A history of NJPW with New Japan World

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Wed Jun 07, 2017 9:42 am

4th January 1997- NJPW Wrestling World 1997 (Tokyo Dome)- Part 1

Kazuo Yamazaki,Takashi Iizuka, Osamu Kido & Yuji Nagata vs Junji Hirata, Manabu Nakanishi, Osamu Nishimura & Satoshi Kojima

Kazuo Yamazaki & Takashi Iizuka : After disbanding the JJ Jacks team with Akira Nogami in early 1996, Iizuka went on to form a pairing with Kazuo Yamazaki with considerable success. With the pair going on to end Shinya Hashimoto and Junji Hirata's near year long tag IWGP Tag Team title reign in June. Their title reign wouldn't last long though, losing the belts only a month later in their first defence to Ookami Gundan (Chono & Tenzan).

The pair would then enter the 1996 Super Grade Tag League, but failed to make the Finals by just one point (mind you that year had a strange points system, that awarded just one point for a win, and nothing for a draw or a loss). They would then go on to make another challenge for the IWGP Tag belts in December, but would come up short in their attempt to win them back from Ookami Gundan.

Osamu Kido: The veteran continued to be a presence in the NJPW midcard throughout 1996, without really being involved in anything noteworthy.

Yuji Nagata: 1996 saw Yuji Nagata still very much being presented as a Young Lion, but it would be his last year of wrestling full time for NJPW before being sent on excursion to WCW in America.

Junji Hirata: The former Super Strong Machine would see his near long IWGP Tag Team title reign alongside Shinya Hashimoto, come to an end in June. Hirata was then selected to take part in the 1996 G-1 Climax but was injured during his first match against Kensuke Sasaki and was forced to forfeit the rest of the matches. When Hirata returned from injury around two months later, he found himself pushed back down to the midcard, even being overlooked for the Super Grade Tag League.

Manabu Nakanishi: Nakanishi would go on excursion to WCW, where he would under the ring name of Kurasawa, before returning in September. He would then go on to team up with generational peer Satoshi Kojima in the Super Grade Tag League- where the pair put up a respectable showing by winning half of their matches (albeit one of those victories did come via forfeit).

Osamu Nishimura: Apart from winning a Catch Style wrestling tournament that was co-promoted by his mentor Tatsumi Fujinami's off-shoot promotion MUGA , Nishimura was little more than a lower midcard body during much of 1996.

Satoshi Kojima: Kojima would be Shinya Hashimoto's first challenger for the IWGP Heavyweight title in June, but as was to be expected failed to pull of what would have been a huge upset. Kojima then went on to compete in his first G-1 Climax, though he was only able to gain a lone victory over Shiro Koshinaka during the tournament, the fact he was even in the a G-1 that featured only 10 competitors, pointed to the fact that Kojima was now becoming a pushed talent and being ear-marked as a future star.

The Match: This is Nagata's final match befre going on excursion, I think I said that for last year's show as well, but I'm 100 % positive I've got the right year this time round!

For the most part this was your run of the mill, give some directionless Midcarders and Young Lions a Tokyo Dome payday multi-man curtain jerker of a match. Nagata did feature heavily down the stretch, where he would gallantly endure endless punishment from the opposing team. Out of everyone Kojima managed to make himself standout the most (not just due to his colourful gear, amongst a sea of black trunks), clearly looking like someone who would be destined for bigger things.

Koji Kanemoto vs Super Liger

Koji Kanemoto: The previous year for Kanemoto was one that was sadly disrupted by injury, one that saw him have to vacate the UWA Light Heavyweight Championship in May and forcing him to miss out on that year's Best of the Super Juniors and also potentially miss out on being part of the J-Crown tournament.

Super Liger (Chris Jericho): Born in New York but raised in Manitoba, Canada- Chris Irvine entered the Hart Brother's School of Wrestling alongside Lance Storm- two month's later Irvine would make his debut on the Canadian Independent circuit under the name of Chris Jericho.

The early portion of Jericho's career was spent performing for Canadian independent group's such as the Canadian National Wrestling Alliance and Canadian Rocky Mountain Wrestling, as well as going on to tour Japan with FMW- due largely to Ricky Fuji's connection's as a former Hart trainee himself.

Beginning in the winter of 1992, Jericho would then spent much of his time in Mexico with the UWA and CMLL promotion's, firstly under the name of Leon D'Oro (Golden Lion) and then Corazon de Leon (Lionheart). In December 1993 as Corazon De Leon, Jericho would win the NWA World Middleweight Championship, going on to hold the belt for a further 11 months.

1994- also saw Chris Jericho reunite with Lance Storm as The Thrillseekers tag team, for a run in Jim Cornette's Smoky Mountain Wrestling, before going on to tour with Genichiro Tenryu's WAR in Japan. Under the ring name of Lionheart, Jericho would continue to regularly tour with WAR until the summer of 1996, where he would find championship success as the WAR International Junior Heavyweight Champion and the Junior Heavyweight Tag Team champion alongside fellow Fuyuki-Gun stable mate Gedo. During his time with WAR, Jericho would also participate in the second Super J-Cup, reaching the second round of the tournament.

By 1996 Jericho added ECW to his schedule, where he would go on to have a very brief reign as the ECW World Television Champion. The briefness of that reign, was more due to the fact that Jericho's exposure in the U.S had caught the attention of WCW (making his debut in August 1996), who as with Benoit, Malenko and Guerrero the previous year, poached another rising star from ECW.

The Match: This is Jericho's NJPW debut, but instead of having him just wrestle as himself, they decided to put him under a new gimmick of Super Liger. Maybe they had it in mind to create a heel nemesis of the Liger gimmick, much in the same vein of Black Tiger being the villainous version of the Tiger Mask character. The gimmick was soon abandoned however, as Jericho only worked this gimmick for this show and would go on to do tours for NJPW under his own name.

Jericho has gone on record to say that this is one of the worst matches of his career, and it's clear to see that throughout the match he was uncomfortable working under a mask, culminating in an embarrassing botch on a springboard plancha attempt to the outside. What also didn't help is that the crowd clearly weren't buying into the counterfeit Liger gimmick and pretty much shitted on the idea throughout the whole match.
Structurally you could see that they were going for a tense back and forth match, but despite Kanemoto and Jericho (despite the awkwardness) best efforts, this match and the Super Liger idea as a whole was always going to be doomed to failure.

Debuting the gimmick at the Tokyo Dome was always going to be risky, and it's a risk that backfired terribly. If they were a little smarter they would have introduced the character at Best of the Super Juniors, in front of crowds that actually care about the Junior Heavyweights. Besides putting someone like Jericho under a mask really was a waste, it would be like present day NJPW bringing in Marty Scurll and having him work as the latest incarnation of Black Tiger.

Jinsei Shinzaki vs Michiyoshi Ohara

Jinsei Shinzaki: Following his sole appearance in New Japan Pro Wrestling, Shinzaki would return 'home' to the promotion where he made his name in Japan, Michinoku Pro Wrestling.

Michiyoshi Ohara: Other than winning a One Night 'Mixed weight' Tag team tournament alongside Akira Nogami in November, the Heisei Ishingun continued to be a lower midcarder of very little note throughout the previous year.

The Match: There was a period where Heisei Ishingun seemed to be morphing more into a tweener faction, but it was clear by the latter half of 1996, they returned to being fully fledged heels with a penchant for interference riddled matches.

That was certainly the case here, as Ohara mocked Shinzaki throughout the match by dressing like him (only in Black- to hammer home that he's Shinzaki's evil rival) and using Shinzaki's own move's against him, looked to continually take shortcuts and even enlisted the help of some of his Heisei Ishingun brethren, most notably during a spike piledriver on to the floor.

What followed after that spot, was a fairly tedious control segment from Ohara, that consisted of little more than basic stomps, until Shinzaki began to make his comeback. Ohara would continue to halt Shinzaki's attemtps to seize back control with cheap moves, but was unable to completely prevent Shinzaki from reeling off his signature stuff by the end of the contest.

On a positive note the crowd were fairly into the story of the match, but the ring work, especially from Ohara's end was nothing more than mediocre.

Shinjiro Otani vs Yoshihiro Tajiri

Shinjiro Otani: Otani would compete in the Best of the Super Juniors in June but would fail to advance to the knockout stages. He would then go on to be part of the J-Crown Tournament in August as the UWA World Junior Light Heavyweight Champion but would be defeated in the semi finals by Ultimo Dragon.

Yoshihiro Tajiri: Yoshihiro Tajiri originally trained to be a Kickboxer, but was inspired to make the switch to wrestling - where he would train at the Animal Hamaguchi Wrestling gym. He would make his debut for the Michinoku-Pro promotion in the autumn of 1994, before going on to spend the first year of his career working for a variety of Japanese Indies such as M-Pro, IWA Japan and WAR.

Tajiri would then tour with CMLL in Mexico, before going on to join Hardcore promotion Big Japan (performing under the ring name of Aquarius). In July 1996 Tajiri (as Aquarius) would beat Dr Wagner Jr. for the CMLL World Light Heavyweight Championship during a BJW show, but would lose the title back to Wagner in a rematch under a month later. Following his programme with Wagner, Tajiri would continue to primarily work for BJW but now under his real name. During 1996, he would also get to work for the WWF in America albeit only as an enhancement talent.

The Match: Another year, another themed show at the Tokyo Dome- with this year's guest promotion to be royally stomped on by the superior NJPW being Garbage upstarts Big Japan. Previous form showed, that the invading promotion tended to be shown in a lesser light but the owner's of Big Japan, obviously felt that the exposure on the biggest stage of all in Japan (the Tokyo Dome) would be worthwhile, even if there was the possibility of coming out on the losing end of every match.

Young Tajiri punks out Otani at the start of the match and the proceeds to have the better of the early going, getting an early two count with a German Suplex. Otani managed to seize control and then proceeded to work over the leg and subject Tajiri to a facewash.

A missed springboard dropkick from Otani, allows Tajiri to snatch back control with a Dragon Suplex for a two count, before wiping out Otani with an Asai Moonsault. Tajiri then looked to nail Otani with a big kick on the apron but Otani managed to catch the leg and counter into an ankle lock.
Otani then connects with the springboard dropkick at the second time of asking, before the match shifted into a back and forth home stretch that saw Tajiri pull out a top-rope Frankensteiner and Otani nail Tajiri with a sitout powerbomb.

They were actually building towards a really good match, when the finish came rather abrubtly- what we did get though was pretty good and a pleasant surprise that they booked the match to be so competitive (Tajiri wasn't yet a top star at this point, having only wrestled for several of the smaller companies in Japan).

Mildly Recommended.

Kendo Nagasaki vs Tatsutoshi Goto

Kendo Nagasaki: Following on from the likes of FMW and IWA Japan, in March 1995 Kazuo Sakurada (continuing to work under the Kendo Nagasaki gimmick) would form his own 'Deathmatch' promotion Big Japan promotion alongside The Great Kojika.

Whilst the likes of FMW and IWA Japan eventually folded (though FWA was resurrected in 2015), BJPW has continued to exist to this today and has established itself as one of the most successful Japanese independents- with it's presentation of splitting their shows between Deathmatch and Strong Style wrestling.

Tatsutoshi Goto: As with much of his Heisei Ishingun brethren, Goto would spent much of 1996 doing very little of note in the New Japan midcard.

The Match: Of all the NJPW vs BJPW matches this is probably the one, where you would expect a Big Japan victory to have the strongest chance of happening, Nagasaki (definitely not to be confused with the more iconic British wrestler of the same gimmick name) was one of Big Japan's co-founders and the more active wrestler of the pair, whilst Goto (no relation to current era IWGP title match choker Hirooki Goto) had been the epitome of a directionless midcard body for years.

This match wasn't very good, they rolled around the mat for what felt like forever and then did some sluggish brawling on the outside. Some of Goto's Heisei Ishingun brethren then tried to get involved but Nagasaki snapped and busted open Goto with a chair. The final few closing minutes that saw them switch into Garbage wrestling mode, were by far the most enjoyable of the whole match and it would have been a considerably less tedious affair if they just went with that 'smoke and mirrors' approach from the very beginning.

Masahiro Chono vs Shoji Nakamaki

Masahiro Chono: Chono would reach his fourth G-1 Climax Finals in six years, but unlike his previous finals appearances would come up short of claiming his fourth title against Riki Choshu.

Prior to that, in July 1996 Chono would win the IWGP Tag Team Championship for a third time alongside Hiroyoshi Tenzan (their second reign together). Whilst Ookami Gundan would only post up a mid-table finish in that year's Super Grade Tag League, they would continue to succesfully defend their IWGP Tag belts.

Shoji Nakamaki: Trained by Atsuhi Onita and Tarzan Goto, Nakamaki made his pro wrestling debut in May 1992 for Onita's FMW promotion. Nakamaki would then go on to work for various other independent promotion's over the next few years such as W*ING, IWA Japan and eventually Big Japan.

The Match: Chono would end up pulling double duty on this show, as would also be involved in the IWGP Tag Team title match later in the show.

Nakamaki greets Chono on the entrance ramp by carrying a barb wire board but gets mowed down and is then duly squashed in under two minutes. To add insult to injury Chono applies the STF post match, until another BJW tries to break it up, only to be sent to the floor by Chono's ally Hideo Saito. Nakamaki then suffers multiple senton bombs from Saito.

Nakamaki's humiliation looks to be over with there but Chono has other idea's and sets the Barbed Wire board into the corner. They tease that decision might just back fire, when Nakamaki begins to spiritedly fight back, only for his comeback to be cut off and result in him being whipped into the Barbed wire. As if that wasn't enough humiliation for the Big Japan man, Chono then decided to give him a top-rope brainbuster.

You couldn't have really called the whole thing a match really- just an ego stroking squash, with the New Japan representative asserting his dominance as the major league star and his opponent made to look like a bush league scrub.

Great Kojika vs Masa Saito

Great Kojika: Shinya Koshika made his pro wrestling debut in 1963 and spent much of his early career in America, wrestling for various NWA affiliated territories. In 1973 Kojika would join AJPW, for whom he would work for over a decade having moderate success as a midcard tag specialist with five reigns as an All Asia Tag Team Champion (four of those reigns alongside Motoshi Okuma).

He would retire from in-ring competition in 1986, before coming out of retirement a decade later, to found the Big Japan promotion alongside fellow AJPW alumni Kazuo Sakurada (Kendo Nagasaki).

Masa Saito: 1996 saw the ageing Saito begin to work a limited schedule, only appearing on select tours and primrily working in 6 man tag matches.

The Match: Kojika came to wrestle in a Tuxedo, with a bunch of toy grenades strapped to his waist coat. The ref wasn't happy with the grenade waist coat and forced Kojika to take it off- when the match finally did get going, it was pretty much just an extended version of the last match with Saito dominating Kojika and no selling anything of the Big Japan man's token offence.

Eventually some of Kojika's goons try to get involved but they duly get destroyed by Saito- their involvement does allow for Kojika to bring out a chain which he tries to choke Saito out with, but the ref is having none of that and just slaps the taste out of Kojika's mouth- leading to Saito finishing Kojika off with an ankle hold. Kojika's goons then try to jump Saito post match, but because they're a bunch of bush league goofs- they just get destroyed again.

Apart from the Tajiri vs Otani match, this whole New Japan vs Big Japan series completely stunk with NJPW clearly taking advantage of BJPW's desperation for big stage exposure.

This has not been a good show so far, and will desperately need the closing stretch of matches to deliver, to save it from going down as a Tokyo Dome stinker.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Thu Jun 08, 2017 11:30 pm

4th January 1997- NJPW Wrestling World 1997 (Tokyo Dome)- Part 2

INOKI Final Countdown 6th: Antonio Inoki vs Willie Williams

The Match: American Karateka originally faced off against Inoki in 1980, in one of these matches billed as a 'Different Style' fight. Because Inoki, thinks it a great idea to endure the crowd to more ego-stroking faux MMA, we get the long awaited (extreme levels of sarcasm) rematch. This was the 6th match in an 8 match retirement tour, that ended up taking 4 years.

Call me a glutton for punishment- I knew this would be shit and guess what it was super shit. Williams did some slow motion Karate and the rolled around on the mat for a bi, that's all I can care to write. The match couldn't have been any more boring, if they actually tried to be boring.

The only saving grace I can say about this waste of five minutes, is that at least it only lasted for five minutes. I suppose you could say as well, that Inoki had at least realised by this point that he was so broken down that his faux MMA wankery wouldn't fly in the main event any more.

J-Crown Championship: Ultimo Dragon vs Jushin Thunder Liger

Ultimo Dragon: The world travelled Ultimo Dragon would work for WAR, NJPW, AAA and WCW throughout 1996.

In August Dragon would enter the J-Crown tournament as the WAR International Junior Heavyweight champion, but would be defeated by The Great Sasuke in the Finals. He would however defeat Sasuke in a rematch at a WAR event.

In December Ultimo Dragon would then defeat Dean Malenko for the WCW Cruiserweight championship- this would see him hold the 8 unifiying belts of the J-Crown, along with the WCW belt.

Jushin Thunder Liger: Liger would reach the Finals of the 1996 Best of the Super Juniors in June, but would come up short of winning the tournament after being defeated by Black Tiger II (Eddie Guerrero). He would however defeat Dick Togo for the British Commonwealth Junior Heavyweight title to become part of the J-Crown tournament that would see the unification of 8 Junior Heavyweight Championships but lost to eventual finalist Ultimo Dragon in under three minutes. It was later revealed however that doctors had found a tumor in Liger's Brain. Remarkably following surgery Liger returned to the ring in under two months.

