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  1. Ono was just unreal here. He's wearing gloves, but MMA type ones and not the boxing ones I'm used to seeing him wear, but he throws all the boxing combinations you loved his 2010 run for as well as all the junior flash submissions you could think of. It was like watching a combination of 2010 Ono and the world's greatest Ikuto Hidaka, a really remarkable performance. Of course Ishikawa is no slouch either, his stiffness and high level matwork added to the match as much as you'd expect but this was more of an Ono showcase. There was no wasted motion, the match pretty much started with a nearfall in Ishikawa catching an Ono takedown attempt into a Guillotine, and from there on it was just non stop smashmouth action. Ono hit a quick head kick combo to pay him back and then dramatically threw himself on the floor to recuperate which was a great spot, melodrama isn't exactly the first thing associated with Battlarts but in a small dose it can work great. ****1/4
  2. 1997 was probably the period where you could take almost any random BattlARTS match and it would be the #1 best match to happen in 2020 for months. Carl Greco was a barefoot machine here, lord in heaven what a great grappler he was. This is all about Ono trying to out-slick the beast. Some absolutely fantastic grappling and holds here, and Ono throwing strikes feels like he's trying to equalize the situation in order to not get steamrolled. Great nearfalls here, including an absolutely awesome Octopus Stretch that Ono sunk in like he wanted the tap out more than anything else in his life. This was a second match on the card and went eleven minutes, you get the sense if they had gone for a slightly more grandiose finishing stretch with some big strike exchanges and near KO this would've moved into serious MOTYC territory, but for that type of second 11 minute match on the card this was damn great.
  3. Our only BattlARTS main event of the year, but it's a good one. These two always have good matches, and this time they went for a full blown 19 minute main event. What was cool about this was that normally you had Usuda as the aggressive striker with Ishikawa working counters. Here Usuda was still aggressive but Ishikawa gave him back good, so Usuda was also using his defensive tools more, which is something he does very well, and you had a match basically built around who could turn the others aggression against himself first. Match has lots of good matwork and also some insanely stiff headbutts and kidney shots. I especially like anytime Usuda would get aggressive on the mat, normally you would go to the mat to seek safety from a striker, you aren't safe from Usuda though. It really is a crying shame Usuda was so underutilized on the indie scene, atleast Ishikawa got himself a spot on Michinoku Pro undercards that year. Usuda takes as good as he gives, taking some crazy crazy suplex bumps. There are some excellent submission teases and the finish was pretty epic with multiple face shattering kicks and Ishikawa just rattling Usuda with a big punch. The finish plays up the story of the match as it was all about who would get the deciding counter.
  4. This was more traditional pro-wrestling than shoot style or Bati-Bati as Hoshikawa is a Michi Pro affiliated wrestler, but this is still a good match. They set this up with Hoshikawa using flashier and more pro-wrestling oriented offense as he throws some somewhat flashier kicks which of course Otsuka being the punishment freak he is he just dives in head first into these kicks and he does a fantastic job at putting them over a KO potential strikes and it builds the drama for the finish. Otsuka's comeback is a bit brief as he gets tired of playing around with Hoshikawa and then just dumps on his head with a TTD before teeing off with some big throws.
  5. This was right before Takeshi Ono joined Masao Orihara to form the sleazy superduo of the Tonpachi Machine Guns. Ono and Usuda had a damn great match in 2010 (review to come), and this was also a damn great match and a more grandiose finishing stretch away from being on the level of the 2010 match. Basically straight shootstyle full of intense mat scrambles and Ono attacking as a dangerous striker with kicks and knees on the ground. Usuda kind of took a backseat in this match and let Ono dictate the bout, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Some really brutal leglocks in this that seemed to be broken short of popping someones knee. There was an especially violent moment near the end where Usuda went for another break and Ono tried to kick his leg out of his leg in frustration. It builds to a series of near finishes with Ono continueing to force breaks and being super close to scoring the upset until Usuda is able to score a nifty counter and put him away with a quick flurry of devastating strikes.
  6. I thought this was fantastic. This is the final of the B-Rule tournament. I believe the rules of this tournament are straight up matches with a minimum of 5 rope breaks per match with a 10 minute time limit. The person who uses the most rope breaks, is down on the scorecard and thus if the match goes to a time limit draw, then that person loses. Not sure what Yano's background is aside from having been trained by Yuki Ishikawa and having attended a Tom Pritchard training camp in the US, but he is a master manipulator of the rules in this match and he knows he won't be able to submit Otsuka outright and he has to avoid any of Otsuka's big throws, so his strategy is to get Otsuka to use more rope breaks than him and try to outlast him which is somewhat of a jiu-jitsu approach. He is a younger and lower ranked wrestler than Otsuka, so he blitz Otsuka and quickly jumps and pulls guard which reminds of Takeshi Ono usually using a similar strategy except Ono would blitz with flurries of strikes and Yano is pulling guard and going for quick submissions. Yano uses quick submissions and constant transitions to catch Otsuka in submissions where he would rely on rope breaks while also tiring him. Dug all of the grappling exchanges as they were very tight and neither guy was leaving any space or just randomly allowing any transitions to occur. Otsuka using his knees to grind Yano's ankles and shins to get lose of some submission attempts instead of solely relying on rope breaks was great. Loved the finish of this as well with Otsuka catching Yano in what seemed like an odd submission you would see Volk Han catch folks in and Yano's plan proving to be effective as Otsuka uses up 3 rope breaks and he eventually begins to gas while Yano rides out the time limit.
