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Found 67 results

  1. Yuji Nagata vs Kensuke Sasaki - NJPW 01/04/04 Up until the finish, I thought this was a classic, bloody, Dome brawl. I was perplexed why no one talked about this match until that finish, which takes it down quite a bit. Sasaki returns, but not to a hero's welcome. No, he must have been portrayed as a turncoat for leaving Inoki's New Japan to join a short-lived Choshu's promotion that would focus more on pro wrestling. Sasaki fit the 90s New Japan Strong Style well, but Sasaki stuck out like a sore thumb in Inoki's MMA-influenced New Japan of the early 2000s, but he comes back here to challenge Inoki's boy, Yuji Nagata at the Dome. Without the title on the line and New Japan in its nadir in terms of critical quality, I can see why this is overlooked, but I thought this was awesome. They are chippy before the match starts and have to be held back during introductions. It feels like Sasaki is a Choshu-like invader taking on the Hero of New Japan. They just stand up and duke it the fuck out. Sasaki rocks him with a slap to the ear. Nagata tries to fight back and Sasaki hits him a lariat. Sasaki goes for the cross-armbreaker to win the match, but Nagata retreats to the outside. Sasaki whips him into the railing and goes for the chair. Nagata in desperation smokes the chair back into Sasaki's face with a wicked kick. Sasaki does a nice blade job. Sasaki gets a lariat to back of Nagata's head and sends him head-first into the post. Nagata does a nasty, gory blade job. We get the double juice and Nagata & Sasaki stand up in the ring and just throw haymakers, headbutts and strikes. It was fucking awesome. Nagata is left in the middle ring laying and you can see the pool of blood forming around the back of the head. Sasaki just goes vampire crazy gnawing on Nagata and then headbutting him. Sasaki gloats and the New Japan crowd boos loudly. Damn! Northern Lights Bomb! He chooses to go for the ten count. He goes for it again, but Nagata gets a wild kick to the head that rocks Sasaki. Nagata follows it up and you really feel like it going to build to this awesome finish and be a slam dunk 2004 match of the year contender, but then Nagata just puts Sasaki in the Rings of Saturn for like 60-90 seconds until Sasaki passes out. It was very anticlimatic. Up until the finish, a damn exciting brawl. I loved the visual of the double juice with them standing up and just trading strikes in the middle of the ring. Sasaki was actually playing a good heel. Definitely worth a look and see.
  2. The match is mostly dominated by Kensuke who just beats the shit out of KENTA. KENTA sells really well for him & gets some great big comebacks in. A very well told, great Heavyweight vs. Jr. Heavyweight story. ****1/2
  3. Most of the match is worked in Nishimura's style, lots of matwork and spots you're used to seeing in his matches like the neck bridge test of strength and so on, Sasaki mostly plays along and occasionally utilizes his strength to escape Nishimura's holds, which is the only thing setting it apart from the usual Nishimura sequences. The finish leans more towards Kensuke's style, as he takes the initiative and starts rocking Nishimura with bigger moves while Nishimura tries to avoid them and utilize his throwback techniques like Cobra Cluthes, the Octopus Stretch, Inoki's low kicks from the Ali fight and so on to fight back. Both guys are good at whey to but it felt like they needed a few more years of seasoning to really mesh in a way that could produce greatness. ***1/4
  4. As far as I'm concerned, it wasn't the Inokism/MMA influence stuff that was killing NJPW at the time, it was the fact that the regular wrestling was largely dull and moronic. The sprint opening and subsequent matwork of this was fine, but they soon went to their bread and butter: brainlessly hitting lariats and throwing out bombs. No transitions in sight, just take a move, then hit one of your own, repeat until finish. This really needed MMA gloves or a Murakami run in.
  5. I've seen a lot of Inokiism stuff, some of it it good, some of it is weird, inexplicable and beyond ratings, I fully expected this to be chaotic and unconventional but the match ended up being absolutely amazing as well. The first thing that came to mind with the length is the Ikeda-Ono match, but this one is just better and I don't think it's close even. Saying this would be hailed as a MOTYC by the crew that pimps Futen and Battlarts if it had happened that would almost be instinctive but also undermine everything this match was. It was more than that. It was a pastiche of the Futen violence, the morality, stable wars and art of the no finish (best showcased in the 80s wrestling everyone loves so much) and real life politics blurring the line between reality and pre-determination. If you haven't seen it I urge you to watch the match with an open mind. If you have, I'd urge you to rewatch it since 2002 was a long time ago, you're distanced from the impact of the match on the business side of things now, and also your taste has probably changed, I don't think I've seen a single person talk about this *match* since I started discussing prowres online, so it's not exactly like it's been mandatory watching for now. The rest of the review includes spoilers and I think it's better to watch it without reading them, but suit yourself. When Kensuke knocked Ogawa in the beginning of the match it was not only a wonderful moment of violence, but also incredibly symbolic. We had seen Ogawa in positions of peril-but it was the first time someone had done something so shocking and so direct as to just smack him and start mounting on him. It was a true moment of peril-one after which it only made sense his stablemates would run into the ring. That and it was before the bell making it illegal. The next couple of minutes are as tense as any match I've ever seen, and really sophisitcated and simulatenously barbaric. The violence of a takedown, a throw, a punch and a kick are all well known, but displaying that well in a worked environment can be tricky and they absolutely nailed it. I remember hearing Jim Cornette saying something about how a criteria for a perfect match included everyone believing it was real-which sounded silly coming from him-but I don't think there's a match that's as good at that as this one that didn't turn into a real fight. And when Ogawa started shoot kicking Kensuke you even start questioning that-the images of the 1999 incident are just too visceral to ever be forgotten. But here Kensuke recovers, and goes after Ogawa, and hits him and throws him and makes him retreat, which is analogous to a count out victory over Andre, even if the scoreboard may have had it as a no contest. ****1/2
  6. Pretty by the numbers japanese big match but not bad. Sasaki gets the advantage using his power early on, finisher on the floor, some limbwork ensues, lots of stiff shots etc. It's a formula that works and these two are good at it. Sasaki is pretty fly here hitting a big plancha to the floor and really walloping Kawada with potatoes. There is some neck work which ends up not being of much importance but leads to some fun moments. Sasaki cosplays 90s Kobashi by chopping Kawada in the neck and hitting flimsy bulldogs, it also leads to a pretty sick piledriver. Kawada was halfway into lazy mode as he had some nice transitions such as kicking Sasaki in the face when he tried his silly facebuster or slipping underneath for the cheap powerbomb, but he would also just go back on offense at other times. Kind of dumb finishing stretch, but not offensively dumb.