The Match: Liger must have felt confident of winning all the gold that was on offer, as he came out sporting a rather swank all gold version of his iconic outfit. We also get a bit of pomp and ceremony with eight ladies all dressed in swimming costumes- holding up all the belts. I have no idea why they had to be in swimming costumes.

Typically low key opening stretch, as they exchanged submission holds on the mat- usually these sections can be a chore to get through but Liger is so expressive (despite wearing a mask) that he can be an engaging performer to watch during the bland portion of a match.

They gradually start to crank things up, exchanging roll-up nearfalls. Several momentum shifts happen with Liger pulling out a plancha to the floor and a Fisherman Buster until they both send each other crashing to the canvas with simultaneous lariats. Liger seizes control following a Shotei (palm strike) for a two count and then goes for a top-rope Frankensteiner, only to have that blocked by Dragon, who then pulls off a diving hurranrana, before sending Liger over the ropes with another rana.

Dragon then goes flip crazy, faking out Liger with a dive over the ropes, before hitting a top suicida and then following that up with a somersault plancha to the floor. Dragon pulls Liger back in and nails a moonsault but then decides to pick Liger back up- who then manages to kick out of a Tiger Suplex. Dragon then tried for a Tombstone Piledriver but Liger managed to reverse into one of his own, before going up top, only to find himself cut off and then sent crashing back into the ring with the Dragonsteiner.

That got a close two count for Dragon, before they then went to the closing stretch which saw Dragon pull out a running powerbomb for another nearfall and Liger nail Dragon with a Steiner Screwdriver.

It did admittedly take a bit of time to get going and the early limb work didn't really lead to anything, so if you're a pedantic stickler for 'selling' then this match probably won't be for you. Once they did start to crank the gears up, they packed a hell of a lot into the middle and closing portions of the match.

Admittedly not everything they did was pulled off all that crisply (Liger being just as much of a culprit on this occassion as Dragon) but they didn't actually botch anything and I'm not one to nitpick on a match for everything not looking 'clean and crisp' anyway.


IWGP Tag Team Championship: Ookami Gundam (Masahiro Chono & Hiroyoshi Tenzan) vs Tatsumi Fujinami & Kengo Kimura

Hiroyoshi Tenzan: Tenzan would continue to have success in the Tag team ranks, winning the IWGP Tag team belts for a second time alongside Masahiro Chono in July. He would also continue to receive a fairly solid push as a singles performer, taking part in the 1996 edition of the G-1 Climax, where he put up a respectable showing that saw him end up with an even record and pick up an upset victory over the then IWGP Heavyweight champion Shinya Hashimoto.

Tatsumi Fujinami & Kengo Kimura : Fujinami entered the Super Grade Tag League with Shiro Koshinaka, but despite picking up a victory over the IWGP Tag champs Chono and Tenzan, they were forced to forfeit most their matches when Koshinaka was put on a shelf with an injury.

The following month Fujinami would reform his tag team with another Heisei Ishingun member- Kengo Kimura. This would lead to Fujinami and Kimura reforming their team full time and Kimura leaving Heisei Ishingun (though he would continue on as an associate).

The Match: The champs jumped the old man team as soon as the bell rings and seize the early momentum but are unable to maintain control, as both teams take turns getting worked over by their opponents.

Tenzan earns the first truly decisive momentum shift following a Mountain Bomb on Kimura, that leads to Kimura eventually being placed into the STF by Chono. Fujinami see's enough and breaks it up and then cleans house with a pair of Dragon Screws. The old timers then there's miscommunication on a double team but Kimura shows some fighting spirit by nailing Chono with the Inazuma Leg Lariat and follows up with a Power Bomb. The closing stretch then saw Ookami Gundan desperately trying to hold onto their titles, as Chono found himself placed in the Dragon Sleeper on several occasions.

The meat of the match, was fairly pedestrian- which given the fact that Kimura and Fujinami were both ageing veterans, well and truly past their prime at this point and Chono had already been slowed by injury- this shouldn't have come as too much of a surprise, but the closing stretch was a lot of fun, with the old timers showing a lot of spirit, whilst the champions got across their increasing desperation, highlighted by Chono going for a low blow at one point and a mistimed diving headbutt from Tenzan, in an attempt to break up a Dragon Sleeper.

Mildly Recommended.

The Great Muta vs Power Warrior

The Great Muta (Keiji Mutoh): Though Keiji Mutoh would still stay part of the main event scene in NJPW, after losing the IWGP Heavyweight title to Nobuhiko Takada at the previous year's Tokyo Dome show, he found himself taking a backseat to Shinya Hashimoto and a revitalised Riki Choshu over the coming year.

He would enter the G-1 Climax once again but would come up short of reaching the Finals after posting an even 2-2 record. Mutoh would then team up with Rick Steiner during the Super Grade Tag League, where the pair made the Finals only to come up short against the pairing of Hashimoto and Scott Norton.

Power Warrior (Kensuke Sasaki): Switching between using his real name persona and his face painted Power Warrior persona throughout the year, Sasaki continued to be pushed as an Upper Midcard level talent. He would once again enter the G-1 Climax, where he would just miss out on reaching the Final by coming second in his Block, then he would go on to team up with Riki Choshu during the Super Grade Tag League-but once again came up short of making it to the Finals.

He would also make a few appearances for WCW during the year, challenging The Giant (Paul Wight) for the WCW World Championship.

The Match: Kensuke Sasaki, has really levelled up his Power Warrior gimmick for this match, coming to the ring wearing some Iron Man inspired entrance gear and then revealing a pretty damn cool looking silver and black face paint and dyed silver hair, that make him look like a total boss.

The opening portion like many Great Muta matches, is meandering and sluggish (I get that's part of the psychology of a Muta match but it does sometimes make the early part of his matches a bit of a grind to sit through) but things start getting interesting when the match spills out into the crowd with Muta piledriving Power Warrior through a table and then burying Power Warrior under a tonne of furniture only for Warrior to go Super Seiyan and just burst out of the pile of chairs and tables.

Warrior retakes control, when he faceplants Muta through a table (though to be honest this might of been a bit of a botch, as I'm pretty sure he was attempting a piledriver. When the action returns to the inside, they continue to have a pretty crazy hardcore style contest, that see's them no-sell chairshots, Muta busting out the Moonsault on several occasions and pulling off a top-rope Frankensteiner that sent Warrior crashing on a table and Warrior drilling Muta through the same table with a Northern Lights Bomb.

In the end this was typical stuff for a Muta match, in that the closing stretch featured enough cool/crazy stuff to make up for a sluggish opening portion. There are a couple of times where both Muta and Warrior take a couple of unprotected chairshots, which might make some fans cringe a little in this day and age, but I've got to say I'm in the 'their choice, their bodies' camp when it comes to this sort of thing- that being said I think it's a hell of a lot more sensible for wrestlers not to have to resort to these kind of spots- to get over how indestructible they are or how much fighting spirit they have.

Mildly Recommended.

IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Shinya Hashimoto vs Riki Choshu

Shinya Hashimoto: Hashimoto would win the IWGP Heavyweight title for a third time, when he defeated UWFI invader Nobuhiko Takada for the belt in April (something that would effectively bring an end to the NJPW vs UWFI feud) before going on to make succesful title defences against Satoshi Kojima and Ric Flair.

For a while he would be a double champion,having also held the IWGP Tag belts with Junji Hirata but would they would see their near long reign brought to an end in June by the team of Kazuo Yamazaki and Takashi Iizuka.

Hasmimoto would enter the 1996 G-1 Climax, but would end up having a disappointing tournament only picking up a victory over Junji Hirata by forfeit and suffering defeats to Riki Choshu, Kensuke Sasaki and Hiroyoshi Tenzan. However, Hashimoto would find further success that year in the 1996 Super Grade Tag League- winning that year's tournament after teaming up with Scott Norton.

Riki Choshu: After a low-key year in 1995, Choshu returned to the fore-front of New Japan, when he won the G-1 Climax in style by going through the tournament unbeaten.

The Match: Choshu won the G-1 Climax back in August but was made to/decided to wait until now for his shot at the IWGP title (remember these were the days before winning the G-1 Climax guaranteed you an IWGP Heavyweight title shot at the Tokyo Dome show). I'd like to think it was the latter, with Choshu deciding that he wanted to challenge for New Japan's biggest prize on the biggest stage.

There was a column recently on the VOW Site about how Modern Japan, isn't really strong style anymore, a sentiment I largely agree with. For sure you get the odd match here and there that harkens back to 'Strong Style' but you're certainly not seeing 'Strong Style' in the main event anymore- in today's New Japan's main event you're getting something closer to 90's All Japan Kings Road being performed by Bishonen (Japanese for pretty boy) or in more western terminology- a performer with matinee idol looks. Not saying that's a bad thing, because for me NJPW are going through their golden era right now but it's the reality of the situation that they are indeed 'strong style' in name only these days.

So what's that got to do with this match- well if you want a distillation of what 'Strong Style' is really all about- look no further than this match- a main event featuring two burly looking men, with far from chiselled physiques- with no nonsense hard hitting offence and a stubborn streak. I suppose you could say that the nearest perfomers in today's New Japan to continuing the spirit of strong style are Ishii and Shibata, but even then Ishii has tended to added more flash to his repertoire in big matches and Shibata was adding a little more finesse prior to the head injury that has put him on the shelf indefinitely.

As for this match, this was a surly hard hitting brawl that really brought out the best in Choshu. I'm not always a great fan of Choshu, but it's pretty clear that his better matches have tended to be the one's that concentrate on his strength as a grumpy bad-ass and not the one's where he tries to have a 'wrestling' match.

Amongst the wild brawling and stubborn no selling however from both men, they actually structured in a really well executed story as well, that centred around Choshu's (over) reliance on the Lariat. Choshu must have battered Hashimoto, with at least 20 of them but the champion refused to stay down and eventually it became clear, that each time Choshu went to the Lariat he was weakening his own arm.

It eventually leads to Choshu trying to switch things up a bit to try and get Hashimoto to stay down for the three count, even pulling out a top-rope brainbuster but it become's consistently apparent that a weary Choshu just doesn't quite have enough in the tank himself to pull together a decisive string of offence that will keep Hash down for the three count, and though Choshu actually has the bulk of the match you can see the momentum gradually shift as the match works towards it's closing stretch, which see's a desperate Choshu desperately trying to fight off a huge brainbuster from Hashimoto, only to be emphatically drilled into the canvas.

In conclusion, whilst I think there are other Hashimoto matches I might have enjoyed more, I think this might just be my favourite ever Choshu match.


Overall Show Verdict: A large chunk of this show isn't very good at all, but it finishes strongly with the final four matches ranging from pretty good (Muta/Warrior) to excellent (Hashimoto/Choshu), so overall this ended up being an average show, when it looked like it might have been heading for disaster at one point.

On a further positive note it has to be said that much of the crap stuff- New Japan making Big Japan look like pathetic, by curb stomping them with a series of squashes and the masturbatory Inoki match weren't very long at all and whilst the Super Liger experiment was an unmitigated disaster, the match itself isn't actually as bad as Jericho himself would have you believe- it's not good, but I've seen plenty worse- including a couple of the matches on this show.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Tue Jun 13, 2017 10:36 pm

Once again we're back to Sapporo for some February based action on New Japan World.

8th February 1997- NJPW Fighting Spirit 1997 (Nakajima Sports Center, Sapporo)

Akira Nogami & Tatsutoshi Goto vs Kazuo Yamazaki & Takashi Iizuka

Akira Nogami: Following the break-up of the J J Jacks tag team in early 1996, Akira joined the Heisei Ishingun faction. It was a move however that didn't result in any real change for Akira, who still found himself very much stuck in the role of being a directionless lower midcarder.

The Match: No one screams 90's New Japan midcard mediocrity more than Tatsutoshi Goto- who ends up spending the bulk of the match having his legs worked over by the opposing team. Eventually Akira see's enough and makes the save, shifting the momentum enough for Goto to work in his silly running clothesline on the entrance ramp (it's just as dumb when Keiji Mutoh does it)- after that they pick the pace up, working a quick sprint of a closing stretch which see's Akira go close with the diving headbutt and Yamazaki pull of his feared armbar.

All in all a solid, though hardly must-see tag match.

El Samurai & Jushin Thunder Liger vs Shinjiro Otani & Koji Kanemoto

El Samurai: Samurai took part in his fifth straight Super Juniors round robin tournament, where he topped his block in the 1996 Best of the Super Juniors but failed to reach the final, after being bested by Jushin Thunder Liger in the semi final.

The Match: Otani would be challenging Liger for the J-Crown the next night, so this match was essentially looking to heat things up for their forthcoming title showdown.

The bulk of the match is taken up with someone being worked over the other team, but the exchanges especially between Liger and Otani, are so tetchy, to the point that they manage to hilariously work in kindergarten playground level taunts, whilst still getting across the feeling that they wanted to 'kill' each other. Not once did they feel like they were just going throught the motions and even without doing anything particularly flashy were doing a great job of building heat for their title match.

Even with a fairly mundane closing stretch, this would have still been a pretty good match but from the point Liger gets a nearfall off the Fisherman Buster they really cranked up the gears, the spot of the match see's Liger and Samurai hit simultaneous diving headbutts on Kanemoto, whilst other highlights down the closing stretch include Otani almost putting Liger away with his own Liger Bomb, Samurai pulling out the Samurai Bomb and Kanemoto working in the Moonsault and Tiger Suplex.


nWo Japan (Hiro Saito, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Marcus Bagwell) vs Kensuke Sasaki, Riki Choshu & Satoshi Kojima

nWo Japan: After the formation of the nWo in New Japan's, 'sister' promotion at the time WCW in the summer of 1996, Masahiro Chono would join the nWo in December whilst guesting in WCW as part of the fluid talent exchange between the two promotions. On returning to Japan, Chono would establish a Japan branch of the nWo alongside Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Hiro Saito, as Ookami Gundan morphed into nWo Japan.

Marcus/Buff Bagwell: Bagwell would make his pro wrestling debut in 1990, before getting his first taste of (minor) national exposure for the short lived Global Wrestling Federation in the summer of 1991 under the gimmick of Handsome Stranger. More likely due to his marketable look, than his in-ring skill Bagwell soon caught the attention of bigger promotions, and by the autumn of 1991 he left the GWF for WCW.

Over the next 5 years Bagwell would establish himself as a midcard tag team specialist, forming teams with Tom Zenk, 2 Cold Scorpio, The Patriot (as Stars and Stripes) and Scotty Riggs (as The Heavenly Bodies)- winning the WCW World Tag Team Championships- four times during that time period.

In November 1996, Bagwell would turn on his then tag partner Scotty Riggs to join the nWo, where he would go on to form another new team with fellow nWo member Scott Norton (Vicious & Delicious). Bagwell would also rename himself Buff Bagwell, and display a more narcissistic muscle flexing character.

The Match: The nWo team were joined by Chono and Norton at ringside, but surprisingly they don't really ever get involved nor does the action ever spill to the outside- at the end of the day this just ended up being your run of the mill six man tag.

Choshu was his usual grumpy self, Tenzan got a little too cocky when he nailed a diving headbutt on Choshu only to be decapitated with a lariat from Sasaki, Bagwell worked in his posturing schtik but actually worked quite hard during the match, throwing a few nice drop-kicks and Kojima once again stood out the most on one of these undercard tags.

Masahiro Chono & Scott Norton vs Manabu Nakanishi & Shinya Hashimoto

Scott Norton: Norton would team up with the IWGP Heavyweight Champion Shinya Hashimto in the autumn of 1996 to win the Super Grade Tag League. However in late 1996 on one of his sojourns back to North America with WCW, Norton would turn heel and join the nWo. In WCW he would go on to form a regular midcard tag team with fellow new member Buff Bagwell but as part of nWo Japan, he would be pushed as the faction's 'gaijin ace'.

The Match: Whilst the previous match did very little to establish nWo Japan as despicable heels, this bout that followed straight after went a long way to establishing just that without going overboard in doing so.

The match came alive from the point Nakanishi placed Norton in the backbreaker rack which drew a considerable pop from the Sapporo crowd. However after Chono was able to make the save, Nakanishi found himself isolated- that lead to him enduring multiple powerbombs from Norton, who goaded Hashimoto to come into the ring.

Eventually Hashimoto saw enough, and cleaned house with stiff kicks and DDTs. The tide seemed to be turning in the babyface team's direction but seeing victory slip from their grasp- the nWo delved into their bag of dirty tricks, as Bagwell tripped up Hashimoto and Chono sneaked in a low blow on Nakanishi during a frantic final minute.

Mildly Recommended.

IWGP Tag Team Championship: Tatsumi Fujinami & Kengo Kimura vs Keiji Mutoh & Junji Hirata

The Match: Given that three quarters of the participants in the match were already a little bit passed their prime, there is no surprise that the bulk of the match is rather slow paced- with a mixture of limb focused mat work and lethargic brawling. Things get a little more interesting when Mutoh sustains a gash on his face, and the champions begin to work heelish by targetting the gash- it's probably the most heelish I've seen Fujinami during my delve into the New Japan archives.

As is often the case though, they really crank through the gears during the closing stretch- turning the match from a relative snoozer of the skippable variety to one just about worth checking out. There's a pretty cool spot where Mutoh does his handspring elbow only to get caught in a Sleeper by Fujinami, whilst 'The Dragon' is pretty much central to the closing stretch, stubbornly surviving a glut of hard hitting moves from Hirata and a Moonsault/Diving Headbutt combination from the challengers.

