with them in putting a match together, he could also hang with them in throwing bombs. Sasuke is the favorite but Samurai has more than enough to put him away.
Liger vs Sasuke, J Cup '94. You might have heard of this one.
Choshu vs Hase, New Japan 5/1/94. Teacher versus student, and a de facto #1 contenders match. Hase had a big year in '93 but came up short when it counted most. Now he has a chance to knock off his mentor at Fukuoka Dome. Short and intense. I will note that Hase had been vulnerabile to the scorpion deathlock, unlike most Choshu opponents.
Vader vs Kakihara, Best of the World Round 2, UWFi 5/6/94. You can imagine how this one goes.
Vader vs Tamura, UWFi 6/10/94. Really choice David vs Goliath story with a red-hot crowd. 118 MB.
Liger vs Delfin, NJ BOSJ '94 final. Delfin uses his Super Ligerfin hybrid outfit. Liger makes him pay dearly. 154 MB.
Liger, Samurai, Ohtani & Ishizawa vs Sasuke, Taka, Sato & Shiryu, NJ 6/15/94. Fast-paced and fun. Team NJ won a 2/3 falls match two weeks earlier against an MPro team with Teioh in Sasuke's place. With MPro getting that upgrade, can they change the result?
Hashimoto vs Choshu, IWGP title, NJ 6/15/94. Their usual slugfest. Unexpected finish, but it's logical given the way it's executed.
Taka Michinoku vs Jado, MPro 7/30/94. This show featured a cross-over with WAR, so Taka is left to try and fend off the felonious Jado. I had my doubts coming in, given that this is 1994 Jado we're talking about, but young Taka's aerial feats remain impressive and Jado brings some serious oomph to the table when it matters most. 126 MB.
Choshu vs Yatsu, NJ G-1 '94. Former partners collide! Coming into this one I had no idea if '94 Yatsu could still go. The answer: yes he can, and he can survive quite a bit more of Choshu's trademarks than I expected.
Fujiwara vs Yatsu, NJ G-1 '94. Yeah this rules. Two tough guys named Yoshiaki get chippy, bend the rules, but also show that they've got some technical skill. A perfect example of what made the G-1 Climax so special.
Hase vs Koshinaka, NJ G-1 '94. Wow, this is quite the epic. There's times when epic doesn't work, for instance if a match drags on too long or nearfalls get ridiculous. This goes just the right length and has a 'big' finishing section without going overboard. Quite overlooked.
Hase vs Iizuka, New Japan G-1 Climax '94. A battle of submissions and suplexes. Taken from Ring Warriors, with commentary by Gordon Solie!
Hase vs Iizuka, NJ G-1 '94. Video upgrade; original Japanese commentary.
Choshu vs Fujiwara, NJ G-1 '94. As with their great battle in '87, this is compact and very enjoyable, albeit not on the same level.
Mutoh vs Yatsu, NJ G-1 '94. I love Yatsu, roughing up Mutoh and getting fire out of him. Yatsu comes in with an outside chance to get into a tie for first place in their block with a win, which would throw the final night's schedule into chaos. Thus the crowd is red-hot through the closing stretch.
Daisuke Ikeda vs Glen Jacobs, PWFG 8/13/94. Baby Ikeda battles Baby Kane. In a shoot-style match. You can't not watch.
Vader vs Takada, UWFi 8/18/94. Famous match due to Vader being Vader, high drama, Takada having (supposedly) legit broken Vader's arm the year before with a cross-armbreaker, oh and did I mention Vader. 172 MB
Kong & Hokuto vs Kansai & Hotta, elimination match, AJW 8/28/94. A bomb-throwing, heavyweight-style slugfest from four of joshi's toughest combatants. The booking is reasonably logical in hindsight but very interesting to watch as it unfolds. Darn good pace as well considering the impact being dished out.
Sasuke vs Ohtani, MPro 9/29/94, JIP. The first fifteen minutes were spent mostly with long, pointless mat work. This picks up at the point when they decide to get things going, and boy do they ever.
Takayama vs Kanehara, UWFi 10/8/94. Gosh is this ever stiff. GOSH I say. No, really. REALLY. Stiff.
Vader & Tenta vs Albright & Yamazaki, UWFi 10/8/94. Albright tosses the big dudes around! Vader and Yamazaki do what they do so well! Tenta doesn't suck! Hot crowd! Get this!
Takada vs Sano, UWFi 10/14/94. To this point, Takada is unbeaten against natives in UWFi. Sano has a singles win streak... of two matches. What chance does he possibly have? The same chance he had of beating Liger in 1989, that's what. Sano's well-rounded skillset and athletic ability make this competitive and allow him to push Takada far more than Yamazaki did in the years before this. The crowd senses the possibility of the biggest upset in company history. Do you believe in miracles?
Vader & Tenta vs Albright & Yamazaki, UWFi 10/14/94. The only thing crazier than a tag main event for UWFi is a tag rematch 6 days later. Thankfully for us they did take a chance on the reprise, because this is quite good. Vader and Albright scrap from the start, Yamazaki shines, and Tenta holds up his end just fine.
Han vs Kopylov, RINGS 10/22/94. As I referenced with their '93 bout, Han was a proven commodity already. This one has Kopylov bringing plenty to the table, rather than it just being Yet Another Han Carry Job™.
Sato, Shiryu & Terry Boy vs Shinzaki, TAKA & Naniwa, MPro 10/30/94. Kaientai has arrived, and Michinoku Pro will never be the same again. 150 MB.
Delfin, Shinzaki & Naniwa vs Sasuke, Sato & Shiryu, AJW 11/20/94. Michinoku Pro shows its wares at the joshi megashow at the Tokyo Dome. Some overlap from previous tags but still more than worth it for some stellar spots and exchanges and general fun.
Dynamite Kansai vs Kyoko Inoue, V*Top Tournament, AJW 11/20/94. Interesting matchup. Kyoko is no featherweight and has tons of agility, but Kansai is a tank. I didn't know how well they'd mesh in the ring, but they certainly manage to pull off a Tokyo Dome level match.
Aja Kong vs Manami Toyota, V*Top Tournament, All Japan Women 11/20/94. They go absolutely all-out for the occasion, and the result is one of the best singles matches in either of their careers.
Aja Kong vs Dynamite Kansai, V*Top Tournament, AJW 11/20/94. The irresistible force versus the immovable object, the sort of match that was meant to be at the dome.
Sano vs Takayama, UWFi 11/30/94. At this point in time Sano is considerably more seasoned. However, Takayama has one of the better "puncher's chances" in wrestling history, and Sano takes a big risk in choosing several times to go toe-to-toe with the titan.
Yamazaki vs Kakihara, UWFi 11/30/94. The temptation here is to say that this is a matchup between two skilled athletes, but that misses the heart of the matter. Kakihara is on quite a roll, only having lost once in the last year, and he is all kinds of spunky. Yamazaki gets frustrated and pissed off at the upstart. ...AND they're skilled athletes.
Hashimoto vs Hase, IWGP title, New Japan 12/13/94. One of the, if not the finest IWGP matches ever. Hashimoto's strikes are brutal, Hase's suplexes are beautiful, there's good matwork, there's the fact that Hase only got this one title shot in his career, and then there's the finish. Oh, the finish.
Sasuke vs TAKA, MPro 12/15/94. Sasuke started off as Masa Michinoku (which isn't his real name). Taka's gimmick was done as a parody of that. Considering the gap in experience and accomplishment between them, Taka does darn well here. A lot of that is a result of the absurd athletic ability he had at this point, but he also shows a lot of determination. Sasuke is forced to dig deep in the final minutes; will that be enough to prevent the upset?
Maeda vs Yamamoto, RINGS 12/17/94. Maeda, the Japanese ace of RINGS. The face of the promotion. Far more experience. Yamamoto, a young lion on a three-fight win streak and in his first main event. It's a classic underdog story that manages to feel like a complete match in a relatively short amount of time. RINGS was good like that.
Han vs Nagai, RINGS 12/24/94. Volk Han rules, film at 11. Han beat Nagai in under 10 minutes earlier in the year. While Nagai doesn't lose in such summary fashion here, "not getting squashed" isn't what he needs at this point. Nagai wants to finally earn that one big win to get him out of 'also-ran' status. Meanwhile, Han really can't afford to lose heading into the finals of the annual Mega Battle tournament. Amongst the multitude of cool things Han does in the match is a move Nagai would later rip off for one of his trademarks. My question is, why stop at ripping off just one cool Volk Han move when there are roughly ten thousand more?
Hashimoto vs Scott Norton, IWGP title, New Japan 2/19/95. Two weeks earlier Norton pinned Mutoh to become #1 contender, and then had another non-title singles win over the champ. However, to balance his having even more momentum than last time, Norton has a bit of a shoulder injury for Hash to lob kicks at. Can the irresistable force top the immovable object when it counts yet again? 122 MB.
Chono, Tenzan, Hiro Saito & Sabu vs Hashimoto, Choshu, Hase & Hirata, 2/3 falls, NJ 3/13/95. Fast pace, lots of ill will, and then Sabu tries to kill himself for neither the first nor the last time.
Yamamoto vs Nagai, RINGS 3/18/95. If you've seen much of Yamamoto, you know he's really good overall and GREAT on the mat. Nagai clearly is not in his league on the ground, which means he needs to get the best of things on the feet. But what will he do if he's on the losing end of the strike exchanges? It has to be something, because Yamamoto WILL put him away if there's an opening...
Han vs Zouev, RINGS 3/18/95. Zouev holds two wins in a row over Han, something that just about never happened. Can Han's mat magic finally get him a win?
Double Inoues vs Toyota & Blizzard Yuki, tag title tournament final, AJW 3/21/95. Both teams had to beat two pairs of quality opponents earlier in the night. They don't go overly long as might have been the temptation if they hadn't wrestled earlier, yet they don't show fatigue in delivering an action-packed main event, so this is the best possible outcome.
Kansai, Masami, Fukuoka & Yagi vs Ozaki, Cutie Suzuki, Okutsu & Toyama, 1-count match, JWP 3/21/95. Very, very unique match. Starts off as a series of singles matches with a 5 minute time limit, then after those both sides come together for a 4-on-4 tag. 1 count pinfalls are able to generate effective nearfalls on almost anything!
Ultimo Dragon vs Chris Jericho, WAR 3/26/95. Young Lionheart shows his stuff, though that's easy to do when Ultimo is in there.
Bull Nakano vs Kyoko Inoue, All Japan Women 3/26/95, WWF Womens Title. Witness the spunkiness of Kyoko as it goes against the straightforward solidness of Bull.
Lioness Asuka vs Hotta, AJW 3/26/95. Done with quasi-MMA rules and strikes that blur the line between work and shoot. Finish is crazy. So deeply brutal of a match.
Kanemoto vs Ohtani, IWGP vs UWA junior titles, NJ 4/16/95. Not complete, but still very enjoyable.
Mutoh vs Tenzan, NJ 4/16/95. Mutoh is heading into a title shot, so naturally this is just a tune-up. Right? Um... no. This is 1995 world-beater Tenzan. And wait'll you see the move that sets up the finish.
