Masato Tanaka was pretty much responsible for me getting into puroresu. His matches in the States with ECW were eye opening to me. He was tough, intense, and innovative. I would say he, Mike Awesome, and Tajiri were the 3 guys that convinced me that wrestling in Japan was something worth seeking out. After ECW folded, so did my interest in newer wrestling at the time. It was another 5 years before I got back into it. I've never really looked at what "Dangan" Tanaka was doing in that time when I was away.
Masato Tanaka vs Samoa Joe (Zero-1 2001 or 2002): There was no date on this from the Youtube video but, based on the size of Joe and his attire (cut off tee & track pants), this was pre-ROH Joe. I believe per Quebrada.net that it's from BURNING HEART League 09/15/01. All that being said, this was 8 minutes of spots but, I'll be darned if this wasn't a blast! Joe was pulling out all kinds of stuff like a Fosberry Flop dive and Pedigree type move. Obviously Tanaka was going over but, you'd be surprised. Cool finish too!
vs Shinjiro Otani (Zero-1 07/31/02): A classic 16 minute tournament match. It's like in that **** 1/4 - **** 1/2 range to me. It's best described as NJPW Jrs. style with 2000 era hard hits, a hot Korakuen krowd, and tourney match urgency. Tanaka & Otani don't go for epic, they go for the win. Dangan gets busted open from a Tree of Woe baseball slide if that's any indicator. Plus, Otani's facial expressions are as top shelf as ever. He takes the drama to another level with his emoting. Totally surprised by this match since no one really talks about Zero One especially in 2018...if you're a fan of either guy, see it. It'll be one of the best bouts you'll watch this week.
Tanaka & Shinjiro Otani vs Steve Corino & Low Ki (ROH 11/09/02): This was the main event to the inaugural All Star Extravaganza. Otani & Tanaka kept this a lean mean contest. Otani damn near put Ki's face into the back of his head with a kick. Not to be outdone, Dangan hit a brutal lariat and shotgun stunner. Sure, it was Philly but, no chairshots needed. Corino & Ki were excellent as well. Highly recommend checking this out.
vs Mike Awesome (Zero-1 02/29/04): Holy shit...wow. For an Awesome vs Tanaka match this might be the most dangerous one. I don't know if the match quality is the tops since they really do just run through the spots but, what spots they are! Highly recommended match for those missing this rivalry. I had no clue this existed especially since their One Night Stand match from 2005 was touted as their most recent battle since ECW. But that's WWE history for ya! Go see this Zero One match and witness the brutal spots for yourself!
vs CM Punk (Wrestling-1 04/09/04): I'm not 100% on the promotion title as it appears to be a US indy with affiliation to Zero-1 or a US offshoot when they were trying to do a global wrestling thing. I read in the comments online that Punk was sick at the time but, this was a very good hotel banquet hall level match. Punk focused on Masato's arm amd gave the match a good sound body. It was really solid when they could have just winged a bunch of moves. It felt good because they eventually got into a nice little finishing run. Some big moves were hit and some were countered but, they never gave it all away. These two worked really well together.
vs Samoa Joe (1PW 2005?): Again, the poster didnt' put a date but, this looks around the time Joe had the bleached brown/red bit in his hair while in TNA. This was a 10 minute sprint of wonderful stiffness. If the above match was about moves, this was about hitting each other. They go bat shit with it. This pairing is really, really good and I wish there was more available. Match goes to a double DQ but then we get...
vs Steve Corino: ECW rules type of match. They're in the crowd and being a little cute for the people that loved ECW back in the day. I'm sure I would have dug this at the time but, the let's take a tour without actually fighting isn't as interesting anymore BUT it's not all of that. It's brutal at times too. So, this is a 2 in 1 or Gauntlet match for Tanaka and a must-see. Dangan all the way man!
Tanaka to my knowledge only wrestled in ROH the one time but, he seemed like a perfect fit for early ROH from his performances above. 2002-2004 Tanaka in ROH would have been great and is certainly fodder for fantasy bookers out there. These matches are a hint of what could have been.
Next time, I want to tackle what I'll call the Tanaka revival- from my estimates late 2000s to early 2010s. I'll see what I can find on the web.