Mildly Recommended.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Wed Jun 14, 2017 11:55 pm

It's the second half of the 1997 Sapporo double header- with a main event that reminds everyone just why Jushin Thunder Liger is probably the greatest Junior Heavyweight wrestler of all time.

9th February 1997- NJPW Fighting Spirit 1997 (Nakajima Sports Center, Sapporo)

Hiro Saito & Marcus Bagwell vs El Samurai & Scotty Riggs

Scotty Riggs: Georgia native Scott Antol made in his pro wrestling debut in 1992, and spent his early career working for a number of southern based regional promotions such as Smoky Mountain Wrestling and the USWA, as well as working as an enhancement talent for WCW.

In the summer of 1995, Antol would go on to sign a full time contract with WCW, where he would be repackaged as Scotty Riggs and put in a tag team alongside Marcus Bagwell. The team would go on to have a brief reign with the WCW World Tag Team title's later that year, but that would be the height of their success, with the team drifting further down the ranks over the next year. This would eventually lead to Bagwell turning on Riggs and joining the nWo.

The Match: Bagwell and Riggs had been feuding in WCW after The Heavenly bodies broke up, and much of the match is focused on them to very little reaction. They work hard enough not to be accused of 'phoning it in' but they don't really do enough to get the crowd on board either.
El Samurai and Hiro Saito take over down the closing stretch, with both having opportunities to deal a final blow off the top turnbuckle-ultimately though it would be down to either Bagwell or Riggs who were brawling on the outside at the time to ultimately decide who would be able to take that opportunity.

Kazuo Yamazaki & Takashi Iizuka vs Riki Choshu & Manabu Nakanishi

The Match: Not much in the way of technical wrestling here, as Yamazaki and Choshu in particular were more keen on pounding each other into the canvas with stiff fore-arms and such like. We did get a pretty neat exchange between Nakanishi and Yamazaki, as they exchanged signature submission holds but ultimately this came down to grumpy old git Choshu and his two moves of doom.

Tatsumi Fujinami, Kengo Kimura & Akira Nogami vs Shinya Hashimoto, Osamu Kido & Tadao Yasuda

Tadao Yasuda: Though still very much presented as a lower card worker througout the previous year, fomer sumo wrestler Yasuda did pick up a few singles wins over lower tier veteran talent such as Hiro Saito and Kuniaki Kobayashi.

The Match: All in all this one was a pretty generic six man tag- the sort of match where Hashimoto largely took the night off by spending much off the apron, but still getting to look like a bad-ass by being given the spotlight for about a minute by killing people dead with kicks and DDT's.

The most noteworthy thing about the match though was the Sapporo crowd's support for Osamu Kido- whose armbar spots got the biggest cheers of the night, whilst anyone breaking it up from the opposing team got the biggest jeers. All that being said even with the strength of Hashimoto and the crowd's support of Kido, the Fujinami lead team by the end of the match were the one's to display the superior teamwork.

Keiji Mutoh, Kensuke Sasaki & Satoshi Kojima vs nWo Japan (Masahiro Chono, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Scott Norton)

The Match: Aside from Tenzan drilling Kojima with a Tenzan Tombstone Driver on the entrance ramp, everyone seemed to hold back a little on some of their more eye-catching stuff but despite that, this was a pretty decent six man tag. One that was worked at a fairly frantic pace from start to finish and consistently giving the impression of being on the edge of chaos but never over-stepping that boundary, likewise nWo Japan themselves who once again worked with a heelish edge but never over-stepped the bounds into heel tropes tedium (I'm looking at you Suzukigun).

For most of the match each wrestler tended to pair off with their natural rival (Mutoh with Chono, Kojima with Tenzan and Sasaki with Norton) but not once did the natural flow of the action ever feel compromised.

Mildly Recommended.

J-Crown # 1 Contenders: Koji Kanemoto vs TAKA Michinoku

TAKA Michinoku: Throughout 1996, TAKA Michinoku would split most of his time between his home promotion of Michinoku -Pro and FMW- winning the Independent World Junior Heavyweight title in FMW in May, before going on to successfully defend the title througout the year in both promotions.

The Match: The opening portion of this match was fairly slow paced as they looked to wear each other down with submission holds, however everything is delivered with a fairly vicious edge, just so the crowd didn't suddenly feel as though they were watching a young lion match given the trading of Boston Crabs.

Following the controlled yet aggressive opening portion the pace picked up- pretty much from the point TAKA Michinoku nailed Kanemoto with a springboard drop-kick and then popped off a moonsault press to the floor. TAKA then targetted Kanemoto's legs a bit more, before they transitioned into a closing stretch that saw them trade moonsaults, Kanemoto survive a few Michinoku Drivers and TAKA sent crashing to the ring with an Avalanche Brainbuster. At the end of the match the eventual victor already had the match won, but in a statement of intent they delivered one more devastating move to seal the deal.


J-Crown Championship: Jushin Thunder Liger vs Shinjiro Otani

The Match: They pick up right where they left off from the previous night, and lay into each other straight away during a super aggressive opening portion where they looked to slap each other silly.

The pace then slowed down a bit, as they looked to work on a body part, with Liger targeting Otani's knees and Otani going relentlessly looking to turn Liger into a one armed man. Even during this 'slower' portion of the match the viciousness never really lets up and Liger as always in particular is great at selling the pain being inflicted upon him.

As the slow build portion of the match goes it's pretty darn great but it's when they start trading bombs and transition into the closing stretch that this match gets a rocket strapped to it that puts it into the stratosphere of awesomeness.

It really kicks up several gears from the point where they trade Powerbomb's out on the floor. In a relentless closing stretch, the standout moments include Liger levelling Otani with a Lariat only to immediately feel the effects of the wear and tear on his arm, Otani nailing Liger with a springboard dropkick to the back of the head, Liger drilling Otani with consecutive Fisherman Busters, but then greadily looking to finish Otani off with a Steiner Screwdriver only to have it reversed and a really dramatic false finish where Otani began to celebrate as though he had the match won, only for it to dawn on him that the referee only slapped the mat twice following a springboard spinning wheel kick.

In the end the decisive blow isn't really dealt by a big flashy move, it all comes down to a weary strike exchange- a really quite fitting end for the war of attrition these two put one another through.

Watching a classic like this, truly makes trawling through the New Japan archives worthwhile :)

Highly Recommended.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Mon Jun 26, 2017 11:31 pm

The action from 1997 continues as nWo Japan feature heavily and the Best of the Super Junior's produces one of the tournament's all time great finals.

20th March 1997- NJPW Hyper Tag Battle 1997 (Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, Nagoya)

10 Man Elimination Match: nWo Japan (Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Marcus Bagwell, Masahiro Chono, nWo Sting & Scott Norton vs Keiji Mutoh, Kensuke Sasaki, Lord Steven Regal, Manabu Nakanishi & Shinya Hashimoto

nWo Sting: Jeff Farmer would make his pro-wrestling debut in 1991 and would soon so go under the ring name of Lightning, in the imaginatively titled tag team of Thunder and Lightning. The duo would go on to compete in WCW and even do a tour with All Japan.

After Thunder Lighnting were released from WCW in the spring of 1994, Farmer would work the independent circuit for a bit, before returning to WCW in the summer of 1995, only this time he was repackaged as The Cobra- a gulf war vet gimmick, where his most noted feud was with fellow gulf war vet Sgt. Craig Pittman (Pittman was actually a legit ex Military man, where it literally was just a gimmick for Farmer).

In the autumn of 1996, Farmer was repackaged yet again- this time as an imposter version of one of WCW's most iconic wrestlers- Sting.

Lord Steven Regal: Darren Matthews made his pro-wrestling debut in 1983, and under the ring name of Steve Regal, spent much of the first decade of his in-ring career working the UK circuit, most notably for All-Star Wrestling and appearing on ITV's World of Sport wrestling TV programme during the dying days of British wrestling being televised. In 1991 he would work for WCW during a UK Tour for the promotion, before spending much of the next year wrestling for the German based Catch Wrestling Association.

After a decade of working the UK and European circuit (which was now effectively dead in terms of TV exposure) Regal headed out to America, where he would be signed by WCW on a full time contract. Initially working as a babyface Steve Regal, he would transform into the villanious Lord Steven Regal in 1993.

Playing a stereotypical pompous British aristocrat, allowed for Regal to make traction up the midcard ranks of WCW, resulting in Regal winning the Television title in September 1993- he would then go on to have a further two reigns with the title between 1993 and 1997- establishing himself as a fixture of the WCW midcard.

During this time period he would also form a tag team called The Blue Bloods, initially with Jean Paul Levesque and then Bobby Eaton, after Levesque jumped to WWF. The initial team with Levesque was based around two 'aristocrats' forming an alliance, but the Alabama born Eaton was far from 'aristocratic'- which saw the second incarnaton of The Blue Bloods placed in a series of humorous vignettes, that saw Regal trying to each Eaton proper etiquette and the 'Queen's English'.

Due to WCW's working relationship with NJPW, Regal would also make several tours of Japan, where his biggest highlight would be challenging Shinya Hashimoto for the IWGP Heavyweight title.

The Match: As this was quite early in the nWo Japan storyline, this elimination match was there to establish themselves as a dominant force, rather than have it booked as a back forth where the momentum shifted between the two sides.

Once the babyface team saw their first member eliminated, they were always going to be on the backfoot, despite the best efforts of IWGP champion Hashimoto to keep their hopes of victory alive. Hashimoto was as ever during this period, booked as a bad-ass, unsurprisingly being booked amongst the babyface teams longest survivors and being given several spots that highlighted his capabilities to fend off multiple foes at once.

Though Hashimoto was obviously booked the strongest, the key figure in the match though was Keiji Mutoh. Early in the match he has a chance to eliminate Chono, after nailing the nWo Japan leader with the moonsault but he hesistates and fails to take advantage of the situation- planting seeds of tension between Mutoh and his team-mates. Then late in the match, Mutoh returns as The Great Muta- however he ends up misting people on both sides, leaving everyone in a futher state of confusion as to whose side he is on.

Mildly Recommended. ________________________________________________________________________________________________ 12th April 1997- NJPW Battle Formation 1997 (Tokyo Dome) INOKI FINAL COUNTDOWN : Antonio Inoki vs Tiger King

Tiger King: After a decade away from Pro Wrestling, the original Tiger Mask made his return to wrestling, where he would a limited schedule as a special attraction for a variety of promotion's including UWFi, Michinoku Pro and WAR. However due to his personal disciple (and the man who continues to be Tiger Mask to this day) having already debuted under the gimmick in Michinoku Pro, Sayama was now billed as either First Tiger Mask or Tiger King.

The Match: For some odd reason we don't get to see anything else from this Tokyo Dome card, other than this match up between two NJPW legends.

Other than Tiger King showcasing a few 'I Know Kung-Fu' spots and pulling off the Tiger Feint spot (that drew a nice pop from the Tokyo Dome crowd) most of the match consisted of them rolling around on the mat, exchanging submission holds. To be fair this fine for what it was, a friendly exhibition between two revered legends but like the majority of Inoki's matches from the final decade of his career, it's not exactly worth seeking out. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 3rd May 1997- NJPW Strong Style Evolution In Osaka Dome

Keiji Mutoh, Rick Steiner & Scott Steiner vs nWo (Masahiro Chono, Kevin Nash & Scott Hall)

Steiner Brothers: Though the Steiners were once again pushed as an integral part of the WCW Tag Team Division since their return in 1995, having two more WCW World Tag Team Title reigns (though both reigns were exceptionally brief) and feuding with the likes of The Road Warriors, Harlem Heat and The Outsiders on their return.

The Outsiders (Scott Hall & Kevin Nash): The former Razor Ramon and Big Daddy Cool Diesel in the WWF, 'The Outsiders' Hall & Nash, were two thirds of the founding members of the nWo alongside Hulk Hogan. The reiging WCW World Tag Team champions at this time, they were already on their third reign with the belts, despite having been in WCW for less than a year.

The Match: The commentary team spend more time chatting to Eric Bischoff, who is there to shill why the nWo are just the greatest than paying any attention to the match. But the fact that everyone was working at half speed (apart from Nash- who tended to work at a pedestrian pace anyway) made the decision for them to largely ignore the action taking place a considerably easy one.
The only really to check this out, is if you're really curious to see nWo mainstays Hall and Nash working Japan, at the height of the stable's worldwide popularity.

5th June 1997- NJPW Best of the Super Junior's IV (Nippon Budokan, Tokyo) Best of the Super Juniors Final: El Samurai vs Koji Kanemoto

Best of the Super Juniors IV: The 1997 Best of the Super Juniors featured a 14 man field divided into two blocks of 7. NJPW represenatives include Jushin Thunder Liger, Koji Kanemoto, El Samurai, Shinjiro Otani and Tatsuhiko Taikawa, native guests included Gran Naniwa and Hanzo Nakajima of Michinoku -Pro and Yoshihiro Tajiri of Big Japan, whilst the rest of the field was rounded out by a number of foreign imports, Chris Jericho and Chavo Guerrero Jr from WCW, luchadors Dr Wagner.Jr and Scorpio Jr. of CMLL and British imports Robbie Brookside and Doc Dean.
Kanemoto and El Samurai end up meeting in the finals after both topped their respective Blocks by a single point.

The Match: The first half of this match was a little slow paced, but did a fine job of setting the table with Kanemoto lighting up Samurai with stiff kicks and working over the legs. Gradually as the match wore on, you could feel the heat building up and Kanemoto working more and more heelish, as he looked to cripple Samurai into submission with ankle locks and figure fours, with Samurai's stubborn resillience eventually leading to Kanemoto snapping and going full dick heel, to the point that he rips off Samurai's mask completely, leading to Samurai practically working the match as Osamu Matsuda.

Kanemoto continues to be really arrogant down the stretch, refusing to pin Samurai at points even though he had the match won, though Kanemoto's eagerness to do even more damage to Samurai is a decision that continues to cost him, allowing for the (un)masked man to consistently stay alive- despite the fact that at one point Kanemoto almost kills him with one of the sickest looking top rope poison frankensteiners ever. Kanemoto really should have covered Samurai after that, but his decision to follow up with a moonsault allowed for Samurai to shake off the cobwebs and get his knees up.

Samurai is able to pull off a few big moves off his own down the stretch, including a pretty nasty looking reverse ddt off the top-rope but ultimately the story being told here was that this was Kanemoto's match to lose (will his arrogance get the better of him?) rather than Samurai's to win.

There are a few things you could nitpick about this match, the opening is a little sluggish and Samurai forgets to sell the leg down the closing stretch (he does a great job of selling it whilst Kanemoto is working over it, but once they started spamming finishers that went out of the window) but honestly who cares the heated emotion and frenzied action down the stretch more than makes up for those 'shortcomings'.

Highly Recommended.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Fri Jun 30, 2017 11:08 pm

Here's the remainder of the matches from 1997- which disappointingly is only four more...

6th July 1997- NJPW Summer Struggle (Makomanai Ice Arena, Sapporo)

Antonio Inoki & Tiger King vs Kazuyuki Fujita & Kensuke Sasaki

The Match: With three of the workers here dabbling with MMA/Shoot Style at some point in their career, it came as little surprise that this got a little 'grapple-fucky' in places but thankfully they did not go over board with pushing that style and Sasaki, who was really starting to improve by this stage of his career was always there to pull things back with his more hard-nosed power wrestling.

Tiger King obviously wasn't the high flyer of old but he did pull out a Diving Headbutt upon Fujita down the stretch and Inoki was of course, with his career winding down a lot more tolerable in the tag situation- keeping the self indulgence to a minimum and bringing out a few of his signature spots such as the Diving Knee Drop and the Enziguri to pop the crowd.

It's not a match you need to go out with your way to see, but all things considered this is probably one of the 'easier' matches to watch from Inoki's final years as an in-ring performer.

The Great Muta & Masahiro Chono vs Riki Choshu & Shinya Hashimoto

Keiji Mutoh/The Great Muta: In something of a copy of the 'will he/wont he' join the nWo scenario, they had going with Muta's old rival Sting in America with WCW, New Japan ran a similar plot with Keiji Mutoh/The Great Muta. The storyline would see Mutoh play both sides of the feud, fighting for the babyfaces as himself but for nWo Japan whilst in his Great Muta guise. By this stage everyone but the most clueless marks and kids, would have known that Mutoh and Muta were the same person- so everyone was left wondering exactly whose side he was on- with each side wondering if they would be the one that he would ultimately end up turning on.

The Match: We got some shenanigans in this match, with the other nWo members at ringside providing a distracting presence throughout and Muta taking liberties with a baseball bat but compared to the Suzukigun BS in present day NJPW, this was considerably alot more restrained. The nWo's willingness to cheat was enough to draw the ire from the crowd but not so over board that it would actively ruin the match.

Pissed off veteran Choshu was the star of the match here, survivng a heat segment from nWo Japan where he doggedly fought his way out of an STF from Chono and then playing a key role down the stretch, with the nWo trying desperately to screw a fired up Choshu, out of securing the victory. I've already made it clear that I'm not a big Choshu guy but he's always been pretty great in matches that play to his strengths- fiery brawls that get the best out of his grumpy smash mouth style of wrestling.

Mildly Recommended. ________________________________________________________________________________________ 3rd August 1997- NJPW G1 Climax 1997 (Ryogoku Kokukigan, Tokyo)

G-1 Climax Finals: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Kensuke Sasaki

1997 G1- Climax: The 1997 G-1 Climax saw the tournament return to the single elimination knockout format of the 1992 and 1993 editions. The 14 man field saw eventual finalist Kensuke Sasaki and Buff Bagwell, given byes to the quarter-finals (just why these two were lucky enough to benefit from a bye, is something I cannot answer- perhaps there was originally meant to be 16 participants and 2 had to pull out at the last minute due to injury?).

