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  1. Kanemaru's a total slimeball, jumping Ishii at the bell, utilizing roll-ups and throwing young lions in the way of Tomohiro on the outside to try and pick up the win. Kanemaru's content to take the count-out, which I appreciate. So often, you see heels roll their opponents back into the ring rather than take a breather. Kanemaru's also great at showing his behind when the time calls for him to take a backseat and let Ishii control the pace. Kanemaru brutalizes Ishii's leg with knee breakers and low dropkicks. Ishii does his usual fighting through the pain schtick, but it's much more charming against the sleazy Kanemaru than against other so-called tough guys. The match is also less repetitive. For one, there's no extended strike/forearm exchange to pad out the time. Even the sequences with the referee, which I've never been a big fan of and have often found contrived, played into the story of Kanemaru doing whatever it takes to win. Ishii survived a missed Whiskey shot and a Samson Clutch to put Kanemaru away with a Vertical Drop Brainbuster for the win. Even in the finish, Ishii's selling was fantastic, as he could merely scoot himself across the mat and fling his body over Kanemaru for the pin. This match didn't have all the bells and whistles that come with a big, New Japan match. It was fairly simplistic and restrained. But, I'll take a tidy sub-twenty-minute match with clearly defined characters and a story that's easy to follow over a bloated epic any day of the week.
  2. I find that early NOAH ages extremely well. For some reason, even undercarders understood how to mix up match formulas to keep things interesting. Why even a guy like Donovan Morgan can have interesting matches here but nowhere else I don't know, maybe there was some Pat Patterson genius laying out these matches for NOAH. This was a fun junior opener, with Morgan & Modest immediately isolating young Kotaro and working cutoffs to get the crowd amped for Kanemaru, which lead to Kanemarus sections actually being fun. Kotaro is still a rookie, but he gets to look good thanks to the stooging of the gaijins. The finish was memorable to with Modest hitting his finisher on Kanemaru on the floor and then him & Morgan going to town on him with chairs before Kikuchi runs in making the safe like the worlds most pissed off Steve Austin.
  3. Kanemaru is the first GHC junior champ and he's a dick. Sugiura is the Kurt Angle of NOAH. Almost. His Olympic Slam looks a lot more devastating (headrop baby). Again, this is a slow burner turning into a hot sprint at the end. Hearing the crowd slowly and slowly getting louder and louder is a pleasure, really. Instead of simply busting out intense sequences at the start, Kanemaru is dominating by being a veteran, keeping Sugiura down (and not exposing him as green). So yeah, it starts kinda mundane, but then Sugiura catches Kanemaru outside and slams the fuck out of him, which is nice since that's the kinda of dick stuff Kanemaru likes to do. Sugiura is all about amaresu (I wonder if that word sounds bad in Japanese), suplexing Kanemaru on his head and showing his strenght. Yet another very good, slow building match by Kanemaru, Suguira looks promising here as a powerhouse amateur style junior. Kanemaru proceeds to kill him off by ways of several brutal brainbusters in a row, without any kick-outs BTW, because Kanemaru is that much of a dick.
  4. There's something to be said about these early junior NOAH matches, they were all into building toward a hot finishing stretch as opposed to just do a zillion spots like today's stuff. ANd it's really refreshing to have the guys take in down slow at first. Kanemaru is a dick and when he tales control, he bodyslams KENTA outside and shit's on. Nice dynamic actually, with KENTA being bullied around until he finally makes a comeback then it's bomb throwing times. Very-good/Excellent match with the trademark delayed selling on a killer spot exchange, leading to one of them taking advantage. Kanemaru is slept on, he wasn't flashy but he was super solid and had the dickish attitude down pat. KENTA was still in the early stages, sporting what I think are Kobashi's old boots. As New Japan was the junior territory until that point, NOAH was doing a great job establishing their division as something important (as opposed to AJ under Baba).
  5. Had to check this out because of the potential Suzuki vs. Shibata interactions, and I sure wasn't disappointed, because I got some awesome action between those 2! It looks like they might do a singles program between them, it sure felt like it w/ Suzuki constantly targeting Shibata & staring him down + attacking him post-match. I am hyped for that. The match was super fun - you got Liger as the FIP, and he was awesome, as you'd expect. Suzuki-gun did some solid heel work over him, ripping his mask & all - but the highlight of the match was indeed the Minoru Suzuki vs. Katsuyori Shibata sequence when they were both in the ring. Their interaction did not disappoint. Awesome match. ***1/2
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