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  1. As far as modern New Japan workrate matches go this was worked about as smartly and well as it gets. Early on they established clear mini narratives instead of just wasting time by doing insignificant "small" holds to fill time-Naito would mocks Omega and evade his lock ups which caused Omega to go off on him and start spitting at him, Naito had a long control segment based on attacking Omega's leg, Omega worked over Naito's neck and so on. It was worked pretty back and forth but with solidly long control segments that meant something AND memorable transitions. The legwork provided Naito an easy means of effectively cutting Omega off when he'd attempt a comeback or when he was already in control-Naito attempting his Fireman's Carry/Moonsault combination only to stop because his leg work was a great use of that. Naito selling the damage of a Neckbreaker he executed on Omega may not have fed into a transition but it was a cool detail that further hooked me in. A common criticism I have of the style is that they simply get lazy and rely on lazy cliches-the workrate isn't impressive because you can tell everything that's going to happen. It's not like I loved Naito running into an Omega Clothesline but him successfully hitting running dropkicks on Omega's leg served as an explanation of why he would do that and leave himself open to a counter. A lot of the strikes they did early-mid way on looked lazy, not as good as those of C level Memphis workers. Now you can say that those strikes weren't really the focal point of the match and that's a fair point, but if you're arguing that modern New Japan is the peak of workrate wrestling an All Japan fanatic can simply point to something like those weak strikes and say "that didn't happen in All Japan". The match will mostly be remembered for all the insane violence and drama that the finishing stretch brought. Naito is a complete lunatic, and was willing to take INSANE bumps to put Omega and the match over. Omega repaid him with similar recklessness. As far as the nerfall heavy finish goes, what seperated it from the usual New Japan match for me is that they worked it how I basically want this type of match to be worked. The moves should look convincing and dangerous. You should believe the wrestlers have a reason to attempt them. The execution should be convincing. It takes a lot of effort and creativity but they nailed it here, and credit to them-they didn't insist on getting all their shit in for the sake of doing so. Once he got cut off Omega never went for the Moonsault again. For the counters themselves...they were just well worked. They were set up in a way you thought the match was going to end-Omega would hit a big knee and lift Naito on his shoulder, and as he's about to do the one Winged Angel Naito somehow turns it around into a Destino, which I doubt anyone thought was physhically possible until it was done. There was also the brilliant use of Naito's Flying Forearm-it's a move Naito uses commonly, and it often gets countered too, but here it was already countered earlier on, and once that happens and Naito went for it again you'd think it would have to hit because that's just how New Japan has programmed me to view their matches. And Naito eating a big knee while going for it again is an effective play on that cliche. It's fair to question the existence of those cliches in the first place, how they've hurt the quality of the ringwork and how it could (and for some wrestlers has) lead to just everything becoming too meta and too counter heavy to work. But props to them-it did here. ****
  2. Now this was my jam. This matchup has yet to give anything less than a great match. It was hard hitting, played off their previous matches well, and had a super hot crowd to boot. Both guys worked to their strengths with Ishii' striking and Naito's ability to piss Ishii off only adding to the match. Great, great match with it being one of the best of the tournament in the end. ****1/2
  3. G. Badger

    NJPW vs CHAOS 2010 tags

    So, this little project came about by searching for Tanaka vs Makabe matches on YouTube. How I got to that is a bit of a mystery. If I had to guess, I'd say it was out of curiosity alone. I don't think I found a singles encounter on the 'tube. However, there was a crap ton of tags available. Investigation revealed that a whole chunk of house show matches from the Fall of 2010 were recorded and uploaded by NJPW. These matches show some of the early battles between NJ main roster & CHAOS. CHAOS is or perhaps was one of the most popular stables but, it is a splinter group from Togi Makabe (Tenzan was originally leader) Great Bash Heel (Great Big Head, Grievous Bodily Harm or GBH) group. Nakamura staged a coup (he was an outsider who agitated the GBH members) and ousted Makabe (Honma sided with Makabe). So here we see an alliance of Makabe with Tanahashi and Hirooki Goto to combat Nakamura and his group of badasses. This begins about right after when Togi Makabe wins the IWGP Heavyweight title in May 2010. This series of matches reminds me of 1996 Michinoku Pro or 1990 AJPW tag matches. We have roughly the same parties for each encounter but, its exciting and interesting every time. Or at least to me I'll list full names as they first appear but, will use last names after that. Let's do the wrestling!!! Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Hirooki Goto, Yuji Nagata & Wataru Inoue vs Shinsuke Nakamura, Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii, Tetsuya Naito & Yujiro Takahashi (05/08/10): 10 man fight, alrighty then! This could be a mess but, everyone really clicks and no interactions overstay their welcome. Inoue really shines in this match. That maybe surprising since he's been off most fans radars since day one but, he brings it here. He's the Kikuchi on the NJ squad. A very excellent start where we learn that anyone can lose and anything can end it. Again, very M-Pro like or lucha like. Highly recommended Tanahashi, Makabe & Goto vs Nakamura, Tanaka & Ishii (09/04/10): Seemingly an upgrade but, a hair below the previous match in quality. It should be checked out nonetheless. Goto & Nakamura get into a mat scramble that leads to them fighting after a tag. The ref has to break them up and Shinsuke spits at Goto's feet. Very nasty stuff. Also, Takahashi and Nakamura's work together was subtle but very good. It reminded me of Misawa and Kawada in their 6 man matches. The work was organic to the point where it was understood that this was only one battle in a much larger war. So, Nakamura really excelled here but, Makabe the champ did as well. When he came in like a fucking berserker at the end, I was loving it! He sure as hell looked like the World Champ to me. 14 minutes of great wrestling. Tanahashi & Makabe vs Tanaka & Satoshi Kojima (09/10/10): Not sure if Kojima is CHAOS affiliated here. There was some good action but, Kojima & Tanaka's bland knee focused offense hurt this match. Generally, predestrian match. There are a couple other Kojima matches that I avoided because of this one. Too bad because I do like Kojima but, I feel like he may have lost "it" by this point. Nakamura, Naito & Takahashi vs Tanahashi, Makabe & Goto (09/19/10): Naito was first introduced to me as part of No Limit with Takahashi on TNA when they were fighting Motorcity Machine Guns for the IWGP Jr. belts. That was cool that TNA was having Japanese talent on TV. That's how I first saw Tanahashi too. Anyhow, Jr. team are with Shinsuke tonight to take on the NJ A-Team. Tana works the crowd up from the start. I get the feeling that this is a smaller, less hardcore crowd as they're all very pro Tanahashi. He starts of with some nice wrestling with Naito but, we soon get Goto & Naka which leads to a slow Tanahashi babyface in danger segment. Now, the ACE is pretty darn good in peril but, this felt a bit more lethargic then the previous encounters. Again, I chalk it up to the venue/event/crowd size. Goto & Nakamura get back into it and that leads to the hot stretch to a finish portion. It's a recommended match as it stokes the feud's fire but, it's a little formulaic. Hey, the 90-92 Misawa/Jumbo 6 mans went there a few times too (Not that this is on THAT level) ;P Tanaka & Ishii vs Makabe & Tomoaki Honma (11/03/10): Wished we got some stuff from October but, maybe that was the Kojima stuff I skipped. Anyhow, this is from the G1 Tag League. There are some expected long strike exchanges that hurt the flow of the match but, this was a nice battle nonetheless. The real standout was Tanaka. He nearly beats the GBH remenants on his own and goes straight psycho-killer on the Unchained Gorilla Makabe on the floor. I'd highly recommend this match to Dangan fans for sure! Ok so now we get a little Jr. participation. I want to go in depth on this series at another date but, here is a little taste as it fits into the timeline very well. Inoue, Ryusuke Taguchi & Prince Devitt vs Nakamura, Naito & Davey Richards (11/19/10): Yup, Davey was in NJ for a year or two. I totally forgot about it but, thought it was a great move for him at the time. He really should have focused more on a career in Japan. That being said, this had good reason to be a train wreck as I'm wasn't confident in Davey's ability to work with the NJ natives. Sure, he had NOAH experience but, he usually was on a gaijin team. I was expecting some bungling but, nope! This was some fast paced magic. Davey was great yelling shit in English too Taguchi though...damn. 13 minutes of action. Naito, Takahashi & Richards vs Tanahashi, Taguchi & Devitt (11/27/10): Naito taking Tanahashi to the canvas and grappling is something to always I'll enjoy. Frankly, if Tanahashi scrapped the leg focus stuff and was a matworker like Osamu Nishimura yet threw in his highspots, I'd probably be a giant fan of his. That being said, his performance in this series has made me a bit of a convert. Also my Ryusuke Taguchi appreciation continues to grow. Um, I don't have too many notes on the action as I really dug this one. Davey is in there more often than the previous encounter and it works well. He and Apollo 55 go at it. Tanahashi finally goes Super Saiyan and unloads. It really means something though as he has not needed to do so until now. There really is something to NOT doing big moves all of the time. I think the ACE is as guilty as anyone from what I've seen but, in this series (and because these are mainly house shows) he has showed the restraint and discernment of a true veteran. Great match Tanahashi, Makabe & Manabu Nakanishi vs Tanaka, Yano & Nakamura (12/02/10): Maybe it was Yano being back in the mix but, this was another really good 6 man. Nakanishi played his caveman part well and added a nice dynamic at this point in the series. Admittedly, these are running together especially, as Makabe and Tanaka aren't changing their routine up too much. But, it's all good. This feud is giving me a WAR vs NJ vibe. Sweet finish, highly recommended match. Nakamura, Tanaka, Takahashi & Naito vs Tanahashi, Makabe, Nagata & Inoue (12/04/10): This venue looks like the classic Michinoku Pro gym from the 90's. It's not but, I think I'm wanting to be. This feud/program has been just so much fun. This one starts with Tana vs Tranquilo-to-be on the mat but quickly has all 8 men fighting. Wataru taking on Nakamura- hells yes, dude! Obviously, it doesn't work out in the end and CHAOS isolate and destroy. When, Togi Makabe gets that tag, watch out! The man cleans house. He lariats the shit out of Tanaka but, payback is a bitch. Tana's still killing it and when Yuji Nagata comes in like a MF-ing veteran- holy shit! Insane stretch run and fantastic finish. Great, great match. Makabe & Honma vs Nakamura & Tanaka (12/05/10):I love the single floor camera that most of these matches feature. It is great for this type of stuff as you can hear how hard the blows are & you're ringside and even in the middle of the action. You wouldn't belive these are house shows based off how hard they are going at it. Dangan and the Gorilla do their routine but, again it fucking works. Its so intense and you never can tell if there's gonna be a twist. Their brawling outside and after the bell is just pure pro wrestling. And damn 2010 Nakamura is the optimal version to me. I like the Beat It tribute act but, there's something about the straight forward confidence of this character. Another great match. In conclusion, these small show mathces put things back into perspective. Most fans especially overseas only really get the opportunity or make the time to watch the BIG shows and BIG matches. Myself included. We compare Big Show A to Big Show B (not Paul Wight). But, damn, it's these gems in between that are where it's at to me. There's no excessive finishers or kickouts or resthold masking as psychology. There's only enough time to get your simple but, engaging story across. Its 15-20 minutes of a struggle, of "fighting." This batch of matches felt like Choshu-Tenryu style for the 21st century. Who knows if they're still doing this or if this really was just the rare product of having so much talent peaking in the ring. This has been probably my longest blog entry so, if you've made it this far. I want to mention where my next little exploration into NJ from nearly a decade ago is going. I think the start of the resurgence in interest in NJ was with the influx of gaijin Jrs. like Devitt, Omega, Shelley/Sabin, Romero & Koslov and others (Davey & Low-Ki for example). Their pairing with talent like Taguchi, Tiger Mask IV, bringing in Kota Ibushi (along with Omega), Marufuji and eventually KUSHIDA helped brings eyes back to New Japan in the early 2010's. NOAH was a shell of itself after Misawa died and AJPW had lost it's interest after Muto changed it (although early 2010 AJ is another shiny bit of seaglass on the beach that I am investigating). So, it was only natural that someone had to fill the void. I'd like to check this period out a bit more. There were certainly people in the know back then but, I think 8 years later and with giant interest in NJ, it's important to look back.
  4. Absolute madmen, that's what these two are. This was an absolutely spectacular match w/ them going all out - loved Naito's performance, he was terrific working over the neck of Ibushi & then later selling the damage Ibushi did to him with those goddamn crazy big moves & kicks. Just a total spectacle with these 2 lads destroying each other. ****1/2
  5. Well, this was a complete waste of time. If you thought Okada being locked 40 minutes in a leglock and still winning after doind his usual offense was bad, you'll hate this even more, as Naito's comebacks were even less earned and his overall performance was lazy and downright bad. If you thought that match against Okada was good, you'll also dislike this because Naito fucked every single hope spot up. It was boring, sloppy, he appears to break MiSu's nose with a slap and almost every single spot he does is too slow, too soft or misses completely. Just shit.
  6. Typical match of it's kind, but I usually always enjoy them, so I ain't complaining. This was very fun. Everybody got their time to shine & it resulted in a very good, fun match. ***1/2
  7. Just as good as their G1 meeting from last year. A complete ZSJ torture show w/ him breaking Naito down, limb by limb. When Naito was mounting a comeback in the end, getting ready to hit that Destino, I was ready to say he was getting too much offense in, but then ZSJ countered that & the match ended! Just at the perfect time. Great match. ****
  8. Talk about it here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rt3o8JDKQ9U#t=0
  9. The thing about the rope running counters are that they aren't inherently bad-they worked great in 80s/90s All Japan-but you need moves and peril behind them. Naito and Tanahashi did have them-Naito in the Running Low Dropkicks and the