Sasaki would win the battle of the bye beneficiaries in the quarter finals, before overcoming Scott Norton to reach the final. Hiroyoshi Tenzan would reach his first G-1 Final by defeating Tadao Yasuda in the first round, bettering future long term tag partner/rival Satoshi Kojima in the quarter finals and overcoming the IWGP Heavyweight Champion Shinya Hashimoto in the semi Finals.

The remaining Quarter finalists included Masahiro Chono (the first time Chono did not reach at least the semi final stage of a G-1) and The Great Muta. Those also knocked out in the first round included WCW representative Lord Steven Regal, Michiyoshi Ohara, Kazuo Yamazaki, Junji Hirata and Manabu Nakanishi.

The Match: This wasn't your typical epic G-1 Final, instead with both guys having battled through the semi-final matches earlier on the same show- instead both guys Tenzan (in particular) were determined to get the win as quickly possible, before they ran out of gas.

This was instead a wild sprint, Sasaki and a bloodied Tenzan engaging each other with hard nosed brawling and a spamming of finishers, that saw stubborn resillience from both warriors until one of them was finally able to hit a move that emptied the gas tank of their opponent.

Some will probably feel that this match was a bit 'rushed' but despite the match being pretty short they actually got just enough time here to tell a compact story that sold the wear and tear of the tournament, whilst always getting the match over as a fiery sprint.

At the very least it was interesting to see them try something different, rather than sticking to what is perceived to be the 'epic' formula for a G-1 Finals. It's not the type of match you would want to become a typical G-1 Finals but every so often, a sprint like this makes for a nice change.

Recommended. ____________________________________________________________________________________
8th December 1997- NJPW Super Grade Tag League VIII (Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium)

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Shinjiro Otani vs Kendo Kashin

Shinjiro Otani: Shinjiro Otani would defeat El Samurai for the J-Crown in August, and thus win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship for the first time. After successful defences against Koji Kanemoto, Tatsuhito Taikawa and Wild Pegasus, due to WWF wanting to re-introduce the Light Heavyweight Championship- the J-Crown concept was disbanded with Otani relinquishing all of the non New Japan affiliated titles.

The J-Crown concept was a cool idea, while it lastest but it was always going to be doomed by cross promotional politics.

Kendo Kashin: Toshimitsu Ishizawa, went on excursion to the Austrian based Catch Wrestling Association in the summer of 1996- whilst there he made the decision to work under a mask and adopt the new ring name of Kendo Kashin, before returning to New Japan in May 1997.

The Match: Though a masked wrestler, Kashin was far from your typical high flying lucha influenced Junior, instead his style was considerably more 'UWF' with an emphasis on shoot style grappling and submissions.

Kashin controlled the bulk of his match with his grappling as he consistently tried to get Otani to tap out with with the Cross Armbreaker. This lead to the bulk of the match being rather slow and methodical, and rather atypical of a Junior's match- and it will very much be a case of your mileage varying, dependent on your enjoyment of this style.

As the match wore on, with Kashin dominating the crowd did seem to gradually buy into the fact that Kashin (who was in the biggest match of his career to this point) could well wrestle the title away from Otani- who did a fine job of selling the stress his arm was consistently being put upon through Kashin's meticulous attacks.

Evetually Otani did rally, stunning Kashin with a series of impactful springboard moves but he was unable to completely shift the momentum, as Kashin reversed a Dragon Suplex into another Cross Armbreaker. Otani managed to survive that but Kashin always seemed to be just one one Cross Armbreaker away from ending Otani's title reign.

Overall the match was a little plodding in places but they managed to work a strong closing stretch with some cool reversals and most importantly got the crowd to buy into Kashin.

Mildly Recommended.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Thu Nov 16, 2017 12:18 am

I was meaning to pick this up again, right after G-1 season but my focus ended up being on other things. My aim from now on, is to try and post an update at least once a week, but I'm not promising anything.

4th January 1998- NJPW Final Power Hall In Tokyo Dome

Kendo Kashin vs. Koji Kanemoto

Koji Kanemoto: After defeat at the hands of El Samurai in the Finals of the 1997 Best of the Super Juniors- Kanemoto came up short in another big match a few months later when he was unable to dethrone Shinjiro Otani for the J-Crown. He did however continue to stay in the Junior title mix and managed to avenge his BOSJ Finals loss to Samurai in October.

The Match: Kanemoto went to shake Kashin's hand before the bell rang, but the shoot style masked man decided to be a dick about it and jump Kanemoto. After a somewhat slow opening portion, revolving mostly around the combatants rolling around the mat looking for submissions or Kanemoto throwing a few kicks Kashin's way, the match really began to heat up when Kashin decided to up the dickery by sneaking in a low blow and then ripping tape off Kanemoto's knee.

Kanemoto managed to survive Kashin then mercilessly focusing on his exposed knee before seemingly taking control with a top rope powerslam, before following up with a moonsault for a nearfall. Kashin however continued to pose a danger down the stretch, constinuosly looking to put Kanemoto in the Cross Arm Breaker- including a rather eye-catching super flying version off the top turnbuckle!

Mildly Recommended.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight: Shinjiro Otani vs Ultimo Dragon

Ultimo Dragon: After losing the J-Crown to Jushin Thunder Liger at the 1997 Tokyo Dome show, Ultimo Dragon spent the majority of the year in America working for WCW. Though Dragon would lose the WCW Cruiserweight belt later that month to Dean Malenko- Dragon would regain the Cruiserweight belt later that year, whilst also having two reigns as the WCW World Television Champion in between. Though none of his title reigns were long (though short reigns were par for the course during the era) the fact that he was given four reigns with two separate midcard belts- the lucha influenced Japanese Cruiserweight could probably chalk up 1997 as his most successful year in North America.

The Match: As with the previous match, the opening portion is rather uneventful but they gradually racked up the excitement and worked to a closing stretch that had the fans in a frenzy by the end of the match.

It was a closing stretch, where neither man seemed to quite be able to take control, despite there being a portion where Ultimo Dragon looked to be dead on his feet, following a flurry of offence from Shitani. Just as it looked like someone was going to start being a step ahead, their opponent would have them well scouted and counter with a reversal or a desperate bit of defensive manoeuvring.

Otani as always looked to do most of his damage with his chief weapons of the Dragon Suplex and a variety of springboard based kicks, but Ultimo would continuosly keep Otani off balance as he looked to either sneak by with a La Magistral Cradle or send Otani flying with many of his many rana variations. There's a sequence where Otani manages to brush off one La Magistral attempt, but then having to kick out of another after Ultimo manages to fight off a Dragon Suplex- it pretty much enscapsulated the very essence of what ended up being a hard fought contest of wrestling acumen.


Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Yuji Nagata

Hiroyoshi Tenzan: After reaching the Finals of the G-1 Climax, Tenzan challenged Shinya Hashimoto for the IWGP Heavyweight title but came up short in his challenge for the belt. Tenzan then entered the 1997 Super Grade Tag League but instead of teaming up with is usual partner Masahiro Chono (who was tagging with Keiji Mutoh instead) Tenzan was paired up with nWo Sting (Jeff Farmer) with the pair finishing in a mid table position.

Yuji Nagata: After competing at the 1997 Tokyo Dome show, Nagata spent the rest of the year on excursion in America with WCW. During his time there he did get to challenge for all three of WCW's undercard singles belts (United States, Cruiserweight, Television) but came up short in everyone of his challenges.

The Match: The match was billed as an NWO vs WCW war- which is a bit odd. I know Nagata had just returned from excursion to WCW, but I wouldn't exactly billed him as a representative of WCW. I'm pretty sure Nagata was supposed to be the babyface as well, well you would assume so if Tenzan was representing the nWo but this is pre Blue Justice Nagata and his gold and black attire, dick heel facial hair and MMA shooter gloves, don't exactly scream fan favourite. Which may be why it appeared the fans in attendance couldn't have cared one jot about this match.

If you're hoping for an early classic between two future NJPW legends, then this isn't the match for the most part it's a bland heatless and directionless brawl. Tenzan does some of his signature stuff (Mongolian Chops, Diving Headbutt) but he's yet to win the hearts of the New Japan fans and post excursion Nagata just sort of came across as a UWF tribute act. The match wasn't terrible, it was the very definition of a JAG, a two star special- whatever derogatory term for mediocrity you prefer to throw at such a match.

Bull Powers (Manabu Nakanishi & Satoshi Kojima) vs Osamu Nishimura & Tatsumi Fujinami

Bull Powers : Nakanishi formed the Bull Powers tag team with Satoshi Kojima in late 1996, with the pair finding success in mid 1997, when they dethroned Kensuke Sasaki and Riki Choshu for the IWGP Tag title in May, however their reign was short lived, losing the belts just three months later in their second defence to Kensuke Sasaki and Kazuo Yamazaki.

Surprisingly the pair teamed up with different partners during the Super Grade Tag League. Nakanishi found greater success teaming with Shinya Hashimoto, with the pair reaching the Finals. Kojima meanwhile had a considerably less succesful time in the tag league teaming with Tadao Yasuda, with that pairing finishing near the bottom of the standings.

Osamu Nishimura: In June Nishimura was sent out on excursion to the Austrian based Catch Wrestling Association, where he would spend the rest of the year.

Tatsumi Fujinami: Fujinami would win the IWGP Tag Team Championship alongside Kengo Kimura for a 4th time at the 1997 Tokyo Dome show- the pair would then go on to make three successful title defences before losing the belts in April to Choshu & Sasaki. Fujinami would once again pair up with Kimura in the Tag League but the veteran duo could only muster a mid table finish.

The Match: During the introductions, Nishimura took off his robe to reveal that he was wearing an nWO shirt. I've never seen him listed as an nWo guy, so maybe he was just angling to join the club but never actually got in- which is quite an achievement seeing as pretty much everyone and their mother ended up joining the nWo.

After a slow start, with Nishimura being on the end of an extended control period (when are extended control periods ever interesting?) from the Bull Powers, this got pretty good from the point Nishimura made a false hot tag to Fujinami. I say false hot tag, as Fujinami got cut off and ended up in Nakanishi's quickly becoming customary back breaker rack. Nishimura managed to release Fujinami from that with some stiff kicks, before Fujinami did manage to turn the tide briefly for his team with his signature Dragon Screw Leg Whips.

From there on it was typical back and forth stuff with Kojima and Nishimura having some excellent exchanges down the stretch with Kojima busting out the now legendary corner lariat followed by the top rope elbow rope, a sequence that has surely become of the most beloved of nostalgia pops amongst today's attendees of New Japan shows.

As much as it pains me to say it Fujinami was clearly the weakest link in this match, looking a step slower than everyone else and almost doing himself damage with a shaky looking top-rope knee drop. The man was a legend and from a base standpoint still a good wrestler but his in-ring performances had been declining since his return from a lengthy injury spell in 1995.

Mildly Recommended.

Riki Road Final Message 5 (Riki Choshu Gauntlet vs: Kazuyuki Fujita, Yutaka Yoshie, Tatsuhito Takaiwa, Takashi Iizuka & Jushin Thunder Liger)

Riki Choshu: After coming up short of challenging for the IWGP Heavyweight title at the 1997 Tokyo Dome show, the 1996 G-1 Climax winner once again started to take a backseat, especially in regards to singles competition, with Choshu not even entering the 1997 G-1 Climax to 'defend' his title.

He did find success in the Tag ranks, having a brief reign alongside Kensuke Sasaki with the IWGP Tag Team titles during the spring but as the year wore on Choshu began to work a more limited schedule, eventually leading him to the decision to announce his retirement from in-ring competition in order to concentrate on his duties as the head booker of NJPW.

Kazuyuki Fujita: Fujita was still very much in the Young Lion phase of his fledgling pro wrestling career- occasionally picking up the odd victory here and there against a fellow young lion but spending most of the year on the losing end.

Yutaka Yoshie: Yoshie made his pro wrestling debut in December 1994 against Satoshi Kojima, however in just his second match Yoshie had the misfortune of breaking his leg- he did not return to the ring until a year later- something that would have hindered Yoshie's development. He would then spend the next two years gaining experience as a young lion.

Tatsuhito Takaiwa: Takaiwa began to establish himself more strongly in the Junior Division throughout 1997, putting up a pretty strong showing in that years Best of the Super Juniors, where he came third in his Block and getting the chance to challenge Shinjiro Otani for the J-Crown in September.

Takashi Iizuka: Iizuka's career seemed to regress a little in 1997, with the former two time IWGP Tag champion, spending most of the year as a JAG in multi man tags with not much direction.

Jushin Thunder Liger: Liger would defeat Ultimo Dragon for the J-Crown at the previous year's Tokyo Dome show- where he would succesfully hold onto the multiple belts title until July, making four successful defences before being dethroned by that year's BOSJ winner El Samurai.

The Match: The biggest shock about this match is that Choshu didn't end up mowing through everyone and actually ended up putting at least one of them over. Fujita, Yoshie and Taikawa would all prove to be little more than nuisances, with Choshu absorbing their jobber offence before basically killing with them about two moves and it won't take much imagination if you know your Choshu what those two moves could be. However Iizuka (now an experienced Midcarder) and Liger (the Junior Division ace) would provide much sterner tests with Iizuka reversing Choshu's Scorpion Death Lock into a Figure Four and Liger subjecting Choshu to a top-rope brainbuster, whilst also being the only one to kick out of one of the retiring legends signature lariats.

The more cynical fan may see this series of matches against a mix of young lions (Yoshie,Fujita), Juniors (Liger, Taikawa) and a what was basically a midcard tag specialist (Iizuka) as something of an outgoing ego-trip for Choshu but whilst this wasn't exactly what you call a showcase of great wrestling, I for one ended up quite liking this, as it ended up being a fun little series of sprints that it's own curious way captured what the rather economical Choshu was all about.

Mildly Recommended.

Don Frye vs Naoya Ogawa

Don Frye: With a strong amateur wrestling background and a second dan Black Belt in Judo, Frye entered the burgeoning world of MMA in the mid 90's. Debuting for the UFC, at the UFC 8 event in February 1996 and winning the one night tournament on his debut but perhaps due to the controversy surrounding MMA at the time, Frye would quit the UFC in under a year and turn to forging a pro wrestling career.
After training from Brad Rheingans and Curt Hennig, Frye would make his debut for New Japan pro wrestling in August 1997- where he would make a victorious debut against Kazuyuki Fujita. Frye would then have three more matches, matching him up with opponents with a 'shooter' background, as he made the transition from MMA to pro wrestling.

Naoya Ogawa: A former multi time Judo world champion and silver medallist at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Ogawa made the switch to pro wrestling in 1997, training under the original Tiger Mask Satoru Sayama.

Ogawa would make his debut in April 1997, where he would score a shocking non title victory over the then IWGP Heavyweight champion Shinya Hashimoto. Ogawa would lose the re-match, this time with the title on the line but the former Judo star would continue to be booked as a special attraction throughout the year.

The Match: I would comment on this match but strangely this match hasn't been posted up to New Japan World, nor can I even find some shitty low quality uploads of this match, so we can only assume/imagine this to be the typical boring faux MMA wankery that I'm pretty sure only Inoki got excited for.

Dennis Lane vs Shinya Hashimoto

Shinya Hashimoto: After 7 successful title defences, Hashimoto's 16 month long reign with the IWGP Heavyweight belt was brought to an end in August by the 1997 G-1 Climax winner Kensuske Sasaki.

The Match: Hashimoto went from being the longest reigning (at the time) IWGP Heavyweight champion to being forced into having one of those 'Different Style Fights' with someone with no wrestling background to speak of, on this occasion the fighter of a different style being the American kickboxer Dennis Lane. Inoki sure did love this shit.

Mercifully this didn't end up going very long, the match ended in a stoppage after Lane (who came wearing boxing gloves) ended up suffering a leg injury from a simple take down. A sad, pathetic waste of Hashimoto's talent.

After a solid start with the two Junior singles matches, this show has gradually begun to fall off a cliff with Inoki-ism rearing it's ugly head in the last couple of matches but hopefully we can get back on track with the final two matches.

Masahiro Chono vs Shiro Koshinaka

Masahiro Chono: The leader of nWo Japan, Masahiro Chono would team up with the freshly turned Keiji Mutoh to win the IWGP Tag Team Championship in October from Kazuo Yamazaki & Kensuke Sasaki, before the pair further asserted their new found dominance in the tag ranks by winning that year's world tag league.

In singles competition, Chono was Kensuke Sasaki's first title challenger but came up short in taking the title away from the Power Warrior.

Shiro Koshinaka: The Heisei Ishingun leader challenged for the tag belts alongside Tatsutoshi Goto in March, when Fujinami and Kimura still held the belts, before an injury in June forced him to miss the rest of the year.

The Match: Koshinaka who is returning from a long injury lay-off, starts fast with a barrage of hip-attacks but Chono manages to weather the storm and the match settles into some mat exchanges during the early going. Koshinaka manages to gradually seize control, subjecting Chono to a series of Powerbombs, but he gets greedy and thinks they aren't enough to put Chono away so he tries for a Dragon Suplex only for Chono to see that as any opportunity to sneak in a low blow and swing the momentum his way.

