I'll be looking at the breakout year for Michinoku Pro - 1994. This is the year where the Great Sasuke won over fans during the Super J Cup in NJPW. Many consider that to be one of the best shows of the 1990's. From 1994, we continue to see the wrestlers of Michinoku Pro featured in New Japan, AJW, WAR and FMW. Eventually many will make it over to the U.S. in ECW, WCW and WWF. That's pretty amazing when you consider M-Pro was a regional promotion with no big nationally known star to anchor the promotion. Sasuke had to become that star. All that said, I'm relatively ignorant about what was going on in the M-Pro ring in 1994. Let's take a look!
Great Sasuke, Sato & Shiryu vs. Super Delphin, Jinsei Shinzaki & Gran Naniwa (02/04/1994): 25 minutes of lucharesu! Early on this was functioning at classic levels. The speed and intricacy was amazing. They settled things down and laid out a fuller match with comedy, tandem spots and solid action. A lot of focus was on punishing Shiryu (Kaz Hayashi) but I think this could have been a little more interesting. Also there was a little bit of "walking to my spot" when things got further along. My guess is that the rapid pace at the beginning tired some wrestlers out. Eventually Shiryu makes his comeback and things kick back up into high gear for the finishing stretch. An absolute great match as long as you don't need your wrestling to be super serious all of the time.
Super Delphin vs. Sato (03/04/1994): Much more serious here. This is fought more like a traditional junior match and it's just about a great one. The finish is the only thing that keeps it from that tier. It's a cheap cheaty-cheater finish. It works with the story but was necessarily clear what happened until afterwards. And the fans kinda reacted the wrong way to the booking. Screw that though it's a really good singles match with Sato (Dick Togo) vs Super Delphin.
Great Sasuke vs. Jinsei Shinzaki (3/31/1994): I'm not going to fool you, I watched this after the match below. You can read the reasoning down there but essentially I watched these 2 a long time ago. I faintly recall one being great and one not being so great. I clearly didn't remember correctly. Everyone on the PWO 1994 yearbook liked 04/29 quite a bit. But this is the one that's great. In fact, I'm going to call it a classic Michinoku Pro match. I'm tempted to point out why its superior to the below match. But really it should stand up as a classic on its own. Two great foes going head to head, giving it all they got and all that corny shit! But I love it! Seek this out.
Great Sasuke vs. Jinsei Shinzaki (4/29/1994): There are too many things wrong with this to make me enjoy it. I've seen this years ago and couldn't remember anything about it. I could excuse Sasuke under shooting the first dive at the start because the following wrestling segment is very great. The tone of this is great and honestly they had me right up until Sasuke taking back bumps for the monk's throat thrust. These get stiff as his career goes on but these are like light as a feather at this time. But whatever... no the real issue starts when the Great One whiffs on 2 spin kicks in a row. He hits a couple, and I believe whiffs on a couple other kicks. Sorry... I'm not one of those "You fucked up!" guys from ECW days but, you whiff once make damn sure you don't whiff again. Either hit the guy real stiff or scrap the hitting idea immediately. Some more stuff happens until Shinzaki does a great slam on his sloppy opponent. And it makes me wonder, " why didn't they just do that in the first place? It keeps the show rolling and punishes Sasuke for trying it again. There's more but I stopped after the Sasuke Special #2 kinda missed in the same way the very first dive did. Once a match...yeah that's OK. Can't be perfect all of the time. 2? OK but maybe be more conservative from here on out. But I felt bad for them at some point and I wasn't into this anymore. I almost feel it was the large crowd that effected them negatively...nerves or showing off when they didn't need to. There's some great moves like Shinzaki's praying quebrada (so sick!) but even the finish is kinda flat. 03/31 is the superior match, its wrestled smarter by keeping it simple. The pacing is consistent. The layout makes sense where everything feels like it means something. And honestly, it tells a better story.
