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  1. It's Ishikawa facing the most insignificant first period BattlARTS guy on a random AJPW card in the 2nd match on the card. It can't be more than just a fun little exhibition? And well that's WRONG because these two just do one of the most brutal under 5 minute sprints of the decade. Crowd brawling that looks legit (why is Ishikawa, a quasi shootstyle working Inoki worshipper arguably the best crowd brawler in japanese wrestling history?), some of the stiffest slaps you'll ever see, and then probably the stiffest Enzugiri you'll see ever, insane Maeda/Fujinami blood, stoppage drama... yeah this kicked ass.
  2. Open The Dream Gate Title Match: Masaaki Mochizuki vs CIMA (c) Great match with an incredible ending with a hot crowd that went nuts for the result. Unlike the Susumu title defence, the grappling was much better this time around with Mochizuki staying focused on the chest, also using it for kick practice as the match progressed. This was a respect filled match as neither tried to cheat in the match. This was a straight match with them telegraphing what each other was going to do, like CIMA stopping the Sankakugeri by Mochi very quickly and Mochi blocking the Schwein from CIMA before lighting CIMA up with the flurry of kicks for the finish. The match was full of net counters like that and it added to the story greatly. This was a truly fantastic match with great wrestling and drama. ****1/2
  3. Open The Triangle Gate Title Match: Italian Connection (Anthony W. Mori, Milano Collection AT & YOSSINO) (c) vs. Aagan Iisou (Shuji Kondo, Takuya Sugawara & YASSHI) While this isn't Aagan Iisou’s final match in the company, it's the last one that was on TV, as they'd be fired on New Year's Eve for behavioural problems. It must have been something big as all five members were sacked. What a rowdy bunch of lads. They were the same in their wrestling as well. In Dragon Gate, there is a big distinction between heels and faces, similar to Lucha Libre in the way I mean, and they were real heels. Kondo has all the advantages in the world with his size and yet he insists on choking Mori with a shirt. That's the type of people they are. The tag team wrestling was spectacular at times. High speed pacing. Great sense of urgency and rush to end the match before someone interferes. Good triple and double team moves. The whole works. Yoshino and Kondo were excellent when paired up, being ultra lightning speed v raw, explosive power, as were Mori and Sugawara. Everyone had their role though and contributed to the match. Including President Takashi Okumura, who sorted YASSHI out. ***3/4
  4. Hair Vs. Mask Eight Man Tag Team Match: Do FIXER (Dragon Kid, Genki Horiguchi, Magnum TOKYO & Ryo Saito) vs. Florida Express (Daniel Mishima, Johnson Florida, Kensuke Sasaki & Michael Iwasa) I can't believe it. Kensuke Sasaki got pinned! That was unexpected. Obviously it was through Do FIXER antics (freedom salt) but but did the job. The match was hilarious like most Florida Express matches. Do FIXER desperately tried to budge Sasaki to no avail so they attempted to quit the match, which was pretty funny. There was an amusing all inclusive suplex spot, including Hokuto with the punch line being only Sasaki and Hokuto do a moonsault while the rest of the group gets suplexed. This had some rather good serious wrestling as well in short spurts - Dragon Kid and Sasaki could have a real good match in them if it was made. Genki Horiguchi hit some sick dropkicks as well. Fun match. And fair play to Kensuke Sasaki for shaving off his own hair for this comedy gimmick. Respect! ***1/2
  5. Hair Vs. Hair Tag Team Match: Anthony W. Mori & Ryo Saito vs. Aagan Iisou (Shuji Kondo & Takuya Sugawara) Takuya Sugawara shone greatly in this match. He came across as a vile, prick of a man with his facial expressions, dismissive aura and his general look. What he lacked for stand out offence, he made up for in everything else. He and Mori had some really good exchanges with Sugawara bullying the skinny Italian (heh) and feeding for Mori’s hope spots. The spot where he brought in the scissors and stabbed Saito like he was Abdullah The Butcher was awesome as well. He and Saito had some solid double team work as did Mori and Saito who aren't even in the same unit. As for why they are teaming together, I don't know but they worked off each other well in their roles. Kondo was in the match at least but he was great any time he was in. Great power spots, a good game changer for when Sugawara needed help and vital for giving his team the win. Ultimately the match ends with Mori and Sugawara, as they were the main story of the match. Mori got pinned by the Shiisanpuuta, so he has to shave his head. Ryo Saito stops him and offers his own hair. Sugawara attempted to shave Mori’s hair after the fact but Saito stopped him. Strong match with shockingly incredible drama. ****