From there on Chono is mostly in control, with Koshinaka having to fend off a little bit of interference from Chono's nWo Japan chronies and having to fight his way to safety when caught in Chono's STF. Koshinaka does manage to stay in the match, some flash pinfall reversals and more powerbombs bringing him close to pulling off the upset on several occasions but it's Chono with his own mix of powerbombs, piledrivers and Kenka Kicks who looks the more likely to win a match that ends up finishing in rather abrupt fashion.

This was an odd match with a strange, stop/start flow and a lack of crowd investment for a Tokyo Semi main event. Koshinaka was a solid hand, the sort of guy who would be a regular competitor for the NEVER Openweight belt if it existed twenty years ago but he wasn't exactly Tokyo Dome main event material (OK this was semi main event- but I think you need to be main event material or someone fresh to be in that spot).

IWGP Heavyweight: Kensuke Sasaki vs Keiji Mutoh

Kensuke Sasaki: After some stuttering attempts in previous years to bring Kensuke Sasaki into the main event mix, 1997 could be considered his true breakout year, twice winning the IWGP Tag Team titles with two different partners (Riki Choshu & Kazuo Yamazaki), winning the 1997 G-1 Climax and then winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for the first time, ending Hashimoto's dominant 16 month reign in the process.
Keiji Mutoh: After months of working the nWo Japan- Sekigun feud by representing nWo as The Great Muta but fighting on the side of the babyfaces as plain old Keiji Mutoh- the full turn would come during a tag match in September 1997- where he double crossed his team mates Kazuo Yamazaki and Kensuke Sasaki.

From that point on Mutoh, no longer represented nWo Japan as The Great Muta but as himself, sealing away The Great Muta gimmick in the process. Reunited with his fellow Three Musketeer in Masahiro Chono, the pair would go on to form a successful tag team.

The Match: Mutoh is now sporting a beard- I was going to say that it really hammers home the point that he's turned to the darkside, but I recall him sporting a beard a few years earlier, but anyway sporting face fuzz had always been more of a heel thing in wrestling, though increasingly it's more of an anti-hero thing, than simply just a heel thing.....

To digress from the tangent of wrestler's preference of facial grooming or lack there of, I will turn my attention to the match in question, which as so many main events aiming for that epic feel do, began in slow, methodical fashion as both men looked to wear one another down with submission holds, with Sasaki targetting Mutoh's arm and Mutoh going after the defending champion's legs in exchange.

A flurry of offence from Mutoh- a missile drop-kick (too-sweeting Tenzan on his way up to the top turnbuckle), a frankensteiner and a dragon screw, see's him be the first one to truly seize control of the contest, before once again locking on the Figure-Four. Sasaki manages to fight his way to the ropes, before keeping himself in the match with a series of judo throws.

From there Sasaki switches the momentum in his favour, rocking Mutoh with a pair of lariats before looking to build on his earlier limbwork to Mutoh's arm by slapping on the Stranglehold. Sasaki loses faith that Mutoh is going to tap, so he abandons and tries for a lariat only for Mutoh to pole-axe him with a pin point low drop-kick to the legs, he then tries to fight off a Dragon-Screw but to no avail, as Mutoh wears Sasaki's legs down further.

Mutoh stays in control, targetting Sasaki's legs with ruthless efficiency as he looked to negate Sasaki's by taking away the champion's vertical base. Mutoh again ends up applying the Figure Four in order to force Sasaki to tap, but the Power Warrior shows champion fighting spirit by battling to the ropes not only once but twice. Sasaki is still too worn down though to try and regain a foothold in the match, so Mutoh goes up top and crashes down on Sasaki with the Moonsault only for the champion to once again show that he still has some fight left in him by kicking out at two. Mutoh then nails Sasaki with another missile drop-kick, before placing the champion up top for another Frankensteiner only for Sasaki to finally halt Mutoh's momentum by countering that into a top rope powerbomb.

Sasaki then lets out a scream of defiance, before looking to finish Mutoh off with his Northern Lights Bomb- the finish when it does come does feel rather abrupt, considering how long Sasaki was fighting from underneath.

They told a decent 'fighting spirit' story here, as Sasaki refused to stay down but the match isn't without it's flaws with Sasaki's come back from being methodically worn down by Mutoh for most of the match coming a little too abrupt. Sure they went 50/50 during the opening exchanges but from the mid-point on Mutoh was largely in control, so for me the rapidness of Sasaki's comeback in the closing stages ended up being a little jarring.

Mildly Recommended.

Overall Show Verdict: Not the worst Tokyo Dome show I've seen, but certainly not the best either. The two Junior matches at the start of the show are enjoyable and the main event was on the verge of being great but considering this was only a 9 match show (unless you count each of the Choshu matches as being a thing on their own) there was a hell of a lot of filler.

Attendance wise NJPW was still in a boom period, but there are certainly signs here of the 'cancer' known as Inoki-ism beginning to rear up. Weird as it may sound that much maligned late 90's to mid 2000's era that almost killed New Japan off, is the one I've most be looking forward to reviewing since I started this project- I'm curious to see if this era was as bad as it was made out to be and if despite the proliferation of tedious faux MMA, there were still some hidden gems to be found amongst the garbage.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Jsmitty » Fri Nov 24, 2017 9:08 pm

New to the Community but just wanted to say I really enjoy this as I'm reading and following along. Hope you keep it up.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Sat Nov 25, 2017 9:51 pm

Jsmitty wrote:New to the Community but just wanted to say I really enjoy this as I'm reading and following along. Hope you keep it up.
Thanks- Should have a new update soon, when the archived matches on n j p w wor l ddd st o p bu fff e r i ng.

I've got a rant about that when I post up the next set of match reviews. It's the main reason why the project ends up going on hold. But I'm going to try and fight my way out of bufferfuck city.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Tue Nov 28, 2017 12:13 am

7th February 1998- NJPW-Fighting Spirit 1998 (Nakajima Sports Center, Sapporo)

Akitoshi Saito vs Yutaka Yoshie

The Match: Not a bad match in the end, but one that had little in the way of heat and probably went a little too long- did anyone really care about Akitoshi Saito?

The basic story of the match saw Saito with his Karate background try to wear down Yoshie with a barrage of kicks, but the young lion was able to withstand the pressure and rallied with his own sequence of offence (Spinebuster, Leg Drop, Young Lion Boston Crab) but unsurprisingly Yoshie's momentum ended up being cut short and Saito managed to regain the momentum in the closing stretch.

El Samurai & Kendo Kashin vs Koji Kanemoto & Tatsuhito Taikawa

The Match: This ended up being a hard match to watch, not because the match was bad or anything but because for some reason I was forced to take a trip to Bufferfuck City every time I tried to watch this match. The only way to watch this match in the end, was to not expand it to full-screen size- maybe I was just unlucky on this occassion but more than likely the project may have died before from such a frustrating encounter.

The match itself was actually a pretty good Junior tag match, with the tetchy exchanges between Kanemoto and Samurai being a highlight throughout, clearly neither man ended up being on one another's christmas card list. As expected we got the usual frantic closing stretch, with Samurai pulling out all the stops to try and get one over on Kanemoto, whilst Taikawa and Kashin ended up having some pretty good exchanges of their own down the stretch, a Kashin reversal of a Death Volley Bomb attempt into an armbar particularly stood out amongst the frenzied flurry of near-falls.

Mildly Recommended.

Heisei Ishingun (Kengo Kimura, Michiyoshi Ohara & Tatsutoshi Goto) vs Kazuyuki Fujita, Kenny Kaos and Rob Rage

High Voltage: A graduate of the WCW Power Plant Kenneth Stakiowski, originally competed as Kenny Lang before being repackaged as Kenny Kaos and paired up with Rob Rage (Robert Knapik) as High Voltage in the spring of 1996. The team however struggled to rise above lower midcard status, never receiving a tag team title shot, being job fodder for the bigger names and mostly spending their time on WCW's secondary programming.

As part of WCW's working relationship with New Japan, High Voltage did compete in the 1997 Super Grade Tag League but finished near the bottom of the standing with a 2-5 record.

The Match: Heisei Ishingun's ever evolving identity crisis, see's Michiyoshi Ohara and Tatsutoshi Goto now sporting what can only be described as a Biker Look- I swear every year these guys had a new look but it never got them over more than lower midcard fodder. Kimura who was more of an associate member by this stage, decided against looking like an Aces and Eights member before they ever existed and just sported his usual red pyjama pants.

High Voltage looked like your generic WCW Power Plant products, create-a-wrestler types with sculpted bodies who had obviously been hitting it hard in the gym or in the receipt of a few PED's. To their credit they did show some decent athleticism and did do a few nice double team moves down the stretch but it's not hard to see why they were little more than B-Show fodder for much of their WCW tenure. To be fair to them, I've seen far worse gaijin imports step into the NJPW ring than Kaos and Rage (and that's not counting the MMA duffers Inoki loved to bring in) and with more thought put into their look there was the potential for them to be something more, unfortunately for them it's clear to see that WCW put no thought into them what so ever.

Honestly the fact that I'm focusing more on Heisei Ishingun's fashion choices and the utilitarian blandness of High Voltage (even their ring names Kenny Kaos and Rob Rage- are like something some angsty teenager would come up with) pretty much says it all about the match, which was about as forgettable a filler six man tag as you could get. Much like High Voltage themselves, the match wasn't flat out bad, it was just inconsequential.

Akira Nogami & Shiro Koshinaka vs Osamu Kido & Tatsumi Fujinami

The Match: They played a pretty straightforward heel vs face dynamic here, with the Heisei Ishingun pair enlisting help from their brethren to jump the 90's Dad's early. That immediately got the crowd fully behind Fujinami and Kido, with Kido in particular garnering great sympathy from the crowd and garnering nostalgia pops for everything he did, much like the New Japan audience's relationship with Tenzan in the current era.

The finishing stretch was built around Kido looking to apply his signature armbar which had the crowd going wild. I will say that I wasn't all that impressed with Kido's work in his prime, in fact his work tended to be a bit dull but in short-doses, just working his greatest hits and living off nostalgia pop's he was actually fairly entertaining as a midcard veteran during the twilight years of his career.

Work-rate wise there probably wasn't a lot of difference between this and the previous match. The difference however was in the crowd's reactions, with their love and respect for the veteran's clearly heard, lifting this from being just a routine undercard tag.

Mildly Recommended.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Shinjiro Otani vs Jushin Thunder Liger

The Match: The storyline for the Juniors during this time period was clearly a rivarly between the Masked Men and the Men without Masks, as Liger had Samurai and Kashin as his seconds, whilst Otani was being supported by Kanemoto and Taikawa.

The opening portion of the match was fairly methodical but tetchy, with Otani drawing the ire of the crowd by doing plenty of subtle heel work, such as pushing the ref away on a rope count or desperately biting Liger's thumb. Liger as always ends up getting pissed off by such antagonistic tactics from his opponents and when he is able to gain control tries to give Otani a receipt, culimanating in him trying to force Otani to endure his own facewash. That ends up backfiring with Otani able to cut the facewash off and ensure that Liger instead suffers the indignity of having someone's boot scraped across their face.

It is however Liger who is able to make the first real momentum shift soon after, almost stealing victory with a La Magistral before drilling Otani with a Brainbuster. That see's Otani scrambling to the floor for safety only for Liger to wipe him out with a plancha and then deliver a more devastating Brainbuster out on the floor. Otani however manages to beat the count and despite Liger's best efforts to slap him back down to the floor, the champion is able to swing the momentum back his way by nailing Liger with his trademark springboard drop-kick, before following up with a Liger Bomb for a nearfall.

Liger was able to briefly swing things back his way, getting a nearfall from a top-rope Frankensteiner but Otani was then able to regain control before looking to make Liger tap-out to a Cross Arm Breaker. Liger makes it to the ropes but Otani once again draws disdain from the crowd by keeping the hold locked in longer than he should have been allowed.

Otani then looked like as though he felt he had this in the bag, only for Liger to come alive again and pole-axe him with a Shotei. That then leads to a frantic closing stretch with both Otani and Liger, desperately trying to survive their opponents most devastatning offence, with Liger trying for several top-rope brainbuster variations in order to try and win the Junior belt off Otani.

It started a bit slow but the character work, especially from Otani kept things interesting before they gradually turned up the heat, culminating in a breathtaking closing stretch. All in all a superb match between two of the greatest Junior Heavyweights of all time.


2/3 Falls Match: nWo Japan (Big Titan, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, nWo Sting & Scott Norton) vs Junji Hirata, Kazuo Yamazaki, Shinya Hashimoto & Taduo Yasuda

Big Titan: Rick Bognar began his wrestling career on the Canadian independent scene in the late 80's, working under monikers such as Rick Titan and mega mask. In 1991 he benefitted from Ricky Fuji's Canadian connections and joined the FMW roster in Japan. Now wrestling as Big Titan, Bognar had a near 4 year run with FMW, his biggest achievements being a brief reign with the WWA Martial Arts Championship in 1992 and a Brass Knuckles Tag Team Championship reign alongside Gladiator (Mike Awesome) in 1994.

For much of 1995, Bognar (still competing as Big Titan) worked in Europe for Otto Wanz's CWA, before going to Genichiro Tenryu's WAR promotion at the end of the year, where he would join Fuyuki-Gun. Bognar then had a brief stint in ECW, before infamously joining the WWF as the 'Fake' Razor Ramon, where he would team up with the Fake Diesel (Glenn Jacobs) as replacements for the originals who jumped ship to WCW. It's safe to say that WWF's attempts to replace the originals with these imposters went down quicker than a lead balloon.

Whilst Jacobs went on to be successfully repackaged as Kane, Bognar ended up leaving the WWF and after some stints in USWA, WWC (in Puerto Rico) and AAA (in Mexico) where he still worked as Razor Ramon, Bognar ended up returning to Japan in early 1998- where he would join the nWo Japan stable in NJPW back under his old ring name of Big Titan.

Scott Norton: Norton would spend the previous year splitting his time between wrestling for WCW in America and NJPW in Japan, as part of the nWo stable. He would form a tag team with Marcus Bagwell called Vicious and Delicious but the pair were never able to get their hands on the WCW Tag Team Championships. In general whilst Norton was treated as a a big deal whilst competing for nWo Japan, he was seen as more of a rank and file B-Team member whilst representing the nWo in WCW.

The Match: They start off with some wild brawling, which plays into nWo Japan's hands, so much so that they immediately gain the advantage in this elimination match when Yasuda is pinned less than a minute in following a Scott Norton Powerbomb, meaning the Sekigun babyfaces are facing an uphill battle for the rest of the match.

When the match restarts Yasuda finds himself 'playing Ricky Morton' but to his credit he manages to dig in and fights his way back to safety. The initial hot-tag to Hashimoto doesn't really swing things in the babyfaces favour but the momentum does start to shift when Hirata gets the better of an exchange with Tenzan. Sadly that momentum swing proves to be rather brief, as Tenzan manages to slip away to safety, tagging in Norton who seizes back control as nWo Japan once again start to overpower their opponents.

There's little glimmers though that the faces can turn things around but nWo Japan's superior cohesiveness and power consistently gains them back the advantage. Somehow though the faces do manage to find a breakthrough, managing to keep the rest of nWo Japan at bay- just as Hashimoto spikes Tenzan with a Brainbuster, to equal up the score and take the contest to a final decisive fall.

As always with these reviews though (which I've decided to keep as unspoiled as I possibly can) I'll leave the reveal of who managed to pick up the win, a mystery (or you could just go onto Cagematch and read the match result: but that would be your choice). Anyway the final fall eventually breaks down into chaotic brawling, until we are left with just two men in the ring.

If you're looking for a high quality wrestling bout, this wasn't it. For the most part this was nWo Japan exerting their dominance by consistently using the 'numbers game'. If this was a football (soccer to our North American cousins) match, nWo Japan would have dominated the possession and if the Sekigun team managed to win it would have been against the run of play.

IWGP Tag Team Championship: Keiji Mutoh & Masahiro Chono vs Bull Powers (Manabu Nakanishi & Satoshi Kojima)

The Match: Kojima may be sporting a look that could be considered a crime against fashion- a bright orange singlet paired with an equally tragic mullet haircut but he gets the better of Chono in the early exchanges, to the point that he throws up a mocking 'too sweet' before both tag out to their partners. The exchange between Mutoh and Nakanishi is an all together more even and cagier fare but ultimately Nakanishi ends up out-muscling Mutoh, much to the nWo Japan pairs frustration.

Mutoh and Chono continue to be out-muscled for a bit, until some underhanded tactics swing things their way. The nWo Japan pair then looked to have things under control but then Mutoh's leg suddenly gives way on a Space Rolling Elbow and the momentum swings back to the Bull Powers.
Bull Powers continue to work over Mutoh, putting particular focus on the knees, as Chono tries to come to the rescue on several occasions but ultimately see's his attempts to shift the momentum back nWo Japan's way come up short. In the end it's Mutoh himself who manages to turn things round, snapping off a pop-up frankensteiner on Kojima before making the tag to Chono.

Chono goes full dick heel by gaining the advantage with a low blow on Kojima, who then minutes later is lured into deliver a lariat to the ringpost out on the floor. The nWo Japan pair then home in on Kojima's sore right arm, but Cozy manages to power his way out of trouble and get the tag into Nakanishi who unleashes as suplex party on the nWo Japan pair.

That then lead us into a closing stretch, where Nakanishi used the Backbreaker rack on Mutoh at one point, not to finish him but in order to try and prevent him breaking into make the save for Chono. Kojima would find himself in the STF at one point but he too would have plenty of chances to win levelling Chono with his signature Lariat at one point down the closing stretch.

Given what we know now about Mutoh's knee problems, I thought at that point he had legit done his knee in during the match but the fact that they worked his knee over so blatantly after that suggests to me it was a work. It wouldn't surprise me though if Mutoh's knee problems were starting to become known by this point and they worked the story round that.