  7. About 5 of 10 minutes aired. Acute Sae was a talented girl who could grapple and retired a year later. There wasn't much grappling here as the match was basically pro style and a showcase for both girls offense. Both have really good offense, Sae hit some judo throws, flying armbars and worked over Ran with nasty double stomps. Ran was her usual self hitting extraordinarily stiff kicks and elbows. Fun little clip.
  8. Super fun 7 minute undercard match full of slick mat scrambles and stiff blows. Super Rider sucks when he's doing pro style, but he looks really good doing straight shootstyle exchanges. His submissions are a bit different to what the BattlARTS crew usually does and it makes for a fun contrast. All of his submission counters were great. Ono was of course fantastic demolishing him with slick strikes. He also did some crazy sharp, brief work on the leg. It makes me sad though that a wrestler as good as Ono was jobbing like this to a no name outsider in 2001.
  9. Ono is known for being the younger guy in the group that is wild/reckless and that his recklessness either pays off or gets him caught up problematic situations. Otsuka is an absolute beast who tosses fools around and who can endure a massive amount of punishment. Here we get instances of both. Ono getting himself in trouble for being reckless and Otsuka being able to dump him on his head and Ono's recklessness eventually paying off. The finish of this is pretty sweet with a neat looking sweeping hip throw leading into a scarf hold submission. Not an all-time classic by any chance, but a very good compact sub-10 minute match.
  10. I enjoyed this a lot. They really put a lot of compelling stuff into a slow, mat-based encounter. Funaki could really, really go on the mat, and the pudgy little technician vs. dirty heel mauler was a good story for the match. Ikeda was super gritty here. His legbar was such a Johnny Valentine move. Great finish. Check it out if you're a fan of this stuff.
  11. This is one of those matches where I'm kind of stunned how it's been lost to time. It aired on Samurai TV, it has 4 quasi-big names of japan independent wrestling, and it's a 25 minute match in front of a big crowd where everyone goes all out to give the fans what they want. They could've easily coasted here and just done their crowd pleasing signature spots, but in between that there were some really good exchanges and a number of smart spots. Otsuka working lucharesu exchanges with Sasuke is all kinds of fun, and he and Ishikawa have some brief but great sections where they hit the mat and brain eachother with nasty headbutts. Both Sasuke and Shinzaki had their working boots on. Dug all the well timed thrust kicks from Shinzaki and Sasuke was laying in all of his kicks aswell as busting out all his big highspots. The bomb throwing at the end was something else. I don't associate the BattlARTS crew with the kind of big bombs you see in junior matches so seeing Otsuka eating a massive powerbomb off the top or Ishikawa getting dumped with a huge double German Suplex was wild. There was also some nifty team work emphasing moments and they switched control in such a way that you couldn't guess the outcome. Ishikawa countering Shinzakis rope walk was great and just the kind of character moment you want from a weird stylistic crossover match.
  12. Murakami wasn't doing his googly eyed psycho act at this point, but he was getting there. This was a really fun match. Yone is hit and miss, but put him in a short match where his sole duty is to hit and get hit really hard, he's quite formidable. Lots of guys pushing into eachother and trying to land thudding kicks and punches which is Murakamis forte. His non-showy style of matwork was a nice contrast to the BattlARTS crew and their shenanigans as well. Last few minutes was basically Murakami acting as a mini-Naoya Ogawa which works just for fine. Short, stiff, to the point, nothing too complicated and the ending drew big crowd reactions, it's everything an undercard on a post modern shootstyle/lucharesu joint show should be.
  13. The ring here is terribly squeaky. It appears to be in a TV studio in front of a psychedelic background. It's Post-Modernist Shootstyle Wrestling Daddy!!! You may want to watch this for gorgeous Otsuka suplexes. A little uneventful undercard match otherwise. The BattlARTS matwork was pretty rough in 1996, and they didn't quite succeed here in making it compelling. I do appreciate the the uncooperativeness, though. Usuda looked legit as hell.
  14. These two have a go at establishing themselves as the lamest workers in all of BattlARTS history. This went 14 minutes but felt like half an hour. Some slow, unimpressive matwork to begin with, with the standing portions resembling Takada/Bernardo. They move into some contrived sequences for nearfalls. Funakis poor mans Dean Malenko style is just boring and Tanakas just does the same spots as always. Not all 90s japanese wrestling was great.
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