  6. The prematch video made this feud look insanely heated with JBL causing Eddie's mother to have a heart attack and Eddie being pissed off and vengeful. JBL cut a very racist promo against Mexicans before the match. This was so old school I can't believe it's 2004. Crowd is crazy for Eddie here chanting his name even before his music hits. I forgot how ho he was at the time. The match starts hot with Eddie going nuts on Bradshaw. Throwing him into tables and punching away and choking. Just a great shine sequence by Eddie. It gets to the point where JBL tries to leave the match, but Eddie chases him down and keeps the assault up. Eddie keeps chucking JBL out of the ring and into things and breaking the count, but finally JBL reverses a whip and tosses Eddie into the steps. The moment JBL goes on offense the crowd goes into Eddie chants. This is just a wild out of control brawl with great heat. JBL finally slows it down with a side headlock and the crowd is going crazy for Eddie. Really good stuff, as Eddie escapes gets in a hope spot, but JBL puts him back in the side headlock. Eddie makes a hot comeback with a series of armdrags, but his plancha is caught and he gets a fallaway slam on the floor. Eddie gets back dropped onto the table here too. After a few hot sequences JBL goes to the bearhug. After some big bumps on the back it makes a lot of sense. Great comeback by Eddie which ends when Eddie and while the referee is down JBL nails Eddie with a super vicious chair shot that BUSTS EDDIE OPEN HUGE!!! What a huge gusher. There is blood everywhere and JBL goes right to work on the cut. Even hits him with the steps. JBL with a huge lariat, but the referee is still down. Crowd is going nuts for Eddie still. A second referee runs down, but Eddie kicks out to a huge pop. Eddie ducks the second lariat and this referee gets wiped out. HUGE POWER BOMB by JBL for two! JBL smartly goes for the sleeper, but Eddie back suplexes him. The whole ring area is a bloody mess. Eddie Hulks up, but gets caught and JBL goes for a fallaway slam only to get DDT'ed. Eddie slowly gets to the corner and goes to the top but misses the Frog Splash. JBL throws a chair in the ring and while the referee removes it he goes at Eddie with the belt, but Eddie blocks it. He then nails JBL with the belt for the DQ. Fans boo that finish, but it's completely awesome. Eddie then unloads on JBL with punches while blood is everywhere. A gaggle of referees pull Eddie off, but even that's not enough as he nails him with the belt again and again. I think JBL is busted open too, but it may be Eddie's blood. Eddie now has a chair and just nails JBL to return the favour from earlier. Finally JBL is in the ring begging and bleeding as the blood Eddie nails another chair shot on JBL and follows it up with a Frog Splash. The referees pull JBL away to safety. JBL is most the way down the ramp, but Eddie goes after him again. Now Finlay, Arn etc. pull Eddie away as JBL crawls away. Eddie stands tall as he celebrates in the ring to huge cheers. What an epic war this was and a great way to get this feud to continue. Just an amazing **** 1/2 type affair.. If you don't remember this or just think of it for the blade job, watch again. Great stuff.
  7. Calling this match shoot style or just shoot inspired might be the easiest way to get it over it but it would provide a shallow and historically inaccurate description. Shoot style was the creation of 1984 and 1988. New Japan continued to have its own style that would come in contact with the shootiness, but really started seriously flirting with it when they had the UWFi feud and then started bringing in Naoya Ogawa, Don Frye and so on. It peaked in the early 2000s as that was the peak of both PRIDE and Inoki's insanity, and you can see it in this match. It doesn't feel like UWF or RINGS or UWFi or PWFG. There's a distinct flair and style in this match-one that has maximized many of the elements of New Japan training Maeda used when creating the original style, but they also appropriate many of the elements used in modern combat fighting of the times such as soccer knees, knees on the ground etc. I know many aren't really fans of it, and politics and workers that couldn't thrive in the style could detract from it, but as far as looking for a good example of it being done right this might be your best bet. The brutality is just off the charts, but watching them fight for guard positions and takedowns and seeing how they set up the big spots is just as interesting. Shibata soccer kicking Fujita right in the eye is up there with the most brutal spots in wrestling history and you get a bunch of zoom ins at Fujita's swelling too. There was something chilling about the whole thing that's hard to put into words, during his entrance Shibata just completely covered his face with the towel and he ended it laying on the mat looking lifeless, as if he was a young lion going to a battle he wasn't ready for. ****1/2
  8. This was looking like it was building to be the junior match of the decade with both guys working a really good bayface shine segment with some clever spots and then a great heat section built around Chavo lathering Rey with nasty low kicks. Chavo looked like the best possible Dean Malenko here, handling Rey by the mask and taking Destroyer bumps which was pretty creative fora cruiserweight match. Reys selling initially was just great but I thought he ended up getting a little too cute with comeback spots that all required him leaping around and landing on his bad leg. The 619 clutching the knee also ended up looking goofy. Rey ain't no Hijo del Santo after all.