In terms of work-rate Chono was the definite weak link in the match and at times the flow of the matchs suffered a little because of that. He was quickly becoming a mediocre worker at this point who simply got by on charisma and star power. That being said, this ended up being a pretty good match, mostly due to solid storytelling with the match convincingly hanging in the balance to the very end.

Mildly Recommended.

IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kensuke Sasaki vs Osamu Nishimura

The Match: The match starts and Sasaki immediately knocks Nishimura out of the ring- who then looks to dazed and confused, it looks as though this is going to end in a countout with less than a mintue of the match gone. Sasaki doesn't want to win that way and coaxes Nishimura back into the ring- he bullies Nishimura for a bit more until he decides it's time to end Nishimura's suffering with the Northern Lights Bomb.....

But all of a sudden Nishimura comes alive, slipping out of the Northern Lights Bomb and countering into a Cross Armbreaker. Nishimura then tried to wear down Sasaki with a submission game so old fashioned and leaden paced, it wouldn't have looked out of place on the very first NJPW show back in 1972. The match then settled into a pattern where just as it looked like Sasaki would use his superior strength and power to swing the contest back his way, Nishimura would find a way to lock in another submission, as he looked to gradually break Sasaki down.

Realising the submission game wasn't enough to wear the champion down, Nishimura began to mix things up a bit more- rocking Sasaki with a dropkick and then reeling off three consecutive missile dropkicks, each delivered with pin point precision to the champions increasingly worn down right arm. A Northern Lights Suplex followed for a two count before Nishimura unleashed another barrage of Missile Drop-Kicks, so much so perhaps he was trying to get into the Guiness Book of Records for the most Missile Drop-Kicks in a single wrestling match. Ultimately that would lead to us a finish, with Nishimura's challenge ultimately living or dying on his Missile Drop Kick obsession.

This was a curates egg of a match. It had a unique layout with an interesting clash of styles (Powerhouse vs Technician) with pretty good chemistry between Sasaki and Nishimura but it really did drag at times when Nishimura was in control. If you're a fan of slow paced technical wrestling then this will be more your cup of tea, but I like a bit more urgency in my wrestling.

Thankfully Nishimura did up the pace down the closing stretch, even if he did become rather strangely fixated on trying to beat wear Sasaki down with the same move, over and over again. This match ended up being so strange, it ended up being kind of good.

Mildly Recommended.

Overall: This first night in Sapporo ended up being a much better card than that year's Tokyo Dome Show. Otani vs Liger for the Junior belt is the definite highlight but pretty much everything else ranged from not bad to pretty good. The worst thing on this show was the 2 star special six man tag featuring High Voltage, which was just bland and forgettable as opposed to flat out bad.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Tue Dec 12, 2017 12:02 am

8th February 1998- NJPW-Fighting Spirit 1998 (Nakajima Sports Center, Sapporo)

Norio Honaga vs Shinya Makabe

Norio Honaga: Veteran Junior Heavyweight Honaga was now finding himself being booked as Lower Midcard fodder. He missed out on competing in the previous years edition of the Best of the Super Juniors and any victories he did gain tended to come against either Young Lions or Black Cat.

Shinya Makabe: After 10 months of training in the New Japan dojo, Shinya Makabe made his pro wrestling debut in February 1997, in a losing effort against Shinjiro Otani. During his first year of wrestling, Makabe had been unable to pick up any victories- even coming up short against his fellow young lions.

The Match: I've seen many people comment that seeing Hulk Hogan wrestling in Japan (and actually trying to wrestle) is a strange experience but I think seeing Shinya Makabe as a wet behind the ears young boy and not as a bleached blond bruiser is even stranger who takes barely any bumps in tag matches may well be even stranger. It was just very weird watching him engage in technical (albeit very basic) wrestling, as opposed to him throwing lariats and delivering mounted punches in the corner.

As for the match itself this was a very basic grumpy veteran vs young lion match, the only interesting thing about it was the bizarreness of seeing Makabe as the young lion and not as the grumpy vet.

Black Cat & Yutaka Yoshie vs High Voltage (Kenny Kaos & Rob Rage)

The Match: The people of Sapporo are being treated to another High Voltage appearance and this time they're up against career lower midcarder Black Cat and a young lion. I'll be 100% positive that no one gave away their hard earned yen, just to see this match.

High Voltage dominated to almost no reaction what so ever. Honestly that's all you need to know about this match. Well at least the residents of Sapporo got an extra chance for a toilet break, which was nice of NJPW.

Heisei Ishingun (Akira Nogami, Akitoshi Saito & Kengo Kimura) vs El Samurai, Junji Hirata & Osamu Kido

The Match: It will be safe to say that the Sapporo crowd, probably enjoyed this run of the mill six man tag more than I did. That's not to say it was a bad match, just an average one that was admittedly lifted by the positive reaction the crowd had to it (a complete contrast to the previous match).

Key to their affections was beloved veteran Osamu Kido, who the crowd went wild for whenever he was offence (for some reason their was some fan who kept blowing a whistle whenever Kido was in the ring) and would roundly boo Heisei Ishingun if they broke up his signature armbar or started to put the boots to the 90's 'New Japan Dad'.

Akira Nogami and El Samurai were the in-ring standouts for their respective trio's to the point that the finishing sequence came down to them having a pretty neat exchange.

Michiyoshi Ohara & Tatsutoshi Goto vs Kazuo Yamazaki & Kazuyuki Fujita

The Match: In the Heisei-Ishingun fashion choice observations, it's only really Ohara and Goto who have decided on the 'Biker' look and along with their new 'bad ass' look, they've called their team Extreme Attitude. In all honesty they should have called themselves Extreme Narcolepsy, if their bland mostly punch and stomp based offence was anything to go by.

Not much to say about this match other than this was a fairly mind numbing tag match, with young Fujita spending most of it being stomped on/the fans being put to sleep by Extreme Narcolepsy. Yamazaki largely took the night off and Fujita despite being on defence for most of the match, did have some chances to submit Ohara to an armbar during the closing stretch.

Hayato Nanjyo vs Tatsuhito Takaiwa

Hayato Nanjyo: Hayato Nanjyo made his pro wrestling debut for FMW in 1993, under the gimmick of Dark Ranger. He would then primarily compete for FMW over the next five years (where he would also compete as Mach Hayato and under his own name) as well as also making guest appearances for W*ING and Michinoku Pro.

The Match: Young Indy talent Nanjyo looked to take the fight to Taikawa right away but that soon backfired and he spent most of the first ten minutes of this match having the tar beaten out of him, there was a brief moment of sunshine when a low drop-kick to Takaiwa's taped up leg saw him briefly take control, but for the most part Takaiwa was just stronger in comparison to Nanjyo.

It got to the point that Takaiwa started to toy with the FMW man, lifting him up after a Death Valley Driver in order to inflict more damage and send a message that skinny indy scrubs like him didn't belong in the New Japan ring. A lariat and another DVD followed, only for Nanjyo to show fighting spirit and kick out.
Takaiwa then looked to finish Nanjyo off with a top-rope brainbuster, only for Nanjyo to fight Takaiwa off and then deliver a series of missile drop-kicks before pulling off a twisting press that almost earned him a shock victory. Hanjyo's nose is bloody but a couple of flash pins almost grab victory from the jaws of defeat yet again before he places Takaiwa into a Figure Four that suddenly has the New Japan man in real trouble of losing a match he should have had in the bag just a few minutes earlier. The closing stretch sees them battle for supremacy on the top rope before the winner of that exchange puts their opponent away with a relentless flurry of offence.

This looked as though this was going to be little more than an extended squash in Takaiwa's favourite but it grew into something considerably more interesting with Takaiwa getting too cocky and letting the weaker put plucky Hanjo back into the match.

Mildly Recommended.

Kendo Kashin vs Shinjiro Otani

The Match: Otani jumps Kashin before the announcer has even finished calling out his name and before he's even bothered taking his ring jacket off. He then subjects Kashin to a Facewash before sending him to the outside and whipping into every guard-rail round the ring.

Kashin then managed to get back into the match rocking Otani with a series of European Uppercuts before giving Otani a Facewash receipt before the match began to even out, with the pace slowing and both men looking to grind down their opponent with mat based submission techniques.
As things began to heat up once more, Otani began to move towards his springboard based offence in order to try and put Kashin away but the masked technician consistently had Otani in trouble with a variety of armbar applications.

The pacing of this match was a little bit strange, starting out super-heated, slowing down in the middle and then producing a sudden finish just as things were started to heat up. That being said this still ending up being a pretty good match due to these two greatly portraying the disdain they were supposed to have towards each other. (Kayfabe of course-Unless more seasoned NJPW historians are able to tell me if Otani had real life heat towards the masked wrestlers).

Mildly Recommended.

Jushin Thunder Liger vs Koji Kanemoto

The Match: Great news for this match, is that we get to see Liger's entrance and hear his awesome entrance theme. Who doesn't like to hear Ikari no Jushin?!

The early exchanges were evenly contested, low key but certainly tetchy. Just as it looked like Kanemoto was forcing control with his arsenal of kicks but through guile and technical acumen Liger would find a way to edge back into the contest.

Kanemoto gains control with a Figure Four before laying in a vicious barrage of kicks into Liger. He then tried for a Brainbuster but Liger was able to fight that off and ended up dumping Kanemoto out to the floor with a Brainbuster of his own.

Liger's control is short lived as Kanemoto regains control by laying some more nasty looking kicks and stomps into Liger but he wipes out after going for a corkscrew senton, leading to Liger getting a two count with a Liger Bomb. After giving Kanemoto a receipt with a few nasty Shotei's in the corner, Kanemoto was able to dodge a koppu kick and then took back control with a pair of corkscrew sentons and an avalanche capture suplex.
Kanemoto who was being a bit of a dick the whole match, then started to get cocky taunting the crowd and paintbrushing Liger with some soft kicks to the head. Thinking he had it in the bag, Kanemoto then went up top for the moonsault only for Liger to get the knees up. This then lead into a typically frantic closing stretch with some fraught battle's for control on the top turnbuckle and some big bombs such as Liger's avalanche Fisherman Buster.

Great match between two of the best Junior Heavyweight's in NJPW history with Liger still in his prime and Kanemoto growing into becoming a great performer. Kanemoto was excellent value as the dick heel and Liger as always was great as a fiery babyface.


Tatsumi Fujinami vs Shiro Koshinaka

The Match: At one point I looked forward to Fujinami's matches during this trawl through New Japan's archives but sadly this is no longer the case, as by this point 'The Dragon' had clearly lost a step or two- this was particularly evident when he looked to go for a suicide dive but ended up stumbling in the ring. Once one of the most dynamic performers on the roster, it was becoming increasingly evident that Fujinami needed the pace to be slow and methodical to make him look good.

In a match of middling length and relatively aimless structure, we are served up a sort of greatest hits from both men, with Koshinaka spamming the hip-attacks and Fujinami pulling out the Dragon Screw, Dragon Sleeper and Figure Four. In the end the match wasn't terrible but in comparison to what went on before this was rather mediocre.

2/3 Falls Twelve Man Tag: Kensuke Sasaki, Manabu Nakanishi, Osamu Nishimura, Satoshi Kojima, Shinya Hashimoto & Tadao Yasuda vs nWo Japan (Big Titan, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Keiji Muto, Masahiro Chono, nWo Sting & Scott Norton)

The Match: This unique 12 man 2/3 falls contest, had a super hot start as IWGP champ Kensuke Sasaki takes the fight right to Scott Norton, laying 'Flash' out with a flurry of lariats and then applying the Strangle Hold to almost gain an early advantage for the Sekigun babyfaces. Thankfully for Norton and nWo Japan it was so early in the match, that people were fresh enough to come in and make the save.

The Sekigun team continue to edge the early exchanges until weak link Tadao Yasuda is tagged in, leading to the inexperienced former sumo wrestler being overwhelmed by the nWo Japan team. He manages to hold his own against nWo Sting, but the match then breaks down into chaotic brawling around the ring, this is despite the fact that on this occassion two extra refs have been uniquely employed for this match to try and keep everyone in check.

Eventually Yasuda is left isolated and is taken down with a flying shoulder tackle from Big Tighton (as the Google Translate calls him) that leads to the nWo Japan team taking the lead. It was all going so well for the Sekigun team, until they tagged in Yasuda.

The second fall is a largely back and forth affair, that consistently feels on the edge of chaos without ever looking as though the match is going to completely fall apart into aimless crowd brawling. That is until Hashimoto and Mutoh end up in the ring together, knowing that Mutoh's legs are weak Hashimoto methodically and somewhat sadistically aims kick after kick at Mutoh's creaky wheels- eventually weakening Mutoh enough to spike him with a DDT and even the score.

After around 5 minutes of more back and forth action, the match ends up completely breaking down during the final fall, with one team able to emerge from the chaos with the victory.

Whilst the in-ring work (especially from the nWo gaijins-Tighton in particular was quite shoddy, completely screwing up a hurracanrana attempt at one point) wasn't always on point, the heat and drama made up for the matches short-comings from a work-rate perspective. Not a classic by any means but a fun and interesting multi-man battle that is worth checking out.

Mildly Recommended.

Overall: Night 2 of the 1998 Sapporo Double Header, is a patchy show but ends up featuring more good than bad, with a fantastic match between Liger and Kanemoto, two more stellar Junior Division efforts and an entertaining main event.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Tue Feb 13, 2018 11:57 pm

You would think that I would have gotten up 1998 a lot quicker, seeing as there really isn't much posted up for the year but the lack of content was actually a demotivating factor. Other factors do come into play as to why I haven't been on top of his as much as I like, such as keeping up with modern day NJPW whilst my work hours have increased (not complaining- more money but the fact is I have less free time).

Still it's disappointing that the content for 1998 is so sketchy- NJPW was still super popular at the time. Several key matches such as the crowning of Fujinami's 6th and final IWGP Heavyweight title reign or that year's BOSJ Final are missed out. Some of the decisions as to what does and does not make it on to New Japan world from the archives is truly baffling.

Anyway I'm not going to make any sort of promises as to when I will next update this.

4th April 1998- NJPW-Final Inoki Tournament (Tokyo Dome)

Antonio Inoki vs Don Frye

The Match: It's rather fitting that Antonio Inoki's final match is against a star of the MMA world, rather than giving a rub to one of the talents on the NJPW roster. Inoki cared only about himself and his obsession with pitting 'Strong Style' against other practictioneers of combat sports.
The match itself barely lasts around five minutes and consists almost entirely of 'sweaty hugging' faux MMA until Inoki reels out a few signature moves (Enziguri, Cobra Twist) to pop the crowd at the end of the match. To be fair, I've seen considerably worse Inoki 'Faux MMA' ego-stroke matches, with the decision to keep the match short and compact a wise move.

To give Inoki his due, he did have a superstar aura about him right till the very end (even if his in-ring ability largely deserted him in the latter part of his career) and he has to be respected for founding one of the traditional powerhouse promotions of puroresu but his ego and obsessions got the better of him in the end, and by the mid 2000's he was in danger of seeing what he created almost die off due to just that. Still I guess there must be some fans of Inoki-ism out there, given the fact that IGF are still going since their formation in 2007. ____________________________________________________________________________________________ 1st August 1998- NJPW- G1 Climax 1998 (Ryogoku Kokukigan, Tokyo)

G-1 Climax Quarter Final: Genichiro Tenryu vs Shinya Hashimoto

1998 G-1 Climax: The 1998 G-1 Climax was a 16 man single elimination tournament (much like today's New Japan Cup) rather than the round robin block system they have settled on since the early 2000's.

The first round match-up's saw Tadao Yasuda beat Big Titan, Satoshi Kojima defeat Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Shinya Hashimoto squash Tatsutoshi Goto, Genichiro Tenryu defeat Keiji Mutoh, Osamu Nishimura lose to Shiro Koshinaka, Manabu Nakanishi come up short against Mashiro Chono, Michiyoshi Ohara beaten by Kensuke Sasaki and the reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion Tatsumi Fujinami defeated by Kazuo Yamazaki.

This set up a quarter final line up of Yasuda vs Kojima, Hashimoto vs Tenryu, Koshinaka vs Chono & Sasaki vs Yamazaki.

Genichiro Tenryu: By 1998 Tenryu's own promotion WAR was beginning to lose momentum and his appearances outside of WAR began to increase to the point, where Tenryu actually ended up making more appearances in NJPW than in his home promotion.

Over in WAR, Tenryu would win the newly formed (and eventually short-lived) J-1 Heavyweight Championship. Whilst in NJPW he would align himself with the Heisei Ishingun faction, winning the IWGP Tag Team Championship alongside faction leader Shiro Koshinaka from the nWo Japan pair of Masahiro Chono & Hiroyoshi Tenzan.

Shinya Hashimoto: Hashimoto would make unsuccessful title challenges for the IWGP Tag Team Championship in April alongside Osamu Nishimura and then for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in June against Tatsumi Fujinami.

The Match: The majority of this match is just two surly, two proud to quit warriors beating the crap out of one another with chops. In lesser hands, it could have gotten repetitive but the selling from both men of the wearing battle they are forcing themselves through is fantastic- the match comes off like a real battle, the subtle heel work from Tenryu throughout also adds another impressive wrinkle to the match, with his consistent use of closed fist punches drawing ire from the crowd and getting them even more onside with their support for the homegrown ace Hashimoto.

Anyone who enjoyed the Ishii vs Shibata battles of more recent NJPW vintage, should really enjoy the heck out of this festival of stiffness.