  7. Ah, the glorious period of New Japan when wrestlers were forced to shave their heads and wear gloves. It is always interesting to see what conclusions workers came to when doing matches like these. Kensuke's Lariats and Strangle Holds aren't exactly shooty, but they don't feel *that* out of place in these hybrid matches either, and certainly give the match a unique flair. There's a lot of face punching, which is enjoyable on its own but these two find smart ways to incorporate them into transitions as well as make it look like a struggle-you'll see dodging, shoving, blocking and so on. Kensuke's great timing maximized the value of his flash attacks and hearing the echo of the Dome crowd is always a special feeling. Fujita's side mount knees were a nice callback to what he was doing in PRIDE at the time and the TKO finish was worked about as well as it gets. ***1/2
  8. This was going shockingly well in the first half. I'm as sceptical against these two guys as you can get, but they did a nice job building a traditional title match. Nothing mindblowing but really solid executed slow mat based type work mostly built around arm attack vs. Leg attack stuff. Then as I was ready to declare this a miracle match Muto grinds the whole thing with a bunch of long figure spots that go nowhere. The crowd is amped though and they proceed to take it home in fine fashion. Should say that Sasaki looked good, even doing a decent job selling his leg, also his judo throw is one of the best moves.
  9. This is just that heated puroresu you don't see very often anymore. This felt like Tenryu had been carrying the WAR vs NJ feud in his lumpy Grinch heart all of this time. He & Chono made their time count while allowing the (somewhat) younger members to take the brunt of the beatings. Smart veterans! Speaking of beatings, Sasaki and Nakanishi's chop & lariat battle was badass. Nakanishi doesn't get the respect that he deserves. He is a helluva clean-up hitter in these type of bouts. Also, Suzuki was his charismatically crazy self. So, you know you gotta see this for that psycho bastard in his prime. This was a great match for sure. I know I'm leaving stuff out but, you're going to want to see it for yourself!
  10. A good match, but unfortunately not much more than that. They couldn't find a fitting format the channel the violence-I don't mind that the much was based on so many strike exchanges, it's that they really didn't have an idea on what it would be. Shibata attacked Kensuke at the bell, but the match lacked the urgency of an all out hate filled shorter brawl. There were probably instances in the strike exchanges where they sold too much-or, to be more accurate, randomly sold after an x amount of moves instead of building a striking exchange and then delivering a final strike that would differentiate from the previous ones and register with the viewer as something that would knock them down. It's not like that's the only way to go-one type of strike hit for the seventh time finally knocking them down could work too, but the point is to build the repetition, or the peril of the strike, or SOMETHING, and they didn't. It's a good match to watch if you have 1~15 minutes to kill and just want to see some nice violence, Kensuke really knows how to put weight into his strikes, watching him and someone today throw a chop is like night and day, and it's not just the chops, his Lariats are amazing and he'll just clob people in the neck and the back or side of the head. I appreciate that in the strike exchanges they didn't just spam one strike all the time but would constantly change things up until something worked. Props to Shibata for kicking away manically when Kensuke got him up for the Northern Lights Bomb, most wrestlers just doing nothing when they're picked up in the mair makes that an especially resonating image, though I can't fathom why it's not used more often, such a simple way to build drama and suspense. Kensuke bumping for Shibata's mocking stomps/punts was silly. ***1/4
  11. So Momota is Rikidozan's son? He's also spent the majority of the later years of his career doing opening card comedy matches in Noah. Here he breaks away from the comedy and works a serious match and he is the main focus on this and he's mostly worked over by everyone which is crazy considering his age. We get some brief exchanges between the big boys, but aside from Akiyama briefly wrecking Super Tiger with knees and kicks, there's nothing else noteworthy. The finish is worked smartly with Kensuke's trio catching Momota in submissions so he can get a rope break and draw some sympathy on him and he can get some hope chops in before he gets chopped down and put away with a Northern Lights Bomb.
  12. 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
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