  9. This match is famous because of the clip where Inoki gets in the ring and punches Nakamura. There was nothing exciting about the match itself; I mean this would've been fine as a midcard tag, but as a Dome main event...? There are some solid exchanges and a brutal soccer kick finish but that's it pretty much. Kashin adds nothing (shocker!) and the potential fun matchups don't deliver their potential. Nakamura was pretty mediocre here so I guess he deserved to get punched. He was working like a US indy guy in the opening portions and that's a real disgrace. He also put up very little fight against Fujita during the finish. There is a little bit of Fujita and Nakanishi crowbarring eachother, and Nakanishi manhandling Kashin, but not enough really. Worst of all is they never really engaged the crowd.
  10. See this is why Yuki Ishikawa is special: he is not as athletic as the top tier U-Style guys, but he will add character and psychology to any match. So you have the resident whacky matwork artist Crafter M taking on wily veteran technician Ishikawa. In itself this is bound to be a good match, but because it's Ishikawa we also get a STORY~! and every exchange here ends up not just being technically excellent and beautiful to watch, but also meaning something. There are not a lot of vets who would be willing to show this much ass against anyone let alone a young nobody in a geeky mask, but Ishikawa is totally willing to let Crafter look great. So we get lots of really entertaining Crafter working at his highest level to outsmart and twirl around his bigger opponent and forcing him to the ropes again and again. Crafter gets to look great and Ishikawa does a nice job selling the increasing worry. Especially loved when he seemingly got his groove on when got the indian deathlock but M reversed his next attack and sent him for the ropes again. Due to this the final exchanges end up being super intense with both guys slapping eachother in frustration and Ishikawa trying everything he knows to find a counter. And then a great finish to top it off. This not a big match or anything but it still ends up coming across as one of the greatest tricks Ishikawa has pulled off.
  11. This was the best of the Forgotten Kawada TC Defenses I watched today and a borderline classic. And the reason for that is, of course, Osamu Nishimura. Nish often gets branded as a novelty worker who just does tribute matches imitating Dory Funk Jr spots, which is simply not true, as he does a bonafide job working a true Kings Road style match against Kawadas strike based style here. Not forcing him to work his trademark style at all, just building a really good match around his signature spots while educating the crowd on the importance of Backslides and Abdominal Stretches, telling a story and all while never losing his composure. The opening sees Nishimura ambushing Kawada and targeting his leg, they then proceed to work a basic exchange, Kawada goes for a cheapshot but Nish blocks him and hits back, showing he's prepared. They continue in this vein, with Kawada lacing into Nishimura with strikes only for Nishimura to fire back on him, often punching or headbutting him in the eye. This causes Kawada to actually get fired up and look like a dangerous striker against Nishimuras more toned down offense like getting punched and headbutted in the eye actually shook him after years of getting elbowed, kicked, chopped etc. There is some excellently executed legwork and a flawless build to a Figure 4 which was full of struggle and great. Kawadas selling was pretty hit and miss as per usual during this period but I actually thought it was acceptable. The finishing run was really great, well put together stuff with plenty of neat spots and I thought it was largely carried by Nishimuras amazing charisma, he is such a wrestling master with how he manages to work his stuff with so much urgency, he really yanks on Kawadas neck when he goes for a sleeper, he would also go from an Abdominal Stretch to a pin to an armbar trying to force the tap, like he was trying everything he knew to get that win. His bumping is also up there with the best of the 90s death seekers, as when he takes a back suplex his head and feet touch the ground at about the same time but he folds his neck up. I thought his performance here was close to Hondas GHC challenge in 2003. Kawada had one of his better nights on his TC run too, I really liked how he would sell Nishimuras finer strikes and really liked the Octopus Hold into Stretch Plum as a Fuck You to Nishimuras lineage. Great stuff and one of the few matches where you'll see Kawada carried.