____________________________________________________________________________ 2nd August 1998- NJPW- G1 Climax 1998 (Ryogoku Kokukigan, Tokyo)

G-1 Climax Final: Kazuo Yamazaki vs Shinya Hashimoto

1998 G-1 Climax: The semi finals would see Shinya Hashimoto defeat Satoshi Kojima, whilst Kazuo Yamazaki would advance to the finals after defeating Masashiro Chono.

The Match: Much like Hashimoto's match with Tenryu, this was another strike based battle, except that kicks were the more common strike method of choice, and whilst Hashimoto's match was Tenryu was balls to the wall intensity throughout this was a more methodical affair with bursts of intensity.

Yamazaki's gameplan was to wear Hashimoto down and take Hash's base away by targetting the legs with rapid flurries of kicks, whilst Hashimoto would often collapse under the pressure unfortunately for Yamazaki he would fire back with some heavy hits of his own that would end up flooring the former UWF man and leaving Yamazaki gasping for air.

Yamazaki would eventually find other ways to put the pressure on Hashimoto with a variety of submission holds (including a really great reversal into a Leg Hook) but Hashimoto would continue to survive the pressure and subject Yamazaki to his signature offense such as the Reverse DDT, Diving Elbow Drop and Brainbuster.

Hashimoto isn't someone who had the most flashy or expansive of movesets (relying mostly on strikes, DDT variations and his sheer drop brainbuster) but he squeezed everything out of the moves he did have and he sold in a way that would consistently draw you into whatever attritional war he was battling against. The only wrestler I feel that really compares to Hashimoto in modern day New Japan is Tomohiro Ishii- down to the fact that neither of them have a 'superstar look' either-Hashimoto was (in want of a less derogatory term) fat and Ishii is short and stumpy with no neck to speak of. Of course not being blessed with Bishonen looks mattered considerably less 20 years ago- it was an era where a Hashimoto could be the 'ace' of the promotion, something for all Ishii's ability and crowd connection through fighting spirit, sadly will most likely never will be.

90's New Japan and modern era comparison aside, they executed a simple story really well with Yamazaki the one with the clear gameplan but Hashimoto being the 'stronger' of the two. One criticism is that the closing stretch does come along rather rapidly, but I think that's more me being conditioned to modern era New Japan, where the combatants have to survive a plethora of their opponents biggest bombs before finally going down.

8th August 1998- NJPW Rising The Next Generations in Osaka Dome

Great Muta & The Great Kabuki vs. Mad Dogs (Michiyoshi Ohara & Tatsutoshi Goto)

The Great Kabuki: Primarily working on the Japanese independent circuit during the latter half of the 90's for the likes of IWA Japan and the short lived Tokyo Pro Wrestling, Kabuki's full time in-ring career was winding down. He would 'retire' just a month after this match but did come back as a semi active worker, making sporadic guest appearances for a variety of promotion's over the next two decades.

The Great Muta (Keiji Mutoh): Keiji Mutoh held the IWGP Tag Team Championship alongside Mashiro Chono until May 1998, when they were forced to vacate the title's due to Mutoh suffering knee problems (years of using the moonsault press having begun to catch up with him). After a three month hiatus Mutoh would return just before the 1998 G-1 Climax, where he suffered a first round loss to Genichiro Tenryu.

Despite having seemingly 'locked away' the Great Muta persona, upon joining nWo Japan, Mutoh did dust off his face painted alter-ego as the partner of The Great Kabuki, as part of Kabuki's 'retirement tour'.

The Match: This wasn't a good match at all, an aimless brawl where you were basically waiting for the mist spots to happen. You could tell that Mutoh wasn't back to his best here, as his performance was very sloppy- most notably with an ugly table piledriver spot where he almost injured himself by falling backwards into the entrance ramp.

Saying that he was still the most interesting performer in this match, Kabuki had been old and out of shape for years and barely did anything and the Goto/Ohara team were the epitome of a bland lower midcard heel act. Could they honestly not book the the mist spewing nightmare team of Kabuki/Muta against more interesting opponents?

IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Tatsumi Fujinami vs Masahiro Chono

Tatsumi Fujinami: It had been four years since 'the Dragon' had held the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and both himself and fans must have started to think that his best days were behind him but on the 4th April 1998 on Antonio Inoki's farewell show he defeated Kensuke Sasaki to begin his sixth reign as champion. Fujinami would go on to make successful defences against Shinya Hashimoto and Hiroyoshi Tenzan but did suffer a first round loss to Kazuo Yamazaki in the G-1.

Masahiro Chono: After being forced to vacate the IWGP Tag Team belts he held alongside Keiji Mutoh. Chono would win back the vacant belts alongside another fellow nWo Japan stable-mate in Hiroyoshi Tenzan, when the pair defeated Shiro Koshinaka and Genichiro Tenryu, however their reign would be a short lived one- losing the titles a month later to Koshinaka and Tenryu in a rematch. Chono would then go on to compete in the G-1, where he would reach the semi-finals. Despite being a multi-time G-1 Climax winner, Masahiro Chono had yet to translate his success into that tournament into an IWGP Heavyweight title win.

The Match: Without watching the product on a show to show basis at the time, it was hard to say as to how Chono managed to earn himself a title shot here (it's not as though he beat Fujinami at any stage during the G-1) but the leader of nWo Japan versus the veteran loyalist would have been a money drawing match at the time regardless of a lack of build, especially as the story here was Chono trying to win the title that had thus far alluded him.

The big Osaka Dome crowd really made the difference here as they brought what as slow paced and really quit plodding mat based contest to life. Despite being the heel, and even resorting to the odd dirty tactic (such as sneaking in a few low blows) it felt like most of the crowd were full behind Chono and wanted to see him finally win the big one.

Fujinami used his veteran wiles and superior mat game to control most of the match but he was unable to completely overwhelm Chono who grew stronger as the match went on. With a smaller and/or less invested crowd this would have been a forgettable/bland match that would probably be worthy of around a **1/2 star rating, but as already said the atmosphere definitely lifted the match to another level.

Mildly Recommended. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 23rd September 1998- NJPW G-1 Climax Special 1998 'Big Wednesday' (Yokohama Arena)

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Shinjiro Otani & Tatsuhito Taikawa vs Chris Jericho & Black Tiger

Shinjiro Otani: After losing the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title to Jushin Thunder Liger, Otani would compete in the 1998 Best of the Super Juniors but could only muster up a disappointing 2-3 record.

He would then team up with Tatsuhito Takaiwa during the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title League tournament , where they would go on to defeat the pairing of Dr.Wagner Jr and Koji Kanemoto to become the inaugural champions.

Tatsuhito Takaiwa: Like Otani, Takaiwa competed in the Best of the Super Juniors and posted up a middling 2-3 record, interestingly though he would defeat his eventual tag team partner during the tournament.

Chris Jericho: Establishing himself as one of the top stars of WCW's Cruiserweight division, Jericho was now a 5 time champion between June 1997 and August 1998, having notable feuds with the Rey Mysterio Jr, Juventud Guerrera and Dean Malenko.

Black Tiger (Eddie Guerrero): A two time WCW Cruiserweight champion, Guerrero begun to float between the Junior and Heavyweight ranks- making an unsuccesful challenge for the WCW Television title against Booker T in March but then going on to have feuds with Chavo Guerrero and Ultimo Dragon. In real life, Guerrero felt held down by WCW management and had issues with Eric Bischoff- the real life spat would go on to lead to Guerrero forming the Latino World Order, a clear mockery of the nWo group that Bischoff created.

The Match: This was Guerrero's first NJPW appearance as Black Tiger in over a year, whilst this was also Jericho's first NJPW appearance in 1998, after being a semi regular in 1997.

Whilst the first ten minutes of the match aren't boring, they are a little aimless with neither team able to seize control of the match, just as it looked like one side was about to build up some momentum, it would be snuffed out. Eventually Jericho was able to seize control for his team, blocking a Taikawa powerbomb attempt before reeling off a pair of powerbombs.

The WCW gaijin's were able to keep control as they continued to work over the back of Taikawa. Taikawa manages to survive being stretched in all different sorts of ways and frankensteiner from Black Tiger before turning things around with a Powerslam and then a Powerbomb/Missile Drop-Kick combo with Otani before reeling off a flurry of powerbombs on Black Tiger and then continuing the momentum with a nearfall following a Lariat.

Eventually Jericho and Otani are tagged in, leading into a typically frantic closing stretch- the highlights of which include Jericho reversing a pop up rana from Otani into the Lion Tamer, Black Tiger (Guerrero) pulling out the Black Tiger Bomb and Otani replying with a spinning powerbomb and a springboard drop-kick to the Back of the head.

Once they found some structure with Taikawa having his back worked over before the hot closing stretch, this became very good but the generally aimless first half cannot be ignored.

Mildly Recommended.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Tue Mar 20, 2018 11:40 pm

It's 1999, New Japan is still in a boom period with nWo Japan still super popular but as you will see from that year's Tokyo Dome show, the seeds for Inoki completely losing the plot for the next half decade and almost killing what he created with his shoot fight obsession were well and truly being sown.

4th January 1999- NJPW-Wrestling World In Tokyo Dome 1999 (Part 1)

Kazuyuki Fujita vs Manabu Nakanishi

Kazuyuki Fujita: Though Fujita was starting to dominate against fellow Young Lions and even beginning to pick up wins against jobbers such as Michiyoshi Ohara he was still struggling against mid-card veterans.

Manabu Nakanishi: Though Nakanishi was unable to find any championship success in 1998, it was clear he was beginning to move into a more prominent position within the New Japan pecking order. Though he failed to get past the first round in the G-1 Climax he competed well against three time winner Masahiro Chono. Following Satoshi Kojima joining nWo Japan in the autumn, the Bull Powers broke up and Nakanishi tagged with Yuji Nagata in the Super Grade Tag League- with the pair putting in a mid-table finish.

Towards the end of the year Nakanishi would challenge Scott Norton for the IWGP Heavyweight title but found himself overwhelmed by the gaijin ace of nWo Japan.

The Match: They started off with the sort of grappling expected from competitors with an Amateur Wrestling background but soon heated things up with some fiery brawling exchanges. As the match wore on, a basic story structure started to emerge with Fujita desperately trying to fight off Nakanishi trying to apply the backbreaker rack.

This actually ended up being a pretty good opener with decent pacing (the early grappling portion did not drag on too long) and it even featured Fujita popping off a Frankensteiner down the closing stretch. The only downpoint was a muted Tokyo Dome crowd who had yet to wake up.

Mildly Recommended.

Heisei Ishingun (Kengo Kimura, Michiyoshi Ohara & Tatsutoshi Goto) vs Osamu Kido, Tadao Yasuda & Tatsumi Fujinami

The Match: Another year, another Heisei Ishingun two star special card filler multi-man tag. That's all that really needs to be said about this match.

Heisei Ishingun were definitely a group that overstayed their welcome - they served their purpose quite well at the start of their run and had a unified identity, by the end of their run though they just felt like Shiro Koshinaka and a collection of lower midcarders that happened to compete under the Heisei Ishingun name.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Shinjiro Otani & Tatsuhito Taikawa vs Kendo Kashin & Dr Wagner Jr.

Otani & Taikawa: After becoming the first team to be crowned IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team champions in August, Otani & Taikawa would go on to make successful defences against Jericho & Black Tiger and then Kendo Kashin & Koji Kanemoto.

Kendo Kashin: Kashin competed in the 1998 Best of the Super Juniors, where he posted a 3-2 record and just missed out on advancing to the Finals. Kashin would then tag with WAR wrestler Yuji Yasaraoka in the Junior Heavyeight Tag League, but despite getting a victory over eventual champions Otani & Taikawa they failed to advance to the finals. Kashin then challenged for the belts alongside Koji Kanemoto but this time found himself coming up short against Otani & Taikawa.

Dr Wagner Jr.: The son of the original Dr Wagner, Wagner Jr. made his in-ring debut in 1985 initially as El Invasor but after a year decided to work under the same gimmick as his father. In fact Wagner Jr. was supposed to debut under the family gimmick alongside his father but unfortunately a car crash left Wagner senior severely injured.

Between 1986 and 1993, Wagner Jr. would primarily work for the UWA promotion, with his biggest achievement being a run as the UWA World Junior Heavyweight champion from July 1990 to February 1991. During his time with UWA he also made an excursion in 1988 to work for New Japan.
When UWA began to struggle they started to co-promote with long time rival CMLL. Between 1992 and 1993 split his time between UWA and CMLL but ultimately ended up choosing to stick with CMLL, a wise move considering that UWA would end up go out of business by 1995. Wagner Jr. would go on to become a two time CMLL World Light Heavyweight Champion and a three time CMLL World Tag Team Champion between 1993 and 1998.

He would also continue to make some excursion to Japan, first with W*ING in 1993 and then with Big Japan between 1996-1997. Then nearly a decade after first competing for New Japan, he retuned to an NJPW ring to compete in the 1997 Best of the Super Juniors, but was only able to post a 2-5 record. His performance's were impressive enough though to be invited back again the following year, where this time he fared much better, topping his Block to make the finals but ultimately coming up short against Koji Kanemoto.

The Match: Norio Honaga who retired a year earlier is the referee for this (and also the next) match, it's kind of a nice touch to see someone who was part of the previous generation of Junior Heavyweight's be the one keeping order during the match or at least attempt to. I'm also not entirely sure that Dr Wagner Jr. legitimately qualified as a Junior Heavyweight, he looked kind of flabby to me.

The pace of the match is disappointingly pedestrian for around two thirds, and there's a real dearth of both impetus and innovation- perhaps I've spoiled by Young Bucks matches being the benchmark as to what to expect when it comes to Junior Tag wrestling. Thankfully things do start to pick up when Taikawa's attempt to take out Wagner with a DVD out on the ramp backfires and ends up with him taking a nasty looking Michinoku Driver instead.

Despite that being the start of the home stretch, it's actually the champions who largely dominate the rest of the match with Otani and Taikawa unleashing an arsenal of weapons to try and put Kashin in particular away only to be thwarted by Wagner's consistent impeccable timing at being able to make the save at just right the time. In the end that kept the challengers in the contest, whilst Kashin's always dangerous cross arm breaker would prove to be a consistent threat in seeing the title's change hands.

In concusion it ends up being not a bad match but I'm not really sure if they did enough down the closing stretch to justify giving this any sort of recommendation, beyond watching it as part of the entire 1999 Tokyo Dome card.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Jushin Thunder Liger vs Koji Kanemoto

Jushin Thunder Liger: Jushin Thunder Liger for a 9th time in February 1998 from Shinjiro Otani and went on to make successful title defences against Kendo Kashin, Koji Kanemoto, The Great Sasuke, Kaz Hayashi, El Samurai and Tatsuhito Taikawa during the year.
He once again took part in the Best of the Super Juniors but just missed out on reaching the Finals. He would tag alongside fellow masked Junior Division mainstay El Samurai in the Junior Tag League tournament but they were only able to pick up a solitary win over the team of Kendo Kashin and Yuji Yasaraoka.

Koji Kanemoto: Kanemoto won the 1998 Best of the Super Juniors by beating Dr Wagner Jr. in the Finals. He then failed in his attempt to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title from Jushin Thunder Liger in July, before tagging with Dr Wagner Jr. in the IWGP Junior Tag League- reaching the Finals but losing out to Otani & Taikawa to crown the inaugural Junior Tag champions.
In October Kanemoto tried another shot at becoming a Junior Tag champion, this time alongside Kendo Kashin but once again found himself coming up short.

The Match: Whilst the likes of Kanemoto and Otani were coming into their prime and ready to be the leaders of the Junior Division, Liger the long time ace wasn't ready to give up that position without a fight (Different weight division's but late 90's/Early 2000's Liger is kind of the same role Tanahashi plays now).

Matches between Liger and Kanemoto always seem to have a fiery edge to them, something that may stem from the fact that Kanemoto was beaten by Liger in a mask vs mask match when he was Tiger Mask III. You would think he would be more grateful about that, as he went on to thrive more convincingly unmasked as himself, as he ever did during his brief run as Tiger Mask.

The match appears to be built around Kanemoto wearing down Liger to set up for the ankle-lock and when he does focus on that gameplan he found himself dominating the champion. To Kanemoto's detriment however he got drawn into trying to put Liger away in more emphatic fashion.
There are a few times where Kanemoto's showboating comes back to bite him, such as playing to the crowd before a top rope reverse Frankensteiner attempt and not going for a pin after landing a moonsault on Liger down the closing stretch. Liger isn't immune in trying to push too hard either and in the end the victory comes down to who is able to deliver a devastating enough blow after capitalising on a mistake.

Whilst the match didn't quite reach the heights that you think these two could have gotten to, this was still a well put together match with good pacing and solid storytelling that did not disappoint.


Atsushi Onita vs Kensuke Sasaki

Atsushi Onita: One of the first graduates of the All Japan Wrestling Dojo, Onita made his debut in 1974. In his early years he teamed with fellow graduate Masanobu Fuchi, with the pair finding tag team success out on excursion.

By the early 80's, Junior Heavyweight division's were becoming established, with Onita becoming the cornerstone of AJPW's Junior Division during this era- becoming a three NWA World International Junior Heavyweight Champion and having a notable rivarly with Chavo Guerrero Jr. Unfortunately due to a growing accumulation of injuries, Onita was forced to announce his retirement in January 1985.

Three years later though, Onita felt he had recuperated enough from his injuries and returned to the ring in December 1988 for the Pioneer Senshi promotion. It was clear though that this was not the Onita of old, with a series of what you might call publicity stunts such as turning up in shoot promotion the UWF to issue a challenge, eventually leading to Onita establishing the renegade FMW promotion.

