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  1. This is the second part in my light exploration into the final months of FMW 1996. This is a very junior heavy section with my review covering a commercial tape focusing on November & Decemeber. W*ing Kanemura vs TAKA Michinoku (12/10): 11 minute good match and a fantastic example of prime era TAKA. The dude was throwing dropkicks from every angle and off everything. And of course its FMW so, you get chairs! The Gladiator vs W*ing Kanemura (12/11, BAHU #43): Oh man this is an odd match but, has gotten some praise over the years. The oddness comes from Gladiator getting his leg stuck in the ropes during a botched dive. That would totally suck BUT he & W*ing play it off so well that you very nearly believe it was on purpose. It does go on a minute too long and it does become obvious there's no way they wanted this portion to last THIS long. Still! Awesome/Gladiator sells the heck out of it (legit leg injury prior so, its some of his better/best selling) and Kanemura focuses on the busted wheel trying to put the dominant gaijin away. So, it makes sense! Of course we get "awesome" offense from Gladiator and the never say die W*ing. The end result is a very good match and the finishing parts are so strong that you almost forget about the rope/leg stuff. Fast forward the rope bits and you'll have a blast. Megumi Kudo vs Shinobu Kandori (12/11): Best match of the tape thus far. Kandori submission attempts and Kudome heart and head drops makes this a good match just on paper. Here they throw in all kinds of teases & fake-outs. It made for a really exciting Joshi match (which I haven't seen in ages). Plus their timing and chemistry were fantastic. I would have to say this fits right alongside AJW stuff from '96 and probably better than many of the overlong bouts that Toyota had that year. Hayabusa vs TAKA Michinoku (11/16, BAHU #31): The first Hayabusa match of the tape and its a doozy! He and TAKA have an NJPW Jr. style action match that shows the little promotions can stack up against the big boys. Dives, counters, springboard moves, and big signature offense - it wasn't a classic but, dang! It was a great match. Right up there with the Joshi match. Great Sasuke vs Hayabusa (12/11): If the TAKA match was the warm-up then, this should be amazing! It certainly starts off that way but, the match becomes "my turn-your turn" in taking offense with no true sense of struggle. The bout was a lot of big moves while I would have preferred them trading kicks, running the ropes, or scrambling on the mat. It was a good match and maybe you'll get more out of it than me. This was a pretty good tape. All the matches above BAHU has put in his top 100 matches of FMW history. Clearly the Kudome/Kandori and TAKA/Hayabusa bouts were the best but, the Gladiator/W*ing bout is worth watching too...especially if you find a file or video for the whole commercial tape like I did. Those 3 are totally worth the time if you're curious or needing an FMW/ECW style fix this fall Thanks for reading!
  2. Always nice to see the M-Pro crew show up on another promotions card and try to steal the show. This was maybe slightly faster worked and more chaotic than their usual formula tag, which wasn't a bad thing. You are really kept on the edge of your seat when any minute 4 guys might run in to drop elbows all at the same time. A chaotic brawl breaks out halfway into the match and Naniwa gets bloodied and his mask ripped open, which just sets the crowd completely on fire for him. The Sasuke/Hamada/Yakushuji technico shine sections are really fun – Yakushuji fast complicated headscissors and armdrags are still the best, and I don't remember Hamada working as Fujiwara but he does a good job at it here. Still the massive blood and mask ripping portions and Naniwa getting to shine really set this one apart.
  3. I've noticed it in Motegi matches, and it was also the case here: 90s junior wrestling was far more unpredictable and fun. Basically any exchange could lead into a crazy dive out of nowhere. When they work the mat, they work almost quasi-shootstyle. Sasuke nearly dislocates TAKA's ankle, and TAKA kicks him in the face for good measure. Later, Sasuke catches a flying TAKA with a kick and then pummels his kidney with punches. Obviously TAKAs athleticism is blowaway great, but I also loved how tightly this was worked. Check out how tight Sasuke cradled him following a moonsault. This is how you make your wrestling look competitive. Obviously the Sasuke spin kicks were great and his selling was flawless. Apparently TAKA was in his 2nd year of pro wrestling here
  4. Hey... this is another kind of match you don't see that much anymore. They nuke eachother with highspots nonstop, fuck all rhyme or reason, but the match stays short enough to not piss you off. The first 2 minutes of the match have 5 Michinoku Drivers – with TAKA eating 3 of them in a row and laughing about it a minute later. If you can get over that kind of idiocy, there was some fun to be had here. Cougar and Palomino bring the highspots, Cougar hits about half a dozen guillotine legdrop variations, and Palomino has nice height on a standing huracanrana and a great tope. TAKA and Orihara add some character work – meaning middle fingers and low blows. Taka also flops his dive and ricochets into a bunch of teenage girls. The most important thing is that this didn't overstay it's welcome and didn't do a bloated, tryhard finishing run.