Jado vs TAKA Michinoku (7/30/1994): Excellent simple junior match. It was well paced and told a good story of the heel vs the home grown talent. It pits technical/high flyer vs hard hitting rough houser. That was a really nice change of pace as Jado really whooped T.M. To combat that TAKA repaid the favor with dealing some great looking springboard moves. Jado wasn't a slouch with his high risk moves though. I think that's one thing that elevated it. Jack really put in the effort to keep up with TAKA (which is a tall order). One thing confused me though. Many fans were really rooting for Jado which was odd since he's always been a heel. I believe this show was a reunion show for Hamada UWF guys so they may have shown up to root for all of them regardless of being a good or bad guy. The fans were digging this a bunch either way. Anyhow, if you're keeping score, this was better than the 04/29 Shinzaki/Sasuke match in nearly every regard. Its a good-very good match most of the way but they really kick things up at the end. Had this been on one of the Super J Cup shows, I think it would be well regarded. Great match.
Looks like Michinoku thought of the green canvas before Misawa & NOAH.
Great Sasuke & Ultimo Dragon vs Jinsei Shinzaki & Gedo (7/30/1994): I didn't see this on the PWO 1994 yearbook which was surprising. It seems like there would have been some hype about this match. I remember Highspots actually had a DVD of this commercial tape. Anyhow, it a great, great tag match. Gedo is the glue here. He's like Gorilla Super Glue...in the gel formula. His heeling ways keep things grounded and gives some much needed heat/heel charisma to his team and the match as a whole. Ultimo and Sasuke are pretty much going all out here. It can be a love/hate thing when they're in the same ring. They have a tendency to go for flash and botch stuff like a surgery on a wooden roller coaster. Thankfully, thankfully that doesn't happen at all! Shinzaki can then just do his power moves and praying and it all works! Its 1994, its indie but it all works...even the Cancun tornado/spiral tap,which doesn't hit perfectly like Apple Jacks used to do back in TNA, works because it's 1994, its indie. Near classic? Maybe so...
I'm now starting to think Jado & Gedo were trying to have hair cuts like the Nasty Boys...
Sato, Terry Boy & Shiryu vs Gran Naniwa, Super Delphin & Shinzaki (12/15/94): The uploader has this as 12/17 but checked Quebrada and I'm pretty sure this is 12/15. I'm not 100% but Sato, Terry Boy and Shiryu are Kai En Tai at this point... at least the initial iteration and before they go heel and become Kai En Tai DX. Anyhow they got the tag team combos already - yes!! Anyhow this is similar to the 02/04/94 match but better in that there's a little less comedy which helps keeps the pace on track. Kai En Tai have their tag moves, and I think everything hits perfectly whereas there's a couple little flubs during 02/04. It's also about 25 minutes without any of the downsides.
Great Sasuke vs TAKA Michinoku (12/15/94): A 17 minute long junior battle! I've heard nearly nothing about this match but definitely should be more well known. TAKA's aggression here is what makes this really special. He is just going after Sasuke with everything he has. This starts out shoot stylish then settles into a more traditional mid 1990's NJ Junior style. Obviously both are in that calibre but we really see TAKA surpass Sasuke, if I'm being honest. His athleticism & storytelling exceed what Sasuke brought. Not that the pajama wearing hero is a bum but, TAKA really shines here. Near classic junior match.
Jinsei Shinzaki & TAKA Michinoku vs. Super Delfin & Gran Naniwa (12/17/1994): Joined in progress a little. Shinzaki is really getting his throat thrust attack hitting now. You can hear em! Very good start with twists to moves we may come accustomed to. I always like surprises in wrestling. He and TAKA make a great team... they have a British Bulldogs vibe with their tag moves. Delphin (or is it Delfin...I think both are correct...) and Naniwa do their routine that they have been doing all year while in control but there's a good counter that leads to the final third of the match. Very very good stuff that was probably made even better as this is all floor shot (ECW fancam) so you get a true sense of the action and energy. Nice way to close out the post and the project
1994 was a pretty great year for Michinoku Pro. In many ways it reminds me of ECW...more than FMW. M-Pro in 1994 (through 97-98) has that great core cast of characters who are rough around the edges, who maybe too short or not big enough but don't let that stop them. And they have a loyal, vocal fan base who love it. Surprisingly the best matches were singles bouts (03/31, TAKA vs Jado & TAKA vs Sasuke) but the heart and soul is in the tag/6 man matches. If you want to dabble, watch one tag, one 6 man and the three singles mentioned and you'll be happy
I'm quite happy that I got to revisit Michinoku Pro the month. Thanks for reading!