FMW went on to become the leading 'Garbage' indy in Japan during the 90's, with Onita as the 'Inoki' of FMW- being both the promotion's owner and it's biggest star, with Onita winning the promotion's most important title the FMW Brass Knuckle's Championship on seven occassions.
In 1995 ownership of FMW passed over to Shoichi Arai- under Arai's leadership things changed with the Deathmatch style that FMW was famed for being phased out. Seeing that FMW was no longer the promotion he had founded, Onita begun to withdraw his support and in November 1998 had his final match with the promotion.

Kensuke Sasaki: After losing the IWGP Heavyweight title to Tatsumi Fujinami in April, Sasaki reached the second round of the 1998 G-1 Climax (a single elimination tournament that year)before reaching the semi-final stage of the Super Grade Tag League alongside his G-1 Climax conqueror Kazuo Yamazaki.

The Match: Not much of match as Sasaki dominated most of the match, whilst also no selling Onita's 'Garbage' wrestling such as immediately shaking off a chair shot to the head and immediately getting up after taking a piledriver through the table.

In the end Onita ends up getting himself DQ'd after setting off a fireball to Sasaki's face. Onita give's no shits though and ends up talking shit about NJPW, which see's the crowd suitably throw trash at him in response to his indignation towards the promotion they have come to support and give their hard earned yen to.

As a match it was to put it bluntly 'Garbage' but it did at least succeed in putting some major heat on to Onita. The FMW founder would go on to make a few more appearances for NJPW later in the year, which at least meant that the heat they generated here didn't go to waste.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Thu Mar 22, 2018 12:09 am

4th January 1999- NJPW-Wrestling World In Tokyo Dome 1999 (Part 2)

Dave Beneteau vs Yuji Nagata

Dave Beneteau: A Canadian MMA fighter with a background in Judo, Beneateau made his mark in the UFC at the UFC 5 event in April 1995 where he was the tournament runner up.

Beneteau's first Pro Wrestling experience, was with 'Shoot' Style promotion UWFi the following year in a losing effort against Yoji Anjo. Two years later he would be part of the Inoki Final Tournament where he was defeated in his quarter final match up with Naoya Ogawa.

Yuji Nagata: Having spent over a year with WCW, Nagata returned from excursion in August, and made an unsuccesful challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship against Scott Norton the following month. He then rounded out the year by competing in the Super Grade Tag League alongside generational peer Manabu Nakanishi.

The Match: And so the Inokiism era begins......

This was about as dull and predictable as you would expect. Benneateau did the usual shoot fighter sctick by ignoring the rules of wrestling, such as continuing to lay in some punches when Nagata had a rope break. Ultimately though despite the shoot fighter's dismissive attitude towards the rules, you can see exactly where this one will be heading, because as we all know by now Inoki used the idea of these contests to sell the idea that New Japan's wrestlers were stronger than other fighters.

Brian Johnston vs Don Frye

Brian Johnston: Trained by Brad Rhennigans, made his Pro Wrestling debut in 1997 in a losing effort against Naoya Ogawa. The following year, he would then take part in the Inoki Final Tournament, reaching the semi-finals but once again failing to get past Ogawa. Prior to wrestling for New Japan, Johnston was a regular for MMA promotion UFC throughout 1996-97.

Don Frye: Frye won the right to be Antonio Inoki's final opponent by winning the Inoki Final Tournament by defeating Naoki Ogawa in the finals. He then became a semi-regular with New Japan, often teaming with fellow American MMA fighter Brian Johnston.

The Match: What's better than a match featuring one MMA world transplant, a match with two of them!

Putting my sarcasm at the prospect of this match aside, this was surprisingly good. Though these two were tag partners throughout the previous year, relations had obviously broken down between the pair of them and they combined heated brawling with shoot style grappling for what ended up being a pretty spicy contest.

They didn't spend too much of the match filling time rolling around on the mat in rest holds and kept up a hard pace throughout. I'll give them credit where it's due here and say that this was shoot style done well.

Mildly Recommended.

Naoya Ogawa vs Shinya Hashimoto (Not shown on NJPW World)

Naoya Ogawa: A four time Judo World Champion and Silver Medalist at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Ogawa made his pro wrestling debut with NJPW in the spring of 1997, with a shock victory over the then IWGP Heavyweight Champion Shinya Hashimoto. Hashimoto would avenge his loss in the re-match with the title on the line before Ogawa was used as a semi-regular special attraction throughout 1997-1998, only being booked in matches against opponents with a legitimate fighting background. At the same time Ogawa would also enter into the MMA arena.

Shinya Hashimoto: Hashimoto won the 1998 G-1 Climax but failed in an attempt to win the short-lived J-1 Heavyweight title from Genichiro Tenryu before coming up short in an attempt to win the IWGP Heavyweight title from Scott Norton. Hashimoto would then close out the year by taking part in the Super Grade Tag League, tagging alongside Tatsumi Fujinami. The pair of former IWGP Heavyweight Champions would reach the Finals but would come up short against the nWo Japan pairing of Keiji Mutoh and Satoshi Kojima.

The Match: This is the infamous match where Ogawa ended up shooting on Hashimoto, and one with plenty of rumours floating around that Inoki ordered Ogawa to do so. It's pretty much Japan's equivalent of the Montreal Screwjob. You won't be able to find the match on NJPW World, sadly you can't find any Ogawa matches- as he took the decision to have his all matches pulled from there. However the match can be found elsewhere on the internet, if you wish to see one of the most infamous matches in wrestling history.

Honestly looking at the match, things do get out of control but it's hard to draw conclusion's, whether it was a shoot and Ogawa was a massive dick by going into business for himself,was ordered to so by an even bigger dick in Inoki, a worked shoot angle that got out of hand or whether or not everyone was in cahoots about the whole thing.

IWGP Tag Team Championship: Shiro Koshinaka & Genichiro Tenryu vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima

Koshinaka & Tenryu: The pairing of Heisei-Ishingun leader Shiro Koshinaka and former WAR head honcho Genichiro Tenryu would win the IWGP Tag Team Championships from the nWo pair of Chono and Tenzan in July before making succesful title defences against two other nWo pairings in the form of Brian Adams & nWo Sting and Tenzan and Mutoh. They would then take part in the Super Grade Tag League, falling at the semi final stage to eventual tournament winners Mutoh and Kojima.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan: Tenzan would win the IWGP Heavyweight Tag titles for a 3rd time alongside Masahiro Chono, only to lose the title's in their first defence against Koshinaka & Tenryu. Tenzan would then take part in the G-1 climax but would lose to future tag partner Kojima in the first round before going on to make an unsuccesful Tag Team Title challenge alongside Keiji Mutoh.

Tenzan would then team with nWo Sting during the Super Grade Tag League but the pairing finished near the bottom of the standings with only four points.

Satoshi Kojima: 1998 would be something of a breakout year for Kojima, rising from midcard status to the fringes of the main event scene, reaching the semi finals of the 1998 G-1 Climax in the summer before joining nWo Japan and winning the Super Grade Tag League alongside Keiji Mutoh at the end of the year.

The Match: The tag team title match had the unenviable task of trying to get the show back on track, after the chaotic aftermath of the Ogawa vs Hashimoto match.

The match played out in typical slow build fashion with 50/50 exchanges to start before the pace gradually picked up. What the match perhaps lacked in truly compelling storytelling it did make up for that defiency with plenty of intense hard hitting action, with the TenKoji duo in particular looking impressive. For those who only know Tenzan as the broken down veteran he is these days, he could certainly move in his prime- as evidenced by the fact that he pulls off a top rope moonsault to the floor at one point.

Kojima is also particularly impressive throughout, coming off like a star, so much so you wonder what might have been had Inoki lost the plot and Kojima thought he could become a star in NJPW, instead of seeing his future elsewhere as he came into the prime of his career.
Koshinaka and Tenryu are far from bad but despite the back and forth format of the match they are outshone by TenKoji throughout.

Mildly Recommended.

IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Scott Norton vs Keiji Mutoh

Scott Norton: After Masahiro Chono was forced to vacate the IWGP Heavyweight Championship through injury, Norton would win the title for the first time when he defeated Yuji Nagata in September 1998, before going on to make succesful title defences against Shinya Hashimoto and Manabu Nakanishi in NJPW and Van Hammer and Lodi in a pair of squash matches in WCW.

Keiji Mutoh: In the latter part of 1998, with Masahiro Chono out injured, under Mutoh's leadership nWo Japan would move towards turning face. Something that wasn't really met with Chono's approva.

The Match: An all nWo Japan clash, that saw Chono the leader at the commentary booth. Despite Norton being the IWGP champion, Mutoh had assumed the leadership role in Chono's absence from in-ring competition. Chono would have been cheering on Norton, as he felt that Mutoh was steering nWo Japan in a direction that wasn't true to their rule breaking, anti authority ways.

The first five minutes of the match are unfortunately rather dull, as they engage in some pedestrian mat wrestling, that doesn't play to Norton's strengths at all. Fortunately after a deathly dull opening portion, they do begin to pick up the pace with Norton using his brute strength to initially take control, however Mutoh soon hones in on Norton having a bad wheel and turns the momentum in his favour with a relentless assault designed to take the powerful American's base away.

Norton's power keeps him in the match, scoring nearfalls with a Powerbomb and a Powerslam but he's rarely able to gather up enough momentum to seize back control of the match, as he spends the rest of the contest fighting from underneath and trying to resist Mutoh's consistent attempts to force a tap out via the Figure Four.

After a shaky start this ended up being a fairly decent main event, with Mutoh being the more technically proficient wrestler with a more well thought out gameplan taking control of the contest but Norton's power game giving him a chance to scupper Mutoh's through sheer brute force.

Mildly Recommended.

Overall: Despite largely being overshadowed by the Hashimoto-Ogawa debacle, the 1999 Tokyo Dome show was not a bad show at all. Whilst there's little in the way of truly outstanding matches (Liger vs Kanemoto for the Junior title is by some distance the best match on the show), there's also very little in the way of really bad stuff.

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Re: A history of NJPW with New Japan World

Post by Tigerkinney » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:30 pm

1999 continues with Night one of the annual Sapporo double header.

As far as the project goes, in order to keep it rolling a bit more regularly. I am going to make a slight change and only do the wrestler profiles for the Tokyo Dome show and any important events like G1 or BOSJ.

5th February 1999- NJPW Fighting Spirit 1999 (Nakajima Sports Center, Sapporo)

Kazuyuki Fujita & Yutaka Yoshie vs. Masakazu Fukuda & Takashi Iizuka

Black Trunks for everyone, even the veteran Iizuka had reverted back to a serious Black Trunks gimmick during this stage of his career.
A good chunk of the match is fairly basic and pretty dull, though admittedly my attention keeps being drawn away by a fan wearing a creepy looking white faced horned mask. Anyway they pick things up down the closing stretch with Fujita and Yoshie each being given some shine by breaking out moves beyond the typical young lion fare, as opposed to Fukuda who was still working at a basic level. The question was down the stretch, would the veteran Iizuka be able to make up for the weakness of his partner.

Kuniaki Kobayashi, Michiyoshi Ohara & Tatsutoshi Goto vs. Koji Kanemoto, Shinjiro Otani & Tatsuhito Takaiwa

The Heisei Ishingun team consist of an ancient Junior in Kobayashi and a low card albeit Heavyweight tag team in Ohara and Goto. Opposite them were a trio of fairly well pushed Juniors.

The Heisei B-Team (even that might be generous with these three) had a control segment with Otani 'playing Ricky Morton' and taking a spike piledriver at one point. But after Otani made the hot-tag the Junior trio were displayed as being the more skilled team. However they were still up against a team mostly consisting of Heavyweights and one who were always ready to break the rules in order to gain the advantage.

This wasn't anything to go out of your way to see but Kanemoto and co. did at least manage to drag a passable match out of a well past his sell by date Kobayashi and the mediocre pairing of Goto and Ohara.

Dr. Wagner Jr. & Kendo Kashin vs. Gran Hamada & Jushin Thunder Liger

This a warm up match for Wagner's shot at Liger's Junior Heavyweight title the next night. The meandered along for the most part but they worked an excellent closing stretch with Hamada doing a fine job as a veteran underdog in some neat exchanges with Wagner, before they really built up the anticipation the next night with Wagner and Liger going at it, with Liger taking a lot of offence from Wagner and doing a fine job of putting over the Mexican Luchador as a powerful threat for the title the next night.

As with the previous match, there wasn't enough here to truly recommend it but at the time this would have served it's purpose well as an appetizer for what was to come between Liger and Wagner the next night.

Kido 30th Anniversary Match: Kengo Kimura vs. Osamu Kido

Even though this went under 10 minutes, this was a slow paced old man match with most of the time spent sitting around on the mat, seeing how many restholds they could squeeze in before they got too exhausted to even be able to manage that.

As one might expect, much of the match was built around Kido trying to apply his signature armbar and the crowd's respect towards the 30 year veteran lifted the match from being a total snoozefest.

Dave Beneteau & Don Frye vs. Brian Johnston & Kazuo Yamazaki

This match was a chaotic mess, with the referee's consistent failure to get all four men to adhere to the rules of tag team wrestling rather laughable amongst the testosterone fuelled intensity.

I will give it though that the extreme intensity and shoot style work of this match did actually make it quite entertaining in parts. If there were a few less 'sweaty hugging' spots, then I would probably would have enjoyed this even more.

In terms of legit fighters, the likes of Frye etc were an upgrade on the terrible array of judoka's, boxers etc Inoki would draft in for his 'Different Style' fights and admittedly brought a different kind of heel into the mix. The shooters had their place, the problem was Inoki's all consuming obsession with this style of wrestling that would eventually do more harm than good.

nWo Sting & Scott Norton vs. Junji Hirata & Tadao Yasuda

As one sided a match that goes over the five minute mark as you're ever going to see, with Hirata and Yasuda save for some brief 'hope spot' flurries spending almost the entire match having their asses handed to them by the nWo pair. The work here wasn't terrible but file this one under 'Nothing to see here'.

Genichiro Tenryu & Shiro Koshinaka vs. Kensuke Sasaki & Tatsumi Fujinami

This one started out hot with Koshinaka nailing Fujinami with a jumping hip attack just as the bell rang before slowly losing it's way during a meandering middle portion before pulling it back with a hot closing stretch.

Whilst Fujinami was good in the closing stretch, he was the weakest link in the match, with the action definitely being more engaging whenever Sasaki was in the ring for most of the match. Five years earlier it may well have been the other way, but since doing this project Fujinami has gone from one of the most exciting workers on the roster to sadly one of the dullest. Had he not suffered the back injury in 1995, he may well have continued delivering elite level ring work, rather than trading on a nostalgia pop and playing the greatest hits during closing stretches before the age of 40.

Handicap Match: Masahiro Chono vs. Hiro Saito & Keiji Mutoh

For some reason Chono's comeback match after a four month injury layoff was a handicap match against two of his nWo Japan stable-mates. The booking of this match just screams storyline/angle set up, rather than something that should be judged in terms of match quality/work-rate.
Chono and Saito kicked things off with Chono dominating Saito and demanding Mutoh get in the ring. Chono held his own for a bit, before Mutoh and Saito really began to press home their advantage....

Until AKIRA (now sporting black face paint and blonde hair) came to Chono's rescue and turned things round. Mutoh ends up getting bloodied and then carried to the back by nWo Sting and Michael Wallstreet, leaving Saito in a 2-1 handicap match with Chono and AKIRA .For some unexplainable reason referee Tiger Hattori decided not to throw the match out, even though AKIRA wasn't legally in the match at any point, unless he just suddenly decided to make it a tag match on the fly.

Mutoh now sporting a bandage round his head returns but to little effect, as Chono and AKIRA continue to dominate, when all of a sudden Hattori decides at that point to throw the match out.

I can see what they were going for here, with Chono reasserting himself as a dominate heel and beginning to build a new army underneath (starting with AKIRA) but the layout of the match had no logic to it what so ever.

IWGP Tag Team Championship: Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima vs. Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata

New Japan Dad's collide! Or not quite, as this was when the current era of 'Dads' were all coming into their prime. This should have been a glimpse into New Japan's main event future over the next decade, but anyone with even an ounce of knowledge about NJPW's history will know that the 'Third Generation' were undercut by questionable booking decisions that prevented them from reaching their full potential.

After a typically 50/50 start, the challengers managed to seize control by targetting the legs of Tenzan. With the help of some timely interventions from Kojima, Tenzan manages to battle his way out of trouble before the champions seize back control and manage to isolate Nagata.
Nagata fights his way out of trouble before the challengers seize control and put TenKoji in a double submission predicament, only for Kojima to counter a sleeper hold from Nagata with a stunner and then save Tenzan from being placed in the Argentine Backbreaker rack before delivering another stunner to Nakanishi.

The closing stretch sees the champions mostly take back control, with Nakanishi kept on the outside and Nagata enduring a barrage of offence but also sneaking in a few moments where he might be able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Overall this was a good but not great tag team main event, that's just about worthy of a low tier recommendation. TenKoji were starting to put together some pretty team based offence but Nagata and Nakanishi definitely felt more like two singles wrestlers put together.

Mildly Recommended.

An utterly average show, in that there wasn't anything particularly bad on this first show from the February 1999 Sapporo Double Header but there was very little outstanding either. It topped out with a main event that is just north of 3 stars and then you've got a lot of average 2 to 3 star matches on the undercard.

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