Hashimoto vs Regal, IWGP title, New Japan 4/16/95. Not 'epic' like you expect from a title match, but 'really good' like you expect from Hash and Regal. Hash works stiff, Regal works snug, and there's even some hardway blood to boot. 151 MB.
Vader vs Takada, UWFi 4/20/95. Their final match. Not as 'big' feeling as the first two, but it works for the same reasons. Vader is still a monster, Takada is still good at using strategy when he isn't getting mauled, and Japanese crowds still eat up the 'native versus gaijin beast' story. Even in a shoot setting. Actually, considering how Wanderlei Silva was booked in PRIDE, *especially* in a shoot setting.
Black Tiger Eddie vs Kanemoto, NJ BOSJ '95, JIP. Eddie Guerrero carries someone to a good match, film at 11.
Chono & Tenzan vs Hashimoto & Hirata, tag title decision match, New Japan 6/12/95. The first tag title match for two teams that would lead the division over the next year and a half. This doesn't compare to what All Japan was doing at the time, but I happen to think it's an upgrade from the flashy but low-substance Steiners-style that was the norm in years past. In fact, this kicks off my favorite period for the IWGP tag titles.
Han vs Yoshihisa Yamamoto, RINGS 6/17/95. The file length is such that you can't guess the finish based on it. But you'll be too busy yelling at Yamamoto to tap out to worry about that.
Yamazaki vs Takayama, UWFi 6/18/95. On one hand, Takayama has never beaten a big name and wants badly to take the next step. On the other hand, Yamazaki has struggled for years and can't afford a loss. Who wants it more in what wound up being Yamazaki's farewell to the company?
Anjoh vs Sano, UWFi 6/18/95. These two matched up quite well in '93, and this time they go at it with a faster pace.
Toyota vs Kong, WWWA title, AJW 6/27/95. Toyota ended Kong's long reign in March. That match is more famous, but I think this is clearly better. Kong/Toyota is such a natural pairing, and this was the last of their really memorable bouts.
Shopping Mall Brawl, Big Japan 7/1/95. One of the unique, definitive things to see in the history of pro wrestling. Bizarre, probably illegal given the property destruction, often hilarious, entirely confusing.
Ultimo Dragon vs Chris Jericho, WAR 7/7/95. A bigger and better rematch!
Anjoh & Takayama vs Kanehara & Kakihara, UWFi 7/13/95. Takayama and Kanehara always bring out the brutality in one another. Anjoh and Kaki were two of the most reliable members of the UWFi roster. Put 'em all together and it's a good tag match.
Hayabusa & Niiyama vs Gladiator (Mike Awesome) & Ooya, FMW 7/18/95. All kinds of fun. Awesome and Ooya and Hayabusa all rock on offense, Niiyama can take a beating, and then the post-match talking (w/ subtitles) is five-stars. Magnifique!
Anjoh & Joe Malenko vs Sano & Sakuraba, UWFi 7/22/95. The team I've dubbed AnJoe is just that right mix of carny and shoot-style that I would not want to mess with them under any circumstances. That said, Sano and Saku are not exactly pushovers.
Sasuke vs Naniwa, Mask League, MPro 7/27/95, JIP. Edited to the last few minutes, which are shockingly epic for a Gran Naniwa match. Includes a really sick bump even by Sasuke standards.
Mike Awesome vs Hayabusa, FMW 7/30/95. Hayabusa has been thrust into the spotlight as the face of post-Onita FMW. 'Gladiator' Mike Awesome has been with the company longer and wants to establish himself as a key long-term figure by taking down the new 'ace'. Hayabusa almost ends his career in this but amazingly doesn't suffer a serious injury. Be sure to watch the lead-in tag.
Sasuke vs Delfin, Mask League, MPro 8/12/95. Sasuke suffers an injury to his hip/lower back region and gets absolutely picked apart for most of the match. Closing stretch is great as a result because Delfin just keeps at it while Sasuke is pushed to his absolute limit.
Delfin vs Naniwa, Mask League, MPro 8/13/95. Naniwa has long been Delfin's sidekick, but he isn't afraid to be as rudo as he wanna be. We've seen Naniwa give Sasuke all he can handle and more; can he pull off the upset or will Delfin weather the storm? 128 MB.
Mutoh vs Hashimoto, G-1 Climax '95 final, New Japan 8/15/95. Mutoh knocked off Hashimoto a few months earlier to win the IWGP title. However, Hashimoto had already suffered quite a few singles losses only to come right back and win in the clutch over the last few years. Both are gunning for their first G-1 win. Will Hashimoto's strength or Mutoh's craft come out on top?
Dos Caras vs Super Delfin, Michinoku Pro Mask League 8/18/95. Ah, the '95 mask league. So good, so good for you.
Kanehara vs Sakuraba, UWFi 8/18/95. Hard-hitting, as per Kanehara's M.O.
Sasuke vs Dos Caras Jr, Mask League, MPro 8/23/95. Caras really has it all over Sasuke here, with better submissions and more power and plenty of impact moves. Sasuke's only advantage is that he's INSANE.
Gran Naniwa vs Gorgon Cross (Jerry Lynn), Michinoku Pro 8/25/95, Mask vs Mask. The two who did worst in the league are punished by having to put said masks on the line. For two 'losers' this is a hell of a match. Heck, for anyone.
Sasuke vs Dos Caras Jr, Mask League Final, MPro 8/25/95. Caras has learned that it takes a lot to put Sasuke down, so he doesn't hold back even the tiniest bit this time.
Fujiwara vs Taka Michinoku, PWFG 8/26/95. Coming in I was willing to give the match a chance, but I was very skeptical because how on earth can Taka not get his arm ripped off in like ten seconds? But it works because they effectively use their personalities as well as their considerable skill level.
Aja Kong vs Dynamite Kansai, WWWA title, All Japan Women 8/30/95. The female equivalent of a superheavyweight war. Ten months previous, Aja pinned Kansai at the biggest joshi show ever in the Tokyo Dome, using her mighty spinning backfist. Kansai, she of the hard kicks and crucifix bombs, is out for revenge and wants to hold the top title in women's wrestling for the first time. As stiff and brutal as it should be.
Aja Kong vs Dynamite Kansai, WWWA title, All Japan Women 8/30/95. Upgrade, but with some clipping.
Kyoko Inoue & Takako Inoue vs Manami Toyota & Sakie Hasegawa, 2/3 falls, All Japan Women 8/30/95. In the mold of the Kansai/Ozaki vs Toyota/Yamada tags, this is thoroughly epic.
Nakano vs Kyoko Inoue, AJW 9/2/95. The last big singles match in Japan for Bull Nakano, and it's a doozy. Continues where they left off in the March match.
Toyota vs Hokuto, AJW 9/2/95. The last big singles match in AJW for Hokuto. This has a much more intense start than the norm for Manami Toyota and a suitably grand finish. They go all-out.
Toyota vs Hotta, Grand Prix '95 final, AJW 9/3/95. These two have dominated the tournament so far in the decade. Toyota beat Hotta in the 1990 final, lost in the 1992 final, and came in 2nd in 1994. Hotta lost in the 1993 final and won the 1994 tournament. Hotta comes in with one huge advantage: Toyota is coming off a war with Hokuto the night before. And that's on top of how hard it is to get through Hotta to begin with. Toyota eats a ton of punishment but keeps coming back, and Hotta slowly goes from cocky to desperate as things progress. There are a few questionable transitions but that isn't enough to take too much shine of the bout.
Hayabusa vs Gladiator, FMW 9/26/95. Finals of a tournament to determine the new champion after Hayabusa vacated the title a few months earlier. During the round-robin portion of the tournament Hayabusa pinned Awesome with a rana. With English subtitles for promos and a lot of post-match.
Zouev vs Ilioukhine, RINGS 10/21/95. Russians in RINGS means lots of tricky matwork. Zouev comes in on a losing streak, while Ilioukhine won his last two. Ah, but RINGS is fickle, and streaks can end at a moment's notice...
Kanemoto vs Sakuraba, UWFi 10/28/95. Kanemoto comes in a IWGP junior champ. Saku isn't the Gracie Killer yet, but he isn't a pushover either.
Chono vs Anjoh, 10/28/95. Certain wrestlers shine the most in interpromotional feuds. Yoji Anjoh, far less glamorous than counterparts like Takada, is a case in point. The NJ vs UWFi feud let him rely on his awesome heel charisma to augment his decent if unspectacular skills. This match is flat-out entertaining.
Kanehara vs Ohtani, NJ 10/29/95. Kanehara, despite being as heavy-hitting as anyone in UWFi, was a lower-midcarder throughout his UWFi tenure. Ohtani, meanwhile, has all the legit skill and submission knowledge necessary to be competitive... and, dare I say, win?
hono & Tenzan vs Anjoh & Takayama, UWFi 11/25/95. Takayama, who just never quite showed his quality in shoot-style, reveals hints of what he would become in the 2000s (and almost kills someone in the opening minutes). Chono and Tenzan are effective as "pro wrestlers to be looked down on" for the UWFi crowd. Ah, but Anjoh, that's who makes this really worthwhile. The charisma, the execution, the selling, he's just so world-class. This has next to no downtime and plenty of heat, something for everyone to enjoy.
Hotta vs Yamada, AJW 12/4/95. The couple of botched spots are made up for by them kicking the crap out of each other non-stop. Good gracious.
Dynamite Kansai vs Manami Toyota, WWWA title, AJW 12/4/95. After years of title stability with Kong on top, the title had already changed hands 3 times in 1995, including one for Toyota herself. This is the incomplete TV version, which I prefer to the complete one due to the elimination of the early downtime. Kansai's brutal strikes against Toyota's acrobatics is a classic wrestling story, building off their many interactions in the classic AJW vs JWP tag feud. Big finishing run without going overboard.
Tenryu & Ultimo vs Fuyuki & Kandori, WAR 12/8/95. To say I had low expectations for this would be an understatement. I don't care for Kandori in her natural setting, let alone intergender. Fuyuki and Ultimo are both inconsistent. Yet this ends up being all kinds of fun, between Kandori's spunk, Fuyuki taking it to Tenryu, Tenryu being himself, and Ultimo striking just the right balance when it comes to selling (or not selling) for the so-called 'strongest man in joshi'.
Chono vs Anjoh, NJ 12/10/95. As with their first match, this one is short and heated.
Hashimoto & Hirata vs Chono & Tenzan, tag titles, NJ 12/11/95, JIP. A good matchup in June, still a good matchup in December. Quite the climactic finish.
Mutoh vs Koshinaka, IWGP title, NJ 12/11/95, JIP. The big finish, and I much prefer this to the more famous but very dry Mutoh/Takada title bouts.
Damien 666 vs Gran Naniwa, J Cup '95. Wrestling karaoke?
Dos Caras vs El Samurai, J Cup '95. Lucha legend Caras ties Samurai up in knots.
Liger vs Naniwa, J Cup '95. Deluxe entrances from both, a quick start, lots of lucha stretches in the middle, and a decisive finish. They cram a lot into this.