  12. Most overlooked match between two big names in japanese wrestling history? I never even knew this one happened. It was a pretty fun match, altough far in the shadow of their 2000 encounter. You get those two smacking and punching eachother a lot, so that is really fun of course, and also some of Crazy Tenryu with him throwing chairs and making use of the Spider Suplex etc. Unfortunately Lazy Kawada was in effect here with him ignoring some fun legwork Tenryu was doing and no selling his way back on offense later, he also seemed to have a lot of light on his enzuigiris. On the other hand, him coughing after getting chopped in the throat was a nice touch. Perfectly good match otherwise.
  13. IWA Japan has to be the best promotion no one ever talks about, the magnitude of the bizarness of the matches they would book cannot be put into words. Here they book Kensuke Sasaki against some weird cosplayer, maybe Leatherface was the Abyss of IWA Japan. Kensuke comes out wearing a shovel because, hey, it's IWA Japan! He then proceeds to hit his stuff and go over in three minutes. I like Kensuke's offence a lot and will gladly watch him beat up a backyarder with funding. Leatherface will tell his grandchildren about the time he hit a neckbreaker on Kensuke Sasaki. **3/4
  14. This is for some title in some promotion I have never heard of. Park is in a cool red variant outfit. The first fall is technical wrestling where Dandy gets the win with a leg submission. It's not the type of stuff you want out of LA Park in 2004, but he is solid enough here. The second fall stats off super fast paced with some great armdrags by Park then a tope into an armdrag on the floor. Park gets a submission of his own for the very very short second fall. Lots of fun, but modern lucha short second fall syndrome here. The third fall is a lot of fun. Lots of dives and big moves, but sold well through out. The ending was interesting as Dandy and Park both take out the other seconds and look to do topes in sequence, until Park turns around and pins Dandy quick. Overall a pretty fun match, but way below any expectations I would have. #wrestling365
  15. This is in the RealHero archive if you go to the GAEA section. Great little match. Not shootstyle at all, closer to lucha/IWRG if you ask me, as both of them just try locking in nutty submissions in on eachother, in between trading unpredictable shoot headbutts and punches to the face. Amano as a quick on her bare feet maniac grappler using her hard head as a battering ram really is awesome. I also loved her counter to Yoshida's finisher which would later be made famous in a certain UFC bout. Amano's quickness and inventiveness here was great, and her style fit Yoshida's like a glove. Perfectly good bantamweight 11 minute Ishikawa/Otsuka match.
  16. This is the tournament final. A total dream match for me that delivers. This has been described as a Tamura squash which I strongly disagree with. The grappling exchanges rule and establish Otsuka as Tamura's equal on the mat (or least someone who can stay competitive and grab an advantage). Tamura also displays great urgency, almost desperation, throughout the bout: both guys are hurting from their earlier matches and Tamura knows he needs to finish this quickly or he will be in trouble. Of course Tamura was going to win the tournament but those two things put over Otsuka as a serious contender. Otsuka does get killed during the stand up portion though as Tamura just repeatedly drills him with kicks and Otsuka does a terrific job selling the damage and the feeling of being overwhelmed. An excellent match. **** 1/4
  17. This is a fun matchup even though it's rather obvious from the start that it would be better off in a smaller setting than the Tokyo Dome. Suzuki pretty much dominates the matchup from the early going as he has a creative shoot-style counter to all of Nishimura's old-school spots. Eventually catching Nishimura in a cross-armbreaker then focusing his attack on the arm. Just when it looks like Nishimura has no answer for Suzuki's attack he gets a backslide out of nowhere for the win. This was fun but it comes off as a teaser to watch this to could do if you gave them 20+ mins at Korakuen.
  18. Really fun match between two undercarders. Ranmaru has really sharp looking kicks and really lays the stiff shots into Kuragaki, while Kuragaki does a mix of power spots and integrated flying moves. I knew Kuragaki was "agile for a thick power wrestler", but her athleticism absolutely blew me away here, approaching Super Astro-ish levels. She did all these slick cat landing on her feet spots and asai moonsaults that wrestlers half her size can't pull off as clean. Most wrestlers will occasionally wobble a little when doing that kind of stuff, but everything she did had a perfect 10 landing. I also really liked how she caught Ranmaru in a canadian backbreaker hold, then followed up with a dropkick to the back and a sharpshooter for a nice submission nearfall. Her twisting moonsault where she crushed the Ninja with her hip was really nasty too. I'll be hunting for more Kuragaki.
