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  1. This is a two birds with one stone post. I wanted to get a little more Zero One in this year as well as get back to early 2000s NOAH. I was going through my 2001 list and realized I had a mini project with Zero One vs NOAH in 2001. There's some better known stuff and a couple I'd never heard of. Let's jump in! Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Shinya Hashimoto & Alexander Otsuka (January 13th, 2001) : A good match that goes a long way on the Misawa vs Hashimoto interactions. Very exciting and extremely well worked despite not being memorable from an action standpoint. This is a big one but I think would've been better with someone other than Otsuka. Naomichi Marufuji vs. Naohiro Hoshikawa - ZERO1 - 03/02/2001 : Great match! This is one I wanted to see for a long time as it was highly recommended on Quebrada (which was my gateway to serious puro fandom). It didn't really disappoint either. Now I wouldn't call it a classic in 2022 but 21 years ago, I could certainly buy that rating. Marufuji is spot on here and Hoshikawa is someone who looked ready to break out in the new millennium. He's like a beefier KENTA. This is kinda the template for their NOAH classics. I'd really recommend watching this match. It just has this really neat early 2000's transitional vibe to it. Like you could see where 2000's wrestling was headed but it was grounded by 90's sensibilities. From a personal perspective, I was only 5-6 years removed from this match when I found out about it. It's taken me 15 years to see it. Ha! A weird existential/where-has-the-time-gone feeling came over me when thinking about that. Like using wrestling as a way to measure the passage of time. Kentaro Shiga & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Naohiro Hoshikawa & Tatsuhito Takaiwa - ZERO1 - 09/15/2001: This was off the hook! Fantastic junior action from bell-to-bell. The mix of styles is what I think did if for me. Zero One is power & kicks vs NOAH's speed and technique. It made for some great interactions and unexpected moments. And thy showed restraint by not emptying their tanks. They are building up the program and there's not much more you can do than this. It got over exactly as it needed too. I'm calling this a lost near classic junior tag match. It was a blast! Shinya Hashimoto & Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs Daisuke Ikeda & Takashi Sugiura - ZERO1 - 09/15/2001: Where did this come from? Holy cow this is a interesting matchup. It's clever and exciting. Its much more like a 1986-87 NJPW heavyweight strong style tag. It's been awhile since I watched this type of stuff and this was appreciated. Yeah buddy, go check this shit out. Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Shinjiro Otani & Takao Omori (October 12, 2001) Back in the green ring of Noah. This is neat as Omori is here as a cast off from the early days of Noah but there's that great AJPW history that ties him to Ogawa & Misawa. Then you've got Otani who has no love for Ogawa or Misawa whether you want to draw upon his NJ history or as one of the top stars of the fledgling Zero One. It's a simple match but a great one. I think what elevates it is that the little touches are done right. And perhaps it's because it is 2001 and we're not that far away from when wrestling (as in holds, storytelling over moves etc.) mattered. Compare this to nowadays or 2011 AJ which I was just watching, and working a few holds in between moves, escalating the action and selling rather than acting as a tough guy seems so very old fashioned. But dammit, those things work! And this isn't a text book example of those things but they're in the match and this small venue/B show main event was exciting and got me engaged. And rather than beat the scrap out of each other, go move crazy or whatever, they did a simple yet dramatic tag battle with good heel/face work, well timed counters & spots, and some believable near falls (rare as a unicorn nowadays). Tatsuhito Takaiwa vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru (10/19/01) - Very good to great Jr. Heavyweight title fight. Lots of bombs thrown and no way will you not dig this match. Nice counter moves and surprises... just a lot of fun and believable near falls. Naomichi Marufuji & KENTA vs. Naohiro Hoshikawa & Tatsuhito Takaiwa (11/30/01) - A