Liger vs Ultimo Dragon, J Cup '95 semifinal. To me this is the real final and clearly the best of their 5 matches. Liger puts on quite the technical clinic in the first half. Not a heck of a lot of continuity with the highspot-filled second half, but that's a juniors match for you. Strong closing run.
Rey Mysterio Jr vs Psicosis, J Cup '95 non-tournament. One of their many, touring matches at a time when the matchup could do no wrong.
Delfin, Naniwa & Hasegawa vs Sasuke, Kendo & Shimoda, MPro 12/17/95. Kendo (a luchador) and two of joshi's finest don't miss a beat in yet another fun-filled Michinoku romp. Though I question the wisdom of ever putting Delfin in a mixed tag. 217 MB.
Zouev vs Nagai, RINGS 12/19/95. Nagai *really* needs this to be mostly fought on the feet. It *really* isn't; Zouev does his best Volk Han impression and puts Nagai in a deep hole. Considering that Zouev has beaten Han on multiple occasions, the odds seem pretty long for Nagai. Can he pull out a big comeback, or will Zouev's Russian-style slickness prove too much to overcome?
Han vs Yamamoto, RINGS 12/19/95. Yamamoto has a lot more experience than before but Han remains Han, able to crush mere mortals with a thought. He's like a shoot-style end boss.
Manami Toyota vs AJW, 12/25/95. Very odd, very interesting match. It's 30 1-minute singles matches, a few of which repeat, starting with young... um... lionesses, and building to the Aja Kong-level ass-kickers. You'll probably never see anything else like it.
Kanemoto vs Liger, junior title, NJ 1/4/96. Liger's first shot after vacating the belt in '94 due to injury. They go for broke at the dome.
Hashimoto vs Yamazaki, New Japan 1/4/96. Part 1 of a great rivalry. 108 MB.
Inoki vs Vader, Inoki Retirement Road, NJ 1/4/96. This is a one-off for Vader before his WWF debut. Old man Inoki faces a huge threat to both his retirement win streak and his physical well-being. Easily the best Inoki match of the '90s, as he takes a Vader-sized beating and executes much better than a 52 year old part-timer normally would. Very much a Tokyo Dome match, with an epic entrance for Inoki and a clash-of-the-titans layout. Features one of the definitive bumps in Japanese wrestling history.
Ishikawa & Sho Funaki vs Ikeda & Usuda, Battlarts 1/13/96. Funaki takes a man-sized beating like a man. Man.
Samurai vs Ohtani, UWA title, New Japan 1/21/96. Top five for either of their careers, really cutting-edge and smart and focused and awesome. It's a distinctly juniors-style match without breaking down into highspots for the sake of highspots.
Tony Halme vs Nagai, RINGS 1/25/96. Halme, better known as Ludvig Borga, had a short but successful run in New Japan based on his boxing skills. After leaving the WWF, he was used off-and-on by RINGS, which might explain why he's able to have such a shockingly good match. His selling and the size difference combine to make this a very good "discount" Vader vs Takada match.
Liger & Black Tiger vs Ohtani & Kanemoto, NJ 2/15/96. I dunno, these four are okay I guess. 127 MB.
Mutoh & Liger vs Tenzan & Saito, New Japan 2/18/96. I wonder why they changed the entrance music for a commercial release. And why they clipped this so much when the VHS release wasn't that long. Oh well, some is better than none. Straightforward face/heel match that has a lot more intensity than we normally see from non-big-event New Japan. Liger's two runs of offense are really fun, Mutoh looks like an ineffectual idiot, Saito does some sentons, Tenzan shows his heel charisma, what more can you ask?
Sasaki, Ohtani & Kanemoto vs Yamazaki, Nagata & Ishizawa, New Japan 2/18/96. After enjoying one tag from the show more than I expected, I was ready for this to be polite technical wrestling. Bland but inoffensive. Instead we get effort on the mat (including a sweet armbar setup by SASAKI?!) and some bona fide hate involving Yamazaki. Frentic finishing run capped off by a unique submission rounds off another good outing.
Kakihara vs Ohtani, UWFi 3/1/96. Ohtani blends into the shoot-style environment quite well, though it helps to be in with a talent like Kakihara. Although Kakihara might not be a big star in our minds, it's worth noting that he fights as a heavyweight and made Sasaki tap at the Tokyo Dome in October. Which means Ohtani is facing some pretty long odds.
Takada vs Koshinaka, IWGP title, UWFi 3/1/96. Tons of heat as old junior division rivals hook it up.
Delfin, Naniwa & Taka vs Sasuke, Shiryu & Tiger Mask IV, MPro 3/16/96. One of the more famous MPro 6-mans. Highlight is an absolutely killer finishing sequence. 228 MB.
Liger vs Ohtani, junior title, NJ 3/17/96. Mostly submissions in the first half. It's not bad, but it's not thrilling either. What made this famous is the second half's action and nearfalls. Ohtani had title shots before, but never against someone of Liger's caliber, and his ability to hang with the junior ace gets the crowd red-hot.
Hashimoto & Hirata vs Harlem Heat, tag titles, New Japan 3/20/96. Battle of the H's. Hashimoto crowns Booker with the brainbusteringest of all brainbusters.
Tenryu & Araya vs Fujinami & Koshinaka, NJ 3/26/96. Tenryu hates Koshinaka! Tenryu hates Fujinami! Tenryu even hates Koshinaka sidekick Akitoshi Saito at ringside! Can one man's hate carry a match? You better believe it.
Aja Kong, Combat Toyota & Cooga vs Bison Kimura, Kudo & Kaoru, AJW 3/31/96. Lots and lots of joshi to enjoy. 237 MB.
Han vs Zouev, RINGS 4/29/96. Even though WE know that Han is the #1 Russian, and the FANS know that Han is the #1 Russian... Zouev is 2-1 against Han coming into this match. For as much as Han seems to have Zouev's number in their matches, you know that (as with any of the Russians) a scramble on the mat can lead to dangerous places. Will Han hold on to win and even their series, or will Zouev gain a clear edge? The answer comes in the form of an especially nifty finish.
Yamamoto vs Kohsaka, RINGS 4/29/96. Kohsaka's first main event, and it's debatable whether or not he earned it with a mere two match win streak. He has yet to reach his second full year in the ring. If I'm not mistaken, the announcers say that Yamamoto was a trainer of his, which seems fitting given the similarities they display. Very good outing with lots of heat.
Tenryu vs Fujinami, NJ 4/29/96. Tenryu counters a suicida in nasty fashion and the match gets ugly. 83 MB.
Megumi Kudo vs Combat Toyota, exploding barbed wire DM, FMW 5/5/96. Kudo, the hardcore queen, must survive the beastly Combat. Explosions are NOT the most brutal thing about the match, either. This is my favorite FMW DM, and I'm far from alone in that opinion. 277 MB.
Fujiwara vs Dick Murdoch, PWFG 5/23/96. I won't lie: this is sluggish in parts and will primarily appeal to people who are already fans of these two. Their unique charisma makes up for the ravages of time.
Yamazaki & Iizuka vs Hashimoto & Kido, NJ 5/24/96, slightly clipped. First of several lead-in tags to build towards Yamazaki and Iizuka challenging Hashimoto and Hirata for the tag titles at the end of the tour. Things get especially heated when Hashimoto and Yamazaki go at it, and the finish is downright fascinating from a booking standpoint. Plus, this certainly doesn't overstay its welcome.
Tenryu vs Nakano, WAR 5/26/96. The only problem with this match is that there isn't enough of it. Really, the question coming in is *how* the match will be entertaining... and it turns out so in a rather unexpected way.
Hashimoto & Ohtani vs Yamazaki & Nagata, NJ 5/28/96. Two parallel storylines make this compelling. One is Hashimoto and Yamazaki trying to prove a point heading into the big tag title match. The other is Ohtani getting a rare (televised) opportunity to tangle with the big boys. Good by itself and better when seen in the proper sequence.
Hashimoto, Hirata & Nishimura vs Yamazaki, Iizuka & Nagata, NJ 6/5/96. Buildup to Hash & Hirata vs Yamazaki & Iizuka. Normally a New Japan buildup match isn't important to see, but in this feud the lead-ins add a lot. Also it's a good match in its own right. 145 MB.
Black Tiger Eddie vs Ohtani, New Japan Best of the Super Juniors 6/5/96. Eddie, unbeaten in the tournament to this point, advances to the semi-final with a win; Ohtani is eliminated if he loses. One doesn't normally think of Eddie as a "Work the leg" kind of guy, but he does well in making it interesting throughout rather than standard first-half filler. Much more dramatic and 'big' than we normally get from a round-robin juniors match, and better than a number of more-famous matches Eddie had in Japan.
Tanaka, Kuroda & Nakagawa vs Kanemura, Hido & Hosaka, W*ING 6/12/96. Oh baby, this is a good one. Great heat, great action, hectic pacing, and for a couple of these guys one of the very best matches they've ever been in.
Hashimoto & Hirata vs Yamazaki & Iizuka, tag titles, NJ 6/12/96. A great match that's even greater after seeing the backstory. Smart, heated, energetic crowd, this is one of the best IWGP tag title matches.
Liger vs Black Tiger, NJ Best of Super Juniors '96 final. Earlier in the year Liger beat Eddie with a top rope brainbuster. Earlier in the tournament Eddie beat Liger with a top rope brainbuster. Will that be the move that ends the rubber match, or will one of their other trademarks (BT bomb, ligerbomb) be enough? 110 MB.
Ohtani vs Sakuraba, UWA title decision match, New Japan 6/17/96. Ohtani plays to young Saku's strengths, but without going full-on shoot-style.
Ultimo vs Naniwa, WAR junior title, NJ 6/17/96. JIP.
Delfin vs Taka Michinoku, CMLL welterweight title, New Japan 6/17/96. Interesting historical note: Delfin won the title without CMLL approval, and by this point they'd already crowned a new champion. Taka comes in as the FMW Independent junior champion, making this "obscure junior title" champ vs champ. Somewhat lacking to start other than a couple of Taka's super-athletic spots, but a good finishing run to make up for that.
Liger vs Dick Togo, New Japan 6/17/96. Interesting to see how much more compelling the Togo-driven opening minutes are when compared to the ensuing Liger control segment. Togo's mix of fat-boy offense, athleticism, and bumping were something special. In fact, I come away from this being amazed at how much more impressive Togo was than Liger. Part of that is the fact that this is 1996 Liger rather than 1992 Liger, but that's still an accomplishment for Togo.
Sasuke & Delfin vs Togo, Shiryu & Teioh, MPro 6/23/96. The Michinoku Megapowers take on Kaientai in a handicap match that escalates a lot in the second half. 146 MB.
Fujinami & Fujiwara vs Takada & Kakihara, UWFi 6/26/96. With PWFG slowing down, Fujiwara finally appeared in UWFi the month before, losing to Takada in anticlimactic fashion due to a legit injury. Here, he tags with fellow '70s-vintage NJ Dojo graduate Fujinami to go for revenge. Things progress in without much of note until Fujiwara gets axe kicked in the face and from there it's ON. Note to self: never piss off Fujiwara.