  19. Izumida comes out wearing in a Hashimoto cosplay and it's clear this match is going to rule and that I should watch more Izumida since I only remember he does Headbutts. KENTA has a really cool control segment, with all of his good looking striking and kicking combinations, where they constantly tease standard pro wrestling transitions but KENTA always does that extra move to remain in control. KENTA uses those small Kawada'esque kicks and hurts his foot because of how strong Izumida's head is! Izumida proceeds to just destroy KENTA because he's small and that's how the circle of life works. The only problem is that in doing so outside of the ring he starts beating up wrestlers ringside and by the time it's time to get back into the ring the count's already at 18, and KENTA's baseball slides manage to keep him outside. As if you need any more proof how much of a cooler setting peak NOAH is than the sterile star factory of 90s All Japan. ***
  20. The promo video for the match is great-they show Kensuke playing with his sons, and him and Hokuto talk about his role in the family, Fujita as a pro wrestler/MMA fighter, being a monster champion, the risks of facing him and so on. The match lasts for only two and a half minutes, as Fujita pins himself in a sleeper to lose the belt. They exchanged some nice shots while the match lasted but the angle itself is so much more fascinating. Kensuke is pissed, not happy he won that way whatsoever, as Fujita seemingly threw the match. That is more of a result of all the backsta politicking that was taking place at the time than a result of some geniously planned angle, but it does make one wonder how something like that could be used for storyline purposes. Divorced from all the emotion and rage fans at the time experienced my observation was that it was fun and unique, though obviously not a good business model. ***
  21. BLUE WOLF. I find mongolian pro wrestlers to be sorely unheralded on the internet. This was a really good match built around power vs. skill. Most wrestlers when matched up with a guy like Suzuki pretend to be helpless on the mat and go for the ropes, but Blue Wolf wasn't one of those guys. He brought the fight right to Suzuki and wouldn't let Suzuki get away with his usual bullshit. Man, Wolf was a fucking great babyface, and thus Suzuki's uncooperativeness actually added to the match. It lead to some damn good exchanges on the mat and a few really interesting bits as Suzuki was forced to try different approachs than his usual spiel. It leads to a unique and brilliant finish. Blue Wolf, a fighter till the very end.
  22. Chris Hero and Homicide go 40 minutes in a seedy german nightclub. This was actually quite good when they stuck to matwork and basic stuff. They understood how to make their holds meaningful, and Homicide punishing Hero with stomps, kneedrops, headbutts etc. was pretty damn good. However, some of the reversal sequences they tried came across as sloppy and Hero may have oversold as he was acting dead for much of the 2nd and 3rd fall which reflected poorly on Homicide.
  23. The world's strongest 54 year old man clashes with a "Muscle Volcano" in one of my favourite sprints. It's funny, I mainly remembered the match for them busting out a bunch of junior offence, and on a rewatch that ruled too, but I also noticed other things that made the match as badass as it is. Tenryu's facial expressions when Kensuke corners him and starts pounding on him are a thing of beauty and really remind you this man is old enough to be a grandparent, particularly how he'd act like he was out of breath after being Lariated on the neck. Kensuke winding up for a Lariat and then eating a punch just as he was about to execute it ruled and the counter flash finish was great and caught me off guard yet again, and as great as Tenryu is that kind of quick counter really feels like the onyl way he could beat Kensuke at this point. Hectically kicking the air while being pinned can look silly but it was absolutely fitting here. Bonus points for Tenryu continuing to sell after the match. ***3/4
  24. I thought this ruled, in the same vein as that Cena/Gabriel match where you've got the top guy showcasing why he's deserving of his spot while also making his opponent seem like a threat. I watched this after watching two Danielson/Joe matches from 2003 and not only did I like this way more Joe looked on another level here than he did on those. I liked him periodically looking down at his fist after a strike like he knew he had the ultimate equalizer and that slap was insane.
  25. You gotta love the insane ideas Vince McMahon comes up with. Having shoot submission wrestling matches on a 2004 Smackdown is brilliant. Angle is obviously a more skilled wrestler and it showed, but the drama and the question are based on the double wristlock Puder pulled. I heard Angle say in an inteview submissions were legal but that there was only supposed to be a one count for pins, and Puder did pin himself on the submission. Angle losing it after getting hooked and getting in Puder's face was neat, you could feel the roid rage talking out of him.
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