prelude to the Marufuji/Takaiwa encounter. Its 13 minutes of really good junior tag action. KENTA hasn't quite found his identity yet and its the earliest I've seen him. The potential is visible already. The Zero-One team is a great combo and Hoshikawa impressed again. As a lead in to the match below, there's no reason not to see this. Tatsuhito Takaiwa vs Naomichi Marufuji (12/09/01): This is a classic junior match because of all of bananas shit that takes place. It definitely belongs in the list of awesome Junior matches of early NOAH and perhaps it's the first one. But not only is it shocking (in a good way) but its clever at times as well. Takaiwa attacks the leg quite viciously and Marufuji's real only offense is his side kick (super kick) and taking flying leaps of the top rope. And his only defense is trying to counter Takaiwa with a pinning combination or endure the onslaught and maybe get lucky. I will say with a bit more structure this could have been a high end classic and be scratching at an all time classic (****3/4-*****) however it's just sneaking in at ****1/2. I try to avoid stars anymore because I'm splitting hairs with fractions so yeah low-end classic but a classic nonetheless In summary, this was extremely fun to watch. There's variety in styles and match-ups. The intensity was there. The action was exciting and surprising at times. It was exactly what I wanted. Everything here is easy to find online. If nothing else, pick 2-3 matches to watch. If you haven't seen Misawa in awhile, go with those. You want guys kicking people, Hashimoto and Hoshikawa got you covered. It is hard to go wrong with anything here. Be kind and patient with people this holiday season. A little bit of kindness goes a long way. Thanks for reading!
  2. It's a big shame that due to bad timing and some other external factors (Hashimoto leaving NJPW shortly after Nishimura returned from cancer treatment) this is the only singular time these two would share a ring in a singles match. It's also a shame because Hashimoto's intensity with Nishimura's style makes this a pretty great match for what it's worth, with them immediately establishing the tone with Nishimura bumping hard for leg kicks, trying for some Inoki-crab sweeps that get no-sold as Hashimoto coldly stares him down. Nishimura's frustration at being treated like this definitely shines though as he gets beaten down, but keeps getting back up every time despite the beating being given, refusing to properly give in. He is scared shitless pretty early on however; you see that as he rolls out and then looks like a deer in the headlights when trying to get back in. Hashimoto lands some nasty big-man offence as he does a stiff elbow and then a hard back-first senton in succession, which causes gasps in the crowd. Nishimura does get some control with a frenzy of iffy forearm shots, but Hashimoto's damage to the leg means he can't keep up the momentum and gets shut down with some brilliantly sold kicks to the body. This does become more of a generic affair as Nishimura counters a backfist with a Cobra Twist before going for some bombs of his own. Hashimoto of course shuts this down with more really well sold kicks to the body. We get some great intensity with the leg work as Nishimura just starts barking stuff while pulling as much as he can while in a figure-four in a attempt to disable the best feature of his opponent. Hashimoto also gets in some fighting spirit screams as he eats some crab-sweeps to the leg before landing just a nasty, vicious chop/kick combo to send Nishimura flailing to the ground. At one point he just goes ballistic with chops, doing them even when Nishimura is on the ground and out already. He follows up with a stiff spinning wheel kick and a DDT that Nishimura almost RVD-sells for which gets the win. Really good work despite how quick this was; so much intensity is communicated with just 10 minutes of time. The stare downs, the no selling mind games between the pair, Nishimura hurling himself around; it all just works to provide a really awesome short match that got a fairly lethargic crowd to get surprisingly well behind this despite Nishimura having no real chance against the big Ace of the promotion. Damn shame we never got to see these two work longer; they would've killed it in the early 2000's with more time and Nishimura being a actual threat.