Han vs Nagai, RINGS 6/29/96. This is about as pure a 'striker versus grappler' matchup as RINGS had to present, though both are capable of pulling off some surprises in the other's territory. I love the fact that in a Volk Han match you expect that someone grabbing a full nelson *must* lead to something cool, and sure enough it does, yet there's no way of knowing how it will be cool in advance. Wonderful finish.
Liger & El Samurai vs Ohtani & Honaga, NJ 6/29/96. Man, this Niigata crowd is HOT. The match is 95% about the Liger/Ohtani sections, and let's be honest, that's what you're watching it for. The confines (small show mid-card) and participants (Honaga) keep this from being stellar, but it's a fine showcase for each team's star.
Fujiwara vs Anjoh, Rikidozan Festival 6/30/96. From a one-off show using wrestlers from 14 promotions. Fujiwara is still sporting a mouse under his right eye from the match four days earlier. As one might expect, this is less about shoot-style prowess and more about who can be a bigger jerk to the other. As often happens in such situations the true winner can be murky...
Tenryu & Fujinami vs Choshu & Kitahara, Rikidozan Festival 6/30/96. NJ and WAR mix-and-match. One can't help but be perplexed by the inclusion of Kitahara, which is why he's fired-up to prove he belongs. Very much a tale of two matches as Fujinami does his standard technical filler and Tenryu does his standard 'being Genechiro M-Fing Tenryu'. Tenryu/Choshu is a known quantity, but Tenryu/Kitahara is definitely the highlight, including a big move that's pulled off 1000% better than you'd expect.
Tamura vs Peeters, RINGS 7/16/96. Peeters is a perfect opponent for Tamura. He's better at both the striking and grappling aspects of stand-up, and quite good on the mat for someone who isn't Russian or Japanese. To top it off he's a cocky bastard.
Han vs Kohsaka, RINGS 7/16/96. Han tends to be more mat-focused while his Japanese opponents are more skilled at striking. Here he has a peerless Japanese mat wizard to test his ability. Intense finish that leaves you wanting to see a quick rematch. Unlike their norm, RINGS obliged on the following show.
Rey Mysterio vs Juventud Guerrera, WAR 7/20/96. I think you know how this one goes.
Tenryu vs Anjoh, WAR 7/21/96. Anjoh utilizing the shoot techniques of STALLING~ and TAUNTING~ is wonderful. Being a bigger jerk than Tenryu is quite the accomplishment. Tenryu busts out his extra-stiff "let's see how legit you UWFi guys are" punches for the occasion. The first half is choppy but the second more than makes up for it; I can't believe how much drama they manage to build in the last 5 minutes.
Mutoh vs Yamazaki, NJ G-1 Climax '96. Really, really good technical wrestling here. Much better 'Mutoh vs UWFi guy' than either of the Takada matches. 131 MB.
Hashimoto vs Choshu, New Japan G-1 Climax '96. A match made especially famous by the closing moments in which Choshu lariats Hashimoto as hard as is humanly possible, and Hash refuses to go down, which means they hit full-on. Choshu practically breaks his arm on Hashimoto's chest because it's like trying to lariat down a small house. Choshu's all-out effort here is part of '96 being his last G-1 ever, something he announced ahead of time. Hashimoto, on the other hand, is the champ and the ace, and he still wants his first G-1 tournament win. This is opening night and the winner controls his own destiny. So the question becomes, are Choshu's hardest blows really enough? 129 MB.
Shiryu vs Gran Naniwa, Central American middleweight title, MPro 8/3/96. Despite the silliness of Japanese wrestlers fighting over a Central American title, this is a nifty little match.
Hashimoto vs Sasaki, NJ G-1 '96. The champ, filled with pride but banged up, takes on the bulldozer that is Kensuke Sasaki. Hash > you.
Ultimo Dragon vs Ohtani, New Japan 8/4/96. Part of the J-Crown tournament, and one of the best juniors matches ever thanks to Shinjiro's performance.
Ishikawa vs Ikeda, Battlarts 8/4/96, some clipping. The mix of pro moves, shoot holds, and hellish strikes makes this a good primer for their rivalry.
Sakuraba vs Kakihara, UWFi 8/17/96. Slick shoot-styled wrestling. At times we get RINGS-esque ground exchanges, along with several not-fully-shoot-but-well-executed moments. Also of note is the fact that Saku, who debuted in '93, had yet to get a significant singles win. Kakihara would certainly qualify. Early on it seems as if Kakihara is pulling away with the match, but Sakuraba hangs tough and survives long enough for both men to be low on points. Can he get to the next level, or will Kakihara pull out the expected win?
Tenryu vs Sano, UWFi 8/17/96. Short, but with enough brutality to make up for that.
Liger, Hamada & Naniwa vs Togo, Taka & Funaki, MPro 8/18/96. A 1996 MPro 6-man with Kaientai means you're starting with at least a 'good' match. Throw Liger into the mix and it's that much funner. That's right, funner. 119 MB.
Han vs Kohsaka, RINGS 8/24/96. TK showed his quality against Han the month before and now has to deal with the Czar of Submissions again. Or is it the other way around? There are CHOICE counters and scrambles sprinkled throughout, along with subtle positioning in advance of the highlights.
Aja Kong vs Kyoko Inoue, AJW Grand Prix '96 final, 8/30/96, JIP. Kyoko is at a point where she now has the strength and toughness to beat anyone at any time. Kong, meanwhile, seeks to earn a title shot and win the tournament in her first appearance since '92. Of note: they faced off in the '91 final, with Kyoko winning.
Tanaka, Kuroda & Nakagawa vs Kanemura, Hido & Hosaka, double hell no-rope barbed wire, FMW 9-1-96. My favorite men's hardcore match from FMW. Fast pace, harsh powerbombs, and a simple but effective face/heel story that leads to a thrilling finish.
Black Tiger vs Ohtani, NJ 9/16/96. This took place during Eddie's last full tour as Black Tiger. Very fast start and a bomb-heavy match as a result.
Volk Han vs Kiyoshi Tamura, RINGS 9/25/96. Tamura joined the company in June and rattled off three straight wins. Now he has to tangle with a new level of difficulty in the Russian ace. Within a minute there's a badass throw and about four tricky submission attempts, so you know they're going to deliver the goods. The level of effort shows in the final minutes, with Han breathing hard and both men losing holds because they're slippery with sweat.
Kaientai Deluxe vs Delfin/Hamada/Tiger Mask 4/Naniwa/Yakushiji, MPro 10/10/96. The definitive Michinoku Pro match. One of the most straightforwardly enjoyable matches anywhere, ever. It's been posted a thousand times in a thousand places but one more can't hurt and if you HAVEN'T seen it, well sheesh don't wait any longer!
Togo, Teioh & Shiryu vs Sasuke, Hamada & Yakushiji, MPro 10/19/96. Yakushiji bumps like mad, and they bust out a pretty huge finishing sequence. 170 MB.
Muta vs Liger, NJ 10/20/96. You have to remember, Mutoh is the guy who can fly and work a technical match. Muta is an entirely different creature. Thankfully, Liger has a very unique backup plan.
Tamura vs Ilioukhine, RINGS 10/25/96. With Tamura's arrival, RINGS settled into an All Japan-like "any of these guys against each other is good" groove. Ilioukhine rocks on the mat and Tamura is Tamura so this one delivers just what you want from RINGS.
Chono & Tenzan vs Hashimoto & Norton, NJ tag league '96. A match not so much about action as it is about a self-contained story.
Ishikawa & Otsuka vs Ikeda & Ono, Battlarts 10/30/96. Hellish suplexes, gnarly strikes, and not much in the way of restraint. Battlarts was still in its first year here but the tone is clearly well-established.
Tenryu & Araya vs Yamazaki & Iizuka, WAR 11/9/96. Just booking this match was a love letter through time addressed to me. The fact that Korakuen is chock full of rowdy New Japan insurgents, and that Iizuka gets all fired up for one of the few times in his life, only adds to it.
Sasuke, Delfin & Hamada vs Togo, Teioh & Shiryu, MPro 11/12/96. Gran Hamada gets special treatment pre-match even though the only thing I can see of note for him is that he would turn 46 in two weeks... which isn't exactly a milestone. Solid in the first 2/3rds with a HOT sprint at the end.
Hayabusa vs Taka Michinoku, FMW 11/16/96. Taka does his best, Hayabusa does a mix of amazing spots and spotty selling, it builds to some big nearfalls.
Han vs Kohsaka, RINGS 11/22/96. They do a great job of building drama at the end. 102 MB.
Kaientai vs MPro Sekigun 10-man tag, Inoki 12/1/96. A rarely-seen match because the show didn't circulate much. Hoshikawa takes Naniwa's usual place on Seikigun. Very different crowd response compared to when they're in MPro. The crowd clearly doesn't know most/all of them but reacts with more surprise to the highspots. Remarkable how good this is for what's essentially a rote, by-the-numbers match from this crew. Good pace and a very hot finish.
Liger & Samurai vs Ohtani & Kanemoto, NJ 12/1/96. Both teams are overflowing with hatred for each other. Lots of taunting and cheap-shots, even after the bell. And, occasionally, a juniors match breaks out. But only a couple times.
Hashimoto & Hirata vs Choshu & Sasaki, NJ 12/1/96. Choshu gets a shot at Hashimoto on 1/4/97 and naturally they go after each other. 104 MB.
Chono & Tenzan vs Yamazaki & Iizuka, tag titles, NJ 12/1/96. Slightly JIP'ed. Good match made very good by classic face vs heel storytelling. 99 MB.
Kaientai Deluxe vs Sasuke, Delfin, Hamada, Tiger Mask 4 & Naniwa, elimination match, MPro 12/9/96, slightly clipped. Being tossed over the top counts as an elimination. The ref is a young Matsui, who went on to be the main ref for Osaka Pro and DDT. There's a good balance between familiar sequences/pairings and mixing it up in the opening minutes. For example, the old "Delfin is vulnerable to atomic drops" spot is modified nicely. An even more important balance is to make the eliminations feel big enough to send someone from the match without being the finish, and this is handled even better. Plenty of clever cut-offs by Kaientai as they run roughshod in the middle, although overall this lacks the pace and excitement of other 10-man tags in the feud. That isn't a very big negative considering how high a standard they set two months earlier. What matters most is that they build drama as the match progresses, leading to a valiant (and somewhat unexpected) last stand.
Ultimo Dragon vs Rey Mysterio, J Crown, WAR 12/13/96. Following on the heels of their quality bout at World War 3, three weeks prior. Spiderman Gear Mysterio comes complete with webbing in a neat touch. If you are looking for MATWORK and PSYCHOLOGY then you are in the wrong place. Ultimo gets to show off a bunch of impact moves, Mysterio gets to show off his usual flying, and they don't muck about for five minutes like most junior title matches matches tend to.
Kaientai DX vs Sasuke, Delfin, Hamada, Naniwa & Yakushiji, MPro 12/16/96. This has the "all-star" seikigun team, without greenhorn Tiger Mask 4. Watching this shortly after the 10-man from a week before, it's remarkable how much faster, tighter, and more heated this one is. A certain amount of repetition is impossible to avoid but with 9 of the same 10 guys it's remarkable how little we get. Plenty of neat sequences with self-contained setups and payoffs. Fantastic finishing sequence, and a satisfying capper to the trio of ten-man tags from late '96.
Jinsei Shinzaki vs Taka Michinoku, MPro 12/17/96. Taka tries to take down the Michinoku juggernaut. 133 MB.
Delfin vs TAKA, MPro 12/20/96. JIP'ed to the hot hot finish!
Togo, Teioh, Shiryu & Funaki vs Sasuke, Hamada, Naniwa & Yakushiji, MPro 12/20/96. KDX loves to play the numbers game, but what happens when the shoe is on the other foot? 198 MB.
Tamura vs Yamamoto, RINGS 12/21/96. I love how these two match up. Yamamoto has a lot of striking and submission skill, and Tamura really gets the best out of him. This really sets the table for their next-level '98 and '99 battles.
Ohtani vs Tajiri, New Japan 1/4/97. The first 'spotlight' match for Tajiri, and he makes the most of it (thanks to Ohtani). Interestingly enough, Tajiri is almost 2 years older. Because he first trained in kickboxing he got a late start in the business and is thus the underdog. They keep it short and leave enough on the table that YOU want a rematch... and if you go ahead a few months you'll get exactly that.
Masa Saito vs Great Kojika, NJ 1/4/97. In many ways this may be the worst match I'm hosting, but that doesn't stop it from being very enjoyable. From Kojika's getup to Saito's awesome entrance music to referee Kotesu Yamamoto taking NO GUFF, and the decision to keep it short, I think it's worth a viewing.
Great Muta vs Power Warrior, NJ 1/4/97. I clipped this down to the start (for their very cool looks) and the finish (which had to suck).
Hashimoto vs Choshu, IWGP title, NJ 1/4/97. Choshu's final title shot, and it has a much more satisfying conclusion than their '94 title match. A solid follow-up to the memorable match five months earlier.
Togo, Teioh & Shiryu vs Sasuke, Delfin & Hamada, MPro 1/14/97. Kaientai closed the year on a sour note and are now faced with the top babyface trio. I sense a certain desperation early on; they brawl rather than relying on the usual "wrestle and occasionally cheat" formula. Even that isn't enough to give them sustained advantages in the body of the match. But a development during the final minutes is enough to make you realize that this isn't going to have your standard Japanese 6-man result.
Ohtani & Kanemoto vs Liger & Samurai, NJ 1/20/97. 1997 is a turning point for the New Japan junior division in one significant aspect: the consistency and airtime provided to tag matches. Part of it is the start of Samurai TV the year before, adding to the volume of material being taped and/or aired in full (such as this). I think, more significantly, it's about the deepening of the talent pool. Guys like Kanemoto became more reliable, and Takaiwa and Kashin started contributing positively. This is the first junior tag of '97 and they're off to a fine start. The fun begins before the bell as both teams posture and get the crowd into it. There's lots of cheap-shotting and just-plain-mean moments throughout. It isn't a MOTYC, and they aren't trying for that, but it's solid by itself and effective as a lead-in to the singles matches Liger would have later in the tour.
Han vs Tamura, Mega Battle Tournament final, RINGS 1/22/97. There's a sequence about two minutes in I can't possibly do justice to in words; they're working at another level. Tamura does a good job of sticking with his kicks to wear the bigger opponent out. Han does a good job of doing what Volk Han does.
Kanemoto & Jericho vs Liger & Samurai, NJ 1/29/97. Kanemoto is coming for Liger; can Lionheart hold up his end?
Norton & Bagwell vs Sasaki & Kojima, NJ 1/29/97. It goes less than 10 minutes so there isn't much downtime, and there's a lot of fun. 1997 Kojima versus Buff Bagwell is way way better than I expected.
Liger & Samurai vs Ohtani & Kanemoto, NJ 2/8/97, JIP. Both Ohtani and Kanemoto have a point to prove heading into singles matches with Liger.
Liger vs Ohtani, J Crown, 2/9/97. One of Ohtani's three defining performances. A story of pride and determination. A must-see.
Hashimoto vs Yamazaki, IWGP title, New Japan 2/16/97. This is great. Hard-hitting, good submission work, nice strategy by Yamazaki, well-paced, I don't think a hell of a lot more can be asked for here.
Togo vs Yakushiji, MPro 3/1/97. Solid match based on a big vs little formula. 130 MB.
Super Delfin vs Shiryu, MPro 3/1/97. Delfin was long since a big-shot, but young Kaz Hayashi? Not so much. This was Shiryu's big chance and he could show he was on par with the rest of his stablemates, instead of an also-ran. 156 MB.
Manami Toyota vs Kaoru Ito, AJW 3/23/97, JIP. Ito has been an undercard wrestler since debuting in '89, working hard but somewhat stuck in place. '97 was her breakout year, and this was a huge opportunity that she makes the most of.
Kohsaka vs Yoshihisa Yamamoto, RINGS 4/4/97. Tons of choice matwork. Yoshihisa is very underrated; he's good on his feet and on the ground. This is in the same vein as either of them vs Tamura.
Kudo vs Ozaki, no-rope barbed wire deathmatch, FMW 4/18/97. A few minutes are clipped out. The top ladies of hardcore do battle!
Ohtani vs Tajiri, New Japan BOSJ '97. Lil' Tajiri reprazentin' Big Japan in Shin Nihon's hood. Ohtani ain't got time for fools, tho.
Kanemoto vs Takaiwa, BOSJ '97. They dish out an incredible amount of punishment.
Tamura vs Zouev, RINGS 5/21/97. Zouev is yet another mat wizard from Russia. Tamura is... um... Tamura. So that means it's good.
Kanemoto vs Naniwa, NJ BOSJ '97, JIP. Oh man, this rocks. HATE! MASK RIPPING! MORE HATE! Feeds nicely into the tournament final to boot.
Liger, Jericho, Wagner & Naniwa vs Ohtani, Takaiwa, Tajiri & Hanzo, NJ 6/5/97, JIP. Non-finalists in the juniors tournament are tossed together, with fun results!
Kanemoto vs El Samurai, BOSJ '97 final. An epic match with some flaws and one of the definitive nasty bumps in wrestling history.
Devil Masami & Jaguar Yokota vs Kansai & Candy Okutsu, JWP 6/15/97. Jaguar is in ridiculous shape and Candy takes ridiculous bumps. This is something I got on one of my first puro tapes and it holds up better than most of its compatriots!
Liger vs El Samurai, J Crown, NJ 7/6/97, JIP. Samurai gets a shot at the biggest prize in junior history. Can he put Liger down, or will he fall to the ace?
Tanaka, Kuroda & Nakagawa vs Kanemura, Hosaka & Hido, no-rope barbed wire & barbed wire spidernets deathmatch, W*ING 7/13/97. Barbed wire bumps, powerbombs, and combinations of the two.
Toshie Uematsu vs Yoshiko Tamura, WCW women's cruiserweight title, GAEA 7/19/97. Yes, this was a real title... for 5 months. WCW and GAEA had a falling-out in the fall and the title was abandoned. Thankfully it produced this very spirited and hard-fought bout. Quite the finish.
Tenryu vs Anjoh, WAR 7/21/97. Not a masterpiece, but hugely enjoyable thanks to charisma and hatred.
Tamura vs Tariel, RINGS 7/22/97. A size versus technique matchup that takes both to the absolute limit. Tariel is positively ursine.
Samurai vs Takaiwa, NJ 8/3/97, JIP. Non-title match, and a huge opportunity for Takaiwa to beat the reigning holder of the J Crown at a packed Sumo Hall.
Hashimoto vs Tenzan, NJ G-1 Climax 1997 semi-final. The history of Hashimoto vs Tenzan is one primarily consisting of Tenzan getting spiked by brutal vertical drop DDTs. The history of Hashimoto in the G-1 Climax is one of frustrating losses, several of them big upsets. Which trend will continue, and which will finally come to an end?
Sasaki vs Tenzan, G-1 Climax '97 final. Stiffness, blood 'n head drops. Compact match.
Samurai vs Ohtani, J Crown, NJ 8/10/97. The best El Samurai entrance ever! One of the last big El Samurai singles matches! Ohtani's chance to finally win the big one!
Manami Toyota vs Kaoru Ito, AJW Grand Prix '97, JIP. Big match in the tournament and a big follow-up to their March battle.
Han vs Yamamoto, RINGS 8/13/97. Han comes in with an absurd 10 fight win streak. I don't think anyone in wrestling history can get a big reaction from snatching a limb like Han. On top of that he will come up with nasty submissions from any position at any time. So of course... he has to use the ropes first? And *again*?! See, while Han's holds are nifty, they tend to be easy to get out of for someone with enough talent. Yamamoto has said talent and then some, between technical knowledge and athleticism. Don't get me wrong; Han is a favorite to win. But Yamamoto is a serious threat, having pulled off the upset in '95 (by submission!), so don't take a Han miracle comeback as a given the way it normally is.
Kong vs Toyota, AJW 8/20/97, some clipping. Kong's last match for the company before departing to her role as touring ace of the joshi scene. AJW does a fantastic job of clipping, given how much time is lopped off. Takes a bit to get going, but they bust out all the bombs you could hope for in the second half. What's the result? Kayfabe says that Kong's general control and (at times) dominance means she's likely to win. Wrestling logic says Toyota wins because she's staying. The way they get to the answer is fascinating.
Ishikawa vs Ikeda, Battlarts 9/1/97. So brutal, it's beautiful. Brutalful?
Liger & Samurai vs Ohtani & Kanemoto, 9/13/97. So much to enjoy about this matchup by mid-97. It's unpredictable; they each won one of the last two matches. Since all four are top junior division stars, anyone beating anyone feels important. All of them are very capable in-ring. And they'd become comfortable in being very HATEFUL towards one another. Watch for the great bump Ohtani takes from the apron.
Minoru Tanaka vs Hoshikawa, UWA middleweight title, MPro 9/14/97. A boatload of athletic junior-heavy shoot-style wrestling!
Liger & Kashin vs Ohtani & Kanemoto, NJ 9/17/97, JIP. It really didn't matter who NJ threw into a juniors tag in '97, the end result was pretty much always going to be good.
Han vs Tamura, RINGS 9/26/97. Their third and final match. I'm not really sure how to describe it besides "a whole bunch of really cool shoot-style action". One thing I'll point out is that a particular aspect of the finish comes up earlier on, so pay attention throughout.
Ohtani, Kanemoto & Takaiwa vs Liger, Samurai & Kashin, NJ 10/10/97. First in a big series of matches between the two factions on the tour, and several months after for that matter.
Delfin, Yakushiji & Hoshikawa vs Togo, Teioh & Funaki, MPro 10/10/97. Semi-main at Sumo Hall. On paper, this is a pretty significant mismatch in Kaientai's favor. As the match progresses we are not dissuaded of the notion. Much more use of suplexes than was the norm in '96, which adds to the babyface peril. The opening stanza isn't particularly special, but the conclusion feels big enough to befit the venue.
Ohtani vs Samurai, NJ 10/16/97. I know, it isn't complete. You take what you can get.
Ohtani vs Liger, NJ 10/19/97, JIP. Ohtani comes in as champion, but the titles aren't on the line. I'm pretty sure he'd never beat Liger in a singles match before, and if he can't do it after winning the J Crown he never will.
Ohtani, Kanemoto & Takaiwa vs Liger, Samurai & Kashin, singles elimination series, NJ 10/31/97. This is clipped, but almost all the clipping is the opening matchup with Kashin, so we miss the least important part. In fact, what we do see is pretty much entirely highspots, making this a continuous finishing run. Let's be honest: we don't typically watch juniors matches for storytelling. This results in some big nearfalls and (for me) a very satisfying result.
Sasuke & Delfin vs Teioh & Funaki, MPro tag league '97. Funaki pretty much rips Sasuke's leg off and beats him to death with it. Funaki: BEAST OF THE MAT.
Ikeda vs Otsuka, BattlArts 11/5/97. Vicious strikes, huge suplexes. Welcome to BatBat.
Sasuke & Delfin vs Teioh & Funaki, MPro tag league '97 final. Return match that continues the story from a week earlier.
Kohsasa vs Ilioukhine, RINGS 11/20/97. TK really seems to have the Russian figured out for much of the match. This being RINGS, all it takes is one slip-up on the mat and he'll get tapped. It's wrestling's version of "past results do not guarantee future performance". Anyway, they focus on matwork, which is exactly the scenario you hope for.
Ohtani, Kanemoto & Takaiwa vs Liger, Samurai & Kashin, NJ 11/22/97. JIP. These teams match up so well.
Samurai vs Takaiwa, NJ 11/30/97. JIP.
Ohtani & Kanemoto vs Liger & Kashin, NJ 11/30/97. JIP. Heading towards Ohtani vs Kashin, this match shows how you could pick and choose any members of the rival junior stables and get something good.
Ohtani, Kanemoto & Takaiwa vs Liger, Samurai & Kashin, NJ 12/5/97, JIP. Another good match with these 6, what a shock.
Ohtani vs Kashin, junior title, NJ 12/7/97, JIP. Kashin made Ohtani tap in 5 minutes in a non-title match on the last tour. This is the best match of his career; is it a breakout win or a narrow loss?
Sasaki & Yamazaki vs Hashimoto & Nakanishi, NJ tag league '97 semi-final. During the round-robin portion Hashimoto/Nakanishi scored a big upset in winning the first go-around. Sasaki and Yamazaki are looking to get back in the hunt for the tag titles and can't afford to finish third.
Mutoh & Chono vs Hashimoto & Nakanishi, NJ tag league '97 final. Mutoh made Nakanishi tap to a figure-four during the round-robin. Will the white-trunked young powerhouse avoid the same fate? Will Hashimoto kick enough ass for both of them? Will nWo Japan's leaders make easy pickings of a team that had to wrestle earlier?
Taka vs Funaki, Indy junior title, MPro 12/18/97. Long-time partners collide! Sho is out to prove a point and dominates! Taka is the plucky underdog! Black is white!
Sasuke & Delfin vs Togo & Teioh, MPro 12/18/97. Sasuke has a nagging leg injury. Dick and Men's want to help end his misery... in a way.
Ohtani vs Ultimo Dragon, NJ 1/4/98, JIP. Darn, darn good closing stretch.
Chono vs Koshinaka, NJ 1/4/98, JIP. The hip attack versus the yakuza kick: a war so epic it can only be contained by the Tokyo Dome.
Masato Tanaka vs Mr. Gannosuke, Double Titles, FMW 1/6/98. Really good match that blends traditional Japanese style with 'hardcore' psychology and a nice high-impact closing stretch.
Tenryu vs Araya, J-1 title tournament final, WAR 1/14/98. WAR finally crowns a champion. The title went on to be defended at a New Japan dome show before falling into obscurity. Man alive, what is going on here? Yes, there's the core foundation one would expect from Tenryu and Araya, as Araya tries to prove himself against his mentor and Tenryu does his 'being Tenryu' thing. But more importantly, it feels like they're doing that match at Viking Hall in Philadelphia rather than Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. I can see an "E-C-dub!" chant starting at several points.
Teioh vs Funaki, UWF welterweight title, MPro 1/14/98. A really nifty technical battle, quite different from what you expect in lucha-themed Michinoku Pro.
Sasuke, Hamada & Tiger Mask 4 vs Togo, Funaki & Super Boy, MPro 1/16/98. Sasuke's torment continues.
Minoru Tanaka vs Tajiri, BattlArts 1/20/98. Tajiri was really in his prime in '98, since he didn't have to hold back for the sake of trying to play to mainstream fans. Minoru is no slouch at this point in time, either.
Ishikawa vs Otsuka, Battlarts 1/20/98. They do an excellent job of taking the 'anything can finish' shoot-style mindset and turn this into a BatBat epic. Climactic submissions, humongous suplexes, it's everything you want from these two.
Tamura vs Ilioukhine, RINGS 1/21/98. Ilioukhine, who would later beat Randy Couture in a shoot, does very well in the biggest match of his RINGS career. And Tamura is Tamura.
Minoru Tanaka vs Tajiri, Big Japan junior tournament 2/3/98. Even at this point Minoru was much more accomplished. He won his first round match with an achilles hold, so between that and the Minoru Special there's a lot for young Tajiri to beware.
Gedo vs Tajiri, Big Japan junior tournament final, 2/3/98. Gedo, who seemed to wind up in every juniors tournament in the '90s, won his first two matches with the frogsplash. Tajiri comes in with an obvious vulnerability, and Gedo zeroes in on it. Best Gedo singles match? Heck, I think it might be the best Tajiri singles match.
Ohtani, Kanemoto & Takaiwa vs Liger, Samurai & Kashin, NJ 2/4/98, JIP. One last time (at least for a while).
Ohtani vs Liger, junior title, NJ 2/7/98, JIP. The last of their three title bouts. Ohtani finally has the advantage at the outset, having pinned Liger multiple times over the last year with the springboard wheel kick and coming in as champion. It would be nice if we got even half of the match but them's the breaks. Lots of bombs, lots of great body language from Ohtani, you know how it is.
Liger vs Kanemoto, NJ 2/8/98, JIP. Definite 'big match' feel to this despite no titles being on the line.
Hayabusa vs Mike Awesome, FMW 3/17/98, #1 contenders match, slightly clipped. English commentary. Their last singles match, since Awesome got hurt over the summer and was gone to ECW shortly after his return in '99. There's no effort at matwork or in-depth storytelling; just big moves one after another. Because they aren't tasked with filling a ton of time (and with some precise clipping) we get all action.
Liger & Wagner vs Ohtani & Kanemoto, New Japan 3/21/98. Rematch from the first show of the tour, which ended with Kanemoto pinning Wagner. That is not the finish here, and we get plenty of action before said finish arrives.
Hotta vs Kandori, WWWA & LLPW title vs title, LLPW 3/21/98, JIP. Done under shoot-y rules, which fits these two. Took a little while to get going, which I clipped because YOUR LIFE IS VALUABLE~. Then they get to the violence. And oh boy, they do get violent.
Ohtani vs Yasuraoka, NJ 4/4/98. The tiniest WAR invasion! Okay, so we think "this Yasuraoka guy is some mediocre WAR junior, and it's a Dome show, so Ohtani will win a semi-squash." And that is WRONG. Yasuraoka enters as the reigning WAR junior champion, a title he won from no less than Liger. As the match progresses it becomes clear that he's got what it takes to go deep with Ohtani, and even... win?!
Liger, Samurai & Kashin vs Ohtani, Kanemoto & Takaiwa, New Japan 4/21/98, JIP. Nothing on the line, no title match to build... just six juniors who can do no wrong.
Gannosuke vs Shinzaki, FMW 4/21/98. Gannosuke has repeatedly mocked and ripped off Shizaki over the preceeding months. Shinzaki is out for revenge, but to do so he must overcome the current champion's willingness to break any and all rules.
Mr. Gannosuke vs Hayabusa, Double Titles, FMW 4/30/98. A highlight for both of their careers. They came up in the FMW dojo together, then took very different routes to the top of the company. They had a mask vs hair match 366 days before this, with Hayabusa using the falcon arrow to get the win. That match was third-biggest of the night and only lasted 13 minutes; this is the main event. Even though the first half is pretty dry, the one who does more damage with his limb work gains a big advantage with it once the bombs come into play. The last five minutes have some huuuuuge bumps and nearfalls. I have to say that I can't help but root for Gannosuke based on how things go down in this, though in the context of the full storyline he deserves zero sympathy. Keep an eye out for Hayabusa's "big match" high-angle falcon arrow.
Liger vs Takaiwa, NJ BOSJ '98, clipped. Takaiwa put a serious hurting on Liger the year before, only to lose via. cradle. Will he finish the job this time? Or will Liger score a more decisive win?
Kanemoto vs Yasuraoka, NJ BOSJ '98. Yasuraoka, from WAR, isn't in Kanemoto's league. Kanemoto makes this point very clear. BOSJ tournaments have seen their share of upsets, though.
Ohtani vs Dr. Wagner Jr, NJ BOSJ '98, some clipping. Several big nearfalls and overall swankiness.
Liger vs Fukuda, NJ BOSJ '98. One of the few available highlights of Fukuda's tragic career. He makes a really good showing and gives Liger all he can handle.
Ohtani vs Samurai, NJ BOSJ '98. One would have hoped for a more complete version of this but, eh, you take what you can get.
Hayabusa vs Masato Tanaka, Double Titles, FMW 5/19/98. JIP to the juicy part. When I say they go all-out, I ain't kidding around.
Ohtani vs Fukuda, NJ BOSJ '98, JIP. When Fukuda died, this was said to be his best match. From what we get to see I can't say I doubt it, because this looks phenomenal. A shame the rest was never aired.
Liger vs Ohtani, New Japan BOSJ '98. This holds up darn well. The first half is mostly technical, but the matwork pays dividends for one of them later on. Second half is GIGANTIC for a group stage match taking place in a rural part of the country. Too bad we're missing 40% of it.
Kanemoto vs Kaz Hayashi, New Japan BOSJ '98. Clipped down but well worth it for Kaz taking a bump that by all rights should have ended his career.
Tenryu & Koshinaka vs Hashimoto & Hirata, New Japan 6/1/98, some clipping. Tenryu and Koshinaka are a few days away from getting a tag title shot. On the other side, Hashimoto and Hirata haven't had a shot since losing the belts in '96. The match itself has somewhat uneven quality, in that it's solid throughout but is GREAT whenever Hashimoto and Tenryu square off. Those two were magic together.
Kanemoto vs Dr Wagner Jr, NJ BOSJ '98 final. Wagner is GREAT in dominating most of the match. Kanemoto does some stuff, but this is pretty much the Wagner show.
Masato Tanaka vs Kuroda, FMW 6/19/98. Ain't exactly Baba vs Destroyer, but it's good for what it is.
Liger & Samurai vs Kanemoto & Kashin, NJ 6/24/98, JIP. Even though it's normally Ohtani in Kashin's place when it comes to matches I enjoy enough to upload, these guys were so consistent that the drop-off is minimal. Granted we don't get the whole match, but NJ airing junior tags on their big TV show was something we rarely got earlier in the decade so let's count our blessings.
Kiyoshi Tamura vs Tsuyoshi Kosaka, RINGS 6/27/98. One of the more famous shoot-style matches, this is a fine example of two guys who can just flat-out go on the mat.
Liger & Wagner vs Ohtani & Takaiwa, NJ 6/28/98, JIP. The masked powerhouses are quite the tough duo to put away. Ohtani and Takaiwa managed to do it in March, and they're on their way to quite a lot of success as a team. Still, Liger and Wagner...
Samurai & Kashin vs Ohtani & Kanemoto, NJ 7/2/98, JIP. It's not just that the New Japan juniors could have good matches regardless of the combination. It's also that the results were completely unpredictable. On paper the Ohtani/Kanemoto unit would require Liger leading the opposition in order for the match to be competitive. However both Samurai and Kashin know perfectly well how to beat either of their opponents, so they don't need the top guy to have a strong chance, as the final minutes bear out.
Liger vs Wagner, NJ 7/2/98, JIP. On one hand, Wagner making it to the Super Juniors final should mean he's in line for a title shot. On the other hand, he lost, so he'll have to wait. And a loss here would probably put him at the back of the line. Wagner has enough in his arsenal to put Liger away, but the reverse is more than true. Which masked man will survive?
Liger & Samurai vs Ohtani & Kanemoto, and Tenryu & Koshinaka vs Hashimoto & Yasuda, NJ 7/14/98. Two clipped tags in one compact package. Junior action! Hashimoto and Tenryu blasting each other! Yasuda content kept to an absolute minimum!
Han vs Kenichi Yamamoto, RINGS 7/20/98. K. Yamamoto debuted in UWFi in 1995, then went on to have plenty of shootfights after this, including several in PRIDE and a one-night tournament win in UFC. The crowd still totally buys Han potentially winning off a caught kick in like ten seconds because he's Volk Han and Yamamoto is just Some Guy With Abs. Yamamoto's superior striking and decent ground work make this reasonably competitive, but in the end you and me and everyone else is watching for VOLK HAN.
Chono vs Koshinaka, New Japan G-1 Climax '98. Koshinaka isn't among the Three Musketeers, but he was always capable of beating them. Chono and Koshinaka in particular had an odd rivalry and were feuding at the time, having traded singles wins and the tag titles over the course of the year. It's the yakuza kick and butterfly lock against the hip attack and powerbomb, a matchup that could go either way.
Hashimoto vs Tenryu, New Japan G-1 Climax '98. They pound the daylights out of each other with chops. I especially like how Tenryu gets welts on his NECK from Hash's overhead chops. Oh and Tenryu also takes a pretty gigantic bump for someone his size let alone age.
Kanemoto & Wagner vs Kashin & Yasuraoka, junior tag title tournament, NJ 8/2/98, JIP. De facto semi-final. Kanemoto/Wagner is such a strong team, and they are clear favorites, but their opponents can sneak out a win at any moment. Just as long as they can function as a unit...
Liger & Samurai vs Ohtani & Takaiwa, junior tag title tournament, NJ 8/2/98, JIP. After years of Liger vs Ohtani tags, something is finally on the line! The winners move on to the final at the Osaka Dome. Liger has always topped Ohtani in the clutch; will tonight be any different?
Hashimoto vs Kojima, New Japan G-1 Climax '98. Kojima is all spunky and lariat-y. Hashimoto gets pissed off because Kojima won't sell enough. Hashimoto MAKES Kojima sell. I love Hashimoto.
Hashimoto vs Yamazaki, NJ G-1 '98 final. Yet another match that most people like, but took several viewings for me to get into. Hashimoto looks to finally win the G-1 after failing to win it the first seven times; Yamazaki looks to win a 'big one' for the first time. This is arguably the biggest match of Yamazaki's career, and one of his last few notable ones. He beat Fujinami, Sasaki and Chono by submission, and did so in under 10 minutes apiece, AND with a different hold each time. Hashimoto's path, even with the Tenryu epic, was much easier. The match itself has lots of heat, tension and intensity. It's unpredictable, and because of Yamazaki's tapout streak there's a sense that he can end it at any time. It goes just the right length to be satisfying while avoiding significant downtime.
Kojima & Nakanishi vs Nagata & Fujita, New Japan 8/8/98, JIP. Kojima and Nakanishi scored a massive upset win the year before, unseating the Choshu/Sasaki superteam to claim the tag titles. Although their reign was brief, at this point they were well ahead of Nagata and pre-MMA Fujita. Decent little match with a mix of stiffness, personality, and some shockingly logical selling from Nakanishi of all people. Fujita, just a 2 year pro at this point, looks like a star in the making.
Kanemoto & Wagner vs Ohtani & Takaiwa, junior tag title creation, NJ 8/8/98. An action-packed match that started a big trend. Ohtani and Takaiwa are more familiar and won the match during the round-robin portion, but Kanemoto and Wagner were the BOSJ finalists and would be incredibly difficult to defeat twice in a row. HQ; match-only
Kanemoto & Wagner vs Ohtani & Takaiwa, junior tag title creation, NJ 8/8/98. Less-crisp video quality (taken from the original VHS comm tape) but it has significantly more pre and post-match.
Kandori vs Toyota, WWWA title, AJW 8/23/98. Styles make fights, and this is certainly a contrast. Kandori forces Toyota to show a bit more toughness than usual. The result is a match that avoids most of the problems that Toyota's singles matches can have. It's compact, unpredictable, and definitely has that big-match feel.
Ohtani vs Kanemoto, New Japan 9/14/98, JIP. Let's see: not a title match, not a contenders match, not a tournament match, not at a big venue, and buried pretty far down the undercard. And yet! The crowd is hot, they deliver your daily recommended allowance of highspots, and it's generally wrestled like a lot is on the line.
Hashmoto & Yamazaki vs Sasaki & Nagata, WCW tag title contendership tournament final, New Japan 9/21/98, JIP. The concept of a tournament for a WCW tag title shot is mindboggling, especially by fall of '98. Also there was no title match resulting from the tournament. Anyway, this is a really good look at the emergence of Nagata as a serious threat to the mainstays. It was two days before his IWGP heavyweight title decision match with Scott Norton, which means any result here is going to be a big one. Lots of fire and stiffness.
Kiyoshi Tamura vs Yoshihisa Yamamoto, RINGS 9/21/98. I'm not alone in thinking this is better than Tamura vs Kosaka, and even less alone in thinking this is darn good shoot-style.
Backlund vs Ikeda, Battlarts 10/5/98, some clipping. Bob Backlund's career was winding down but he could still bring it. It helps that Korakuen goes nuts for him.
Ohtani & Takaiwa vs Liger & Kashin, NJ 10/18/98, JIP. The junior tag champs did fine with the titles on the line, but in non-title situations they were very mortal. The anyone-can-beat-anyone dynamic of the junior division is in full effect here!
Tenryu & Koshinaka vs Mutoh & Tenzan, tag titles, NJ 10/18/98, JIP. I had no idea what to expect from this given that Mutoh/Tenzan is not any sort of famous tandem, and NJ tag title matches often underwhelm. However it does turn out nicely, with a much bigger finish than one normally gets from NJ.
Liger vs Samurai, junior title, NJ 10/24/98, JIP. Samurai earned this with some big singles wins over the course of the year. In '97 he dethroned Liger; can he manage to do so again?
Liger, Samurai & Wagner vs Ohtani, Kanemoto & Takaiwa, NJ 10/26/98, JIP. This is a match I vividly recall seeing in a tiny, low-quality cap in the early '00s. I liked it then and it holds up even better when the video quality isn't actively bad.
Liger vs Ohtani, NJ 10/30/98, JIP. Yes, these two. Again. However it's their penultimate battle, and the last under what I'd consider to be normal circumstances.
10-man tag, Michinoku Pro 11/1/98. Sasuke has turned heel! Crazy MAX is on the scene! Orihara has donned a mask to become Sasuke the Great! Can MPro's remaining Sekigun group handle such opposition? This is a good look at a largely forgotten period for the promotion, and the final minutes are a darn good sprint.
Delfin & Naniwa vs Yakushiji & Hoshikawa, tag league final, Michinoku Pro 11/8/98. Delfin and Naniwa are much more accomplished, so it's no surprise that they pull out to a big lead. The question is whether the underdogs have enough firepower to make a full comeback, because otherwise...
Liger, Samurai & Wagner vs Ohtani, Kanemoto & Takaiwa, New Japan 11/16/98. Takaiwa is heading into a title shot against Liger, which means the theoretical weak link in the match is anything but. Plenty of that good juniors action you're looking for from them.
Hashimoto & Fujinami vs Nagata & Nakanishi, tag league, New Japan 11/16/98. Oooh, this is an interesting matchup. Nagata is the New Hotness, Nakanishi is on his way to a title shot, and they're up against the all-time IWGP kings. Hashimoto kicks so much ass in this match. Damn. So much ass-kicking.
Hashimoto & Fujinami vs Tenryu & Koshinaka, tag league, New Japan 12/4/98. Look, I'm not saying that I automatically post every match with Hashimoto and Tenryu on other sides. It's just that they're so good against each other, I enjoy them all. The IWGP Kings need a win to advance, so they're in desperation mode.
Ohtani & Takaiwa vs Wagner & Kashin, junior tag titles, New Japan 1/4/99. Wagner & Kashin bring a power/skill balance, giving them numerous paths to victory. Not sure how this match ended up so much better than Ohtani/Takaiwa vs Eddie/Jericho but there you go.
Tenryu & Koshinaka vs Tenzan & Kojima, IWGP tag titles, New Japan 1/4/99. TenKoji's first match as a team, and what a way to get started. This is fascinating from a historical perspective; Tenryu was semi-regular in NJ with the winding-down of WAR, and it wasn't yet clear what Tenzan or Kojima could do as something other than a sidekick. 'Tenkoshi' (as I've dubbed them) beat Chono & Tenzan in June to get the belts, and Tenzan came up short with Mutoh as a partner in October, so it would be quite the upset for TenKoji to go from zero to champs. Let's not forget that Tenryu is, was, and will be... Tenryu.
CIMA, SUWA & Fuji vs Hoshikawa, Yakushiji & Seno, MPro 1/10/99. Now this is what I call a diamond in the rough. For starters, this is by far the best Crazy MAX 6-man despite taking place while the group was still inexperienced. You have Seno, who went on to become the lackluster Daio QuallT, as a great young lion whipping boy. You have a phenomenal last third, one of the best finishing runs in this style. GET IT.
Hoshikawa & Yakushiji vs Delfin & Naniwa, MPro 1/13/99. Comedy! Action! Fun for all!
SUWA vs Dragon Kid, Toryumon 2/7/99. The nice contrast between Dragon Kid hitting his nifty spots and SUWA being SUWA.
Great Sasuke vs Magnum Tokyo, Toryumon 2/7/99. Solid mat work to start before they delve into the highspots required for it to be a Sasuke match. Sasuke lets young Magu look real good.
Liger & Wagner vs Ohtani & Kanemoto, New Japan 3/6/99. Arguably the top four in the division going at it. Kanemoto gets a shot at Liger later in the tour, so he wants to send a message. Wagner, meanwhile, is one half of the junior tag champions; he won't go down easy. And Ohtani? You know he fights to the death. A lot of these junior tags were aired by this point (thanks to Samurai TV), but not many of them felt 'big' the way this does.
Ohtani & Takaiwa vs Kanemoto & Fukuda, New Japan 3/20/99. Kanemoto is three days removed from wresting the junior title from Liger. Now, he faces two potential challengers during the run-up to the Tokyo Dome event in April. Meanwhile, Fukuda is not going to be ignored. Interesting dynamic here.
Minoru Tanaka vs Masaaki Mochizuki, BattlArts 3/21/99. Two guys who kick hard and fight like mad on the mat square off.
Ohtani & Takaiwa vs Wagner & Samurai, New Japan 3/22/99. Typically, when you have a solid team (Ohtani/Takaiwa or Ohtani/Kanemoto) against Samurai and someone besides Liger, the result is rather blah. This however has a big-match feel, especially for the second bout on the card. Good crowd too.
Tenzan & Kojima vs Sasaki & Koshinaka, IWGP tag titles, New Japan 3/22/99, JIP. Sasaki and Koshinaka started the tour by beating the team of Mutoh & Kojima, so they are effective challengers despite being an odd-couple pairing. Has TenKoji solidified as a championship-caliber tandem, or will they falter in their second defense?
Kanemoto vs Ohtani, junior title, NJ 4/10/99. JIP. This was Ohtani's final shot at the IWGP junior heavyweight title. Can he pull it out at the Tokyo Dome against his long-time teammate?
Ohtani & Takaiwa vs Kanemoto & Kashin, New Japan 4/21/99. Dang, Kanemoto is pissed off at everyone in this. No really, EVERYONE. And vice-versa. Kanemoto + hate = goodness.
Mutoh, Tenzan & Kojima vs Tenryu, Fujinami & Yasuda, New Japan 4/21/99. Yasuda being the weak link yet the largest guy in the match provides an interesting dynamic. Really hot crowd. I mean, they seem to care about Tadao Yasuda; that's saying something. (oh and tenryu participates some too)
Sasuke vs Minoru Tanaka, NWA Middleweight title, Battlarts 4/26/99. I was skeptical about how these two would mesh, but the different styles/movesets provide a contrast rather than a clash. It's an effective title bout that really feels like it could go either way, despite Sasuke being a much bigger star.
Ishikawa & Carl Malenko vs Backlund & Yone, Battlarts 4/26/99. Japan loves Bob! Bob loves Japan! And I love when a crowd is so into a guy that they boo an opponent for countering his trademark spot.
Ikeda vs Otsuka, Battlarts 4/26/99. Aside from a couple awkward insertions of pro-style moves, this has everything you expect from the two of them: hard strikes, brutal suplexes, and snug submissions.
Battlarts vs FMW, 5 vs 5 elimination match, FMW 5/5/99. Polished shoot-stylists heel it up against sleazy garbage wrestlers! The first four eliminated are the ones you want out of the way! Over the top counts, but the last eliminations are proper falls.
Kanemoto vs Mochizuki, NJ BOSJ '99. Kanemoto beats the snot out of Lil' Mochi.
Han vs Naruse, RINGS 5/22/99. Somewhat low-end for Han, but it does contain your quotient of Dagestani submission goodness. Also features possibly the most dramatic strike in any Han match. Dang.
Kosaka vs Yamamoto, RINGS 5/22/99. One last battle for these two before RINGS went full shoot as the year progressed. Possibly the best use of body shots you'll ever see in a worked match.
Ohtani vs Minoru Tanaka, NJ BOSJ '99, clipped. Hey, you know who were good wrestlers in 1999? THESE GUYS.
Kanemoto vs Liger, NJ BOSJ '99, clipped. Despite being the Super Juniors tour, this was the only league match to headline a show. Kanemoto beat Liger for the junior title in March, so Liger is out to beat and/or hurt the champ.
Tenryu vs Hashimoto, NJ 6/8/99. Hashimoto's return after missing a few months due to injury. Lots of nasty shots and hate, which is pretty much the reason to watch Tenryu vs Hashimoto. Also some parts that don't come off especially smooth because they aren't the most athletic guys to set forth in a wrestling ring... then back to the stiffness. The finish is odd but for some reason I thought "that just might be the end" based on how the match went.
Ishikawa & Ikeda vs Joe Malenko & Carl Malenko (Carl Greco), Battlarts 6/9/99. Joe's farewell to Japan, and man you wish he'd kept going. This is high-end stuff folks. I love Ishikawa's smug look when he tags in after Ikeda gets an advantage.
Tamura vs Yamamoto, RINGS 6/24/99. Great friggin' fight at rabid Korakuen Hall. Nobody talks about it, and that is an absolute shame. I think it's easily a MOTYC for 1999. There's plenty of high-end striking and matwork, and it builds to tremendous drama down the stretch. Fans of shoot-style and/or Tamura: this is must-see. The rest of you should also watch. I have a feeling you'll enjoy yourselves.
Liger & Sasuke vs Ohtani & Takaiwa, junior tag titles, 7/13/99, JIP. Just the first title defense for the junior superteam as they take on the men who made the belts worthwhile. Liger and Sasuke haven't teamed up in exactly three months... however said match was a non-title win over Ohtani and Takaiwa!
CIMA vs Minoru Fujita, MPro 7/25/99, JIP. Baby Fujita is so spunky and full of fight. It's interesting how CIMA seems like such an established veteran star so early into his career. Heck, Fujita debuted a month before CIMA, but they work it like CIMA is five years older and it seems about right.
Masato Tanaka vs Mr. Gannosuke, FMW 8/20/99. The nefarious Kodo Fuyuki makes for a great heel ref, who is biased but not over-the-top. Finishing sequence is really choice, with a fine balance between high-impact and effective 'sports entertainment'.
SUWA, Curry Man & Super Boy vs Taka, Magnum Tokyo & Minoru Fujita, MPro 8/22/99. Comedy! Action! Drama! A fine little 6-man here.
Survival Tobita vs Ken the Box, Saitama Pro 8/23/99. A spectacle unlike any other. An event unlike any you've seen. A match... for all time. One man. One monster. One mat. One destiny.
Hayabusa vs Mr. Gannosuke, Brass Knuckles title, FMW 8/25/99, JIP. Continuing their rivalry. I clipped out the first half of meaningless limb work to get to the core of the matter: impact moves. Pretty much all of their staples are rolled out, plus a few nasty surprises.
Ohtani & Takaiwa vs Liger & Samurai, junior tag titles, NJ 8/28/99. Big outdoor show gets big juniors match excitement. Liger was able to capture the belts in April with Sasuke, and now he has long-time partner Samurai at his side. The challengers start unloading big moves early and give Ohtani a taste of his own medicine in the opening minutes. It's funny, if you didn't know the context going in you'd probably think Liger and Samurai are heels. It should go without saying that Ohtani gets his own cheap shots in as things progress. Action-packed final third as one would expect and/or demand.
Horiguchi vs Susumu, Toryumon 9/14/99. For the opening part of '99 these two were mostly lost in the shuffle amidst flashier stars like Magnum, CIMA and Dragon Kid. This is a breakout opportunity as they're given some time in the show opener, and they do make the most of it.
Magnum Tokyo vs TARU, Toryumon 9/14/99. Big chance for TARU, who pinned Tokyo with the TARU Driller two shows earlier.
Yoshida vs Fukawa, Arsion 9/26/99. A big part of the reason behind Arsion's creation was to move away from non-stop high impact moves. This match is a great demonstration of the mindset, largely shoot-style mat wrestling.
Ohtani & Takaiwa vs Kanemoto & Tanaka, junior tag titles, NJ 10/11/99. Quite the epic. Juniors matches tend to struggle in a Dome setting, but they have enough fire and high-end work to build some serious drama. New Japan didn't get much attention in '99, which is why I think this match has been largely overlooked. Don't make the same mistake!
Naoki Sano vs Curry Man, Independent junior title, MPro 10/17/99. Sano: not afraid to murder a fool. I mean, in terms of pure talent Christopher Daniels is up there with anyone, but Sano is a tad bit more dangerous. This isn't quite as good as a hypothetical Sano vs Daniels match (a bit to much Curry Man schtick) but they make up for it with a humongous finish.
CIMA vs Minoru Fujita, MPro 10/19/99, slightly clipped. A bigger and better rematch. They manage to cram a very complete match into 12 minutes, of which we get to see about 9. It's interesting to compare Fujita as someone 'doing well' (for a young lion) just a few months earlier, and who now is hanging with CIMA and able to put him in jeopardy.
Liger & Samurai vs Kanemoto & Ohtani, New Japan 10/26/99, JIP. The more you watch late '90s NJ juniors matches, the more you realize that all the talent in the world doesn't guarantee a good match. However, the nights when they turn it on, they're able to deliver at the highest level. This match isn't mindblowing, but they bring the goods.
Tenryu & Nakanishi vs Sasaki & Fujita, New Japan 11/1/99, JIP. Good preview of the Tenryu/Sasaki dome match two months later, and the Tenryu/Fujita is a nice bonus. Fujita was a top-notch athlete, and the company knew it. Too bad for them he was legit enough for PRIDE.
CIMA & SUWA vs Magnum Tokyo & Tiger Mask 4, Futaritabi tag league '99 final, MPro 11/7/99. Tokyo/TM4 is quite imposing on paper but CrazyMAX has the teamwork edge. There's a bit more fire than one might expect from the face team, which is a big reason why I enjoyed this; they don't just go through the motions. Good pacing in the body and a big closing run, topped off by a finish you might not see coming.
CIMA, Curry Man & Super Boy vs Jody Fleisch, Minoru Fujita & Shiryu 2, MPro 12/21/99, very slightly JIP. The match was noticed primarily for the spot just before the finish, but it's also worthwhile as a return to the original Michinoku 6-man style. The pairings are somewhat random, since Curry and Super Boy are part of Crazy MAX's MPro-only extension, and the babyface group is thrown-together. As a result, the match stagnates when they try to impose structure, and picks right up whenever they focus on showcasing their athleticism.
Shinya Hashimoto guest stars on an episode of Ultraman in the late '90s. Also featuring some other New Japan wrestlers.