  5. What an amazing match to kick off this year's BOSJ with! A kickass 8 minute sprint with a fantastic sense of urgency & drama. ****
  6. This was lots of fun. TAKA shined - loved his work over Ibushi's neck. Ibushi on the offense is always fun, I just wish he had sold the neck work more, because with that this match could've reached greater heights. It was still really good though. ***1/2
  7. I ranked Taka #44 on my Greatest Wrestler Ever list., which I felt was a pretty aggressive ranking and one I wasn't completely comfortable with it. The fact that he has had such a long career working well in a variety of styles and a variety of places helped him a lot. 44 felt high in isolation, but I also didn't think any of the guys I had below him on my list had better careers. After watching and re-watching some of his work since last March, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t lower his position at all. If anything I would bump him up a little bit the next go-around. He has been a top tier wrestler going on 25 years now and is as well-rounded as any junior heavyweight in history. I would go to bat for Taka being the second greatest Japanese junior heavyweight of all time behind Liger. He doesn’t have Liger’s charisma, but I like Taka just as much as Liger working the mat and better when flying. His career is hurt by spending so much time in the 2000’s in All Japan which was a poor fit for him so the overall output from his career might not match his true talent level. Here’s a few matches I watched recently (I'll be adding more here and there). All but the Malenko match in this first group are worth watching. ***************** Taka Michinoku vs. Mens Teioh (Michinoku Pro – 03/16/1993) From M-Pro’s debut show. From an in-ring style perspective, this match is a harbinger of what was to come for the promotion during the Kaitentai fueled heyday of the mid-90’s. It is a true hybrid of Japanese juniors, lucha influences, and traditional US style (which you would expect from Teioh). They work all of those different stylistic influences into one strong, cohesive package. The heat is great, the structure is familiar, and at just a tick under 10 minutes the match doesn’t overstay its welcome. Both guys are relatively early in their careers at this stage but you would never know it but how polished their work is. Not a classic (wasn’t meant to be) but a very good sub-10 minute match that is also worth seeing due to the historical implications (ie. M-Pro’s inaugural show). Real Hero has this up on his archive. Taka Michinoku vs. Super Delphin (NJPW Sky Diving J – 06/17/1996) For Delphin’s CMLL World welterweight title. Meltzer gave this match the highest star rating of any match on the show (****) and it is hard to disagree with that. They work it like a title match with a lot of low impact stuff in the early and middle portions before going near fall heavy at the end. Taka does a few awesome dives and the crowd completely loses their mind on his springboard moonsault. Delphin was always a weird guy to me because while almost everyone else involved in the Kaentai feud had something that set them apart (Togo was the great rudo, Sasuke was the ace, Naniwa’s comedy, Hamada was the old guy, Yakushiji’s ridiculous arm drags, Teioh’s Terry Funk tribute act, ect.) Delphin was just the solid wrestler with a cool mask. That’s basically his role here which is fine, because Taka brings enough high end stuff for two guys. I thought the finish was a little kick out heavy but this is still a very good match that I would group in the 2nd or 3rd (probably 3rd) tier of the New Japan juniors 1990’s golden age. Taka Michinoku vs. Dean Malenko (WWF Smackdown – 04/04/2000) Dean’s the Light Heavyweight Champion here and a couple of weeks away from his ballyhooed title defense at Backlash versus Scott Taylor. They get five minutes which isn’t bad for those days, but there’s not much here. The best spot was Taka arm dragging his way out of a standing gut buster from Malenko. The disappointing part is that if Dean wanted to exchange holds and do mat work for 3 ½ minutes before the finishing stretch, Taka could have done that. If he wanted to work a sprint that showcased Taka’s athleticism, Taka could have done that. There were different ways to go here that would have allowed Taka to show off in way or another. Instead it was just your basic ho-hum Malenko match where they wrestled an unremarkable, sort of unfocused match for five minutes. Dean was never very good at laying out matches to highlight his opponents (which makes him a questionable choice for an agent) and this is another case of that. Taka Michinoku vs. Kaz Hayashi (All Japan Pro Wrestling – 07/02/2010) All Japan actually headlined a Korakuen Hall show with this junior title match. It’s a dual limb work match with Taka going after Kaz’s neck and Kaz focusing in on Taka’s knee. I really like the transitions here. Both guys had a way of quickly shifting momentum without the match ever becoming too much “your move, my move” back-and-forth. Some really slick counters and submission set ups from both former Kaientai members, but especially Taka. The match stays grounded for the most part but Taka does do a springboard moonsault from the second rope into the crowd which was really incredible looking. I liked the progression and the twenty two minutes went by quickly, but I think it is more of a good/very good match than a great one. Not a big fan of Kaz’s AJPW work in general and he was just okay here.
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