  3. Okay look, I get it. We're supposed to hate these matches because of the atrocious booking. Or because they ruined Hash's aura. I get that. By the general reaction in other threads I'm assuming a lot of people here witnessed this as it was going on and feel more upset about it. That's fine, I'm not gonna commend this as "ballsy" or something because it really is baffling booking for a feud with a guy who made you tons of money, even if MMA is on the rise and you want to seem legit. But I was seven when this happened. And I....just don't care about that aspect of these matches. I viewed Hash's rise and peak after it had long ended and I loved it all. And you know what? I loved this. The same way I loved what the first 2 Cena/Lesnar matches after he came back portrayed. To see an ace absolutely get overwhelmed and destroyed in such a surreal way is shocking, sure. But what makes these matches work is what that ace tries to do to survive it. This opens with Hashimoto again trying to mount some offense against Ogawa before getting swallowed up and having to roll outside and gameplan. This leads to Hashimoto having to make an opening creatively once again like in the '99 match and you get an absolutely awesome spinning low kick followed by Hashimoto trying to cave Ogawa's face in with stomps. It's unconventional, but it's him still finding a way to lay in a beating and Ogawa sells it well. And this is by far the most evenly worked match they had, again putting over that Hashimoto was closing the gap on not wanting to endure death by STO. We even get a section of I guess you could say legwork as Hashimoto destroys Ogawa's legs (which Ogawa sells incredibly well) and we get a submission finish tease. Every Hashimoto/Ogawa encounter to me is about what Hashimoto can do to not get engulfed late by STOs. This match more than any other one showed how much he didn't want that to happen, with the rope blocking, use of space, and struggle for Ogawa to even get a single one off. And late when it looks like he might be starting towards that we get that phenomenal DDT counter plus the armbar attempt that sends the crowd into a frenzy. Then we come to Ogawa putting Hash through the ringer with STOs and he again sells them tremendously. We can love Hash trying to fight through Choshu lariats so no reason not to love this. And I know there's always discourse about how much a crowd should matter in rating a match but the way they worked them during this entire feud is incredible. When Hashimoto finally can't rise again and gets counted out and you hear that woman just cry out from sadness at what occurred plus the looks of fans who are crushed is something else. Maybe it's something stupid, but when we remember that Hash opened a promotion after this, had excellent interpromotional feuds and matches, and even came back to NJPW a few months later anyway, it's not that bad to me. Not like any of us are on the NJPW payroll. Epic match.
  4. Thanks GOTNW. This was phenomenal and one of the best pure skill vs. pure rage matches I've ever seen. Fujinami wants to open this MUGA style, but Hash blitzes him with a DDT and follows up with a huge barrage of kicks, setting the tone for the rest of the match: Hashimoto demolishing the old man, and wily Fujinami trying to catch the beast. No one kicks a man when he's down like Hashimoto, and he lays an all time epic beating on Fujinami including one of the most gorgeous high kicks I've ever seen. Fujinami is great withstanding the beating, selling his leg and making comebacks, and the psychology is top notch: In isolation, Hashimoto's leg sweep is a cool enough spot, but integrated into the match like this as a "fuck you" to Fujinami's leg screws and Figure 4s it becomes something entirely different. It all builds to some of the best submission nearfalls (and breakups) I've seen, Fujinami teasing the Dragon Suplex, a glassy eyed Hashimoto refusing to go down, a big "Dragon" chant breaking out etc. Great match.
  5. Another night of Hashimoto & Tenryu trying to slice through eachother with chops. It never gets old!! Really you always find something new when these guys are tearing into eachother. Hirata is one of the more non descript japanese guys but he is perfectly fine here getting kicked in the face by Tenryu and getting a nice run of offense near the end until he gets caught by a flying chair cause Tenryu knows no rules. W-A-R!
  6. Nice action packed sub-ten minute match. Zangiev was great in this with his suplexes and power spots plus I loved his reaction to Hash spitting at him. I liked Hash being more subdued in a sense since the danger Zangiev presented with all his suplexes and subs meant that one too many strikes could spell doom. But when he got his opening he laid it in, as expected. I feel like a Cesaro circa 2013 versus Hashimoto would look a bit like this. EDIT: My initial review for this actually really undersells how great it is lol. Seeing moves like the head scissors that you're used to just being part of the "headlock-head scissors-staredown" sequence to open a match being put to practical use to actually break an armbar attempt and create drama is awesome. Then you've got Zangiev blocking submission attempts while he's on the mat by just standing up and carrying around Hash like he's nothing. Final transition with Hash stuffing Zangiev into the corner and then hitting the flying spin kick rules. MOTYC in a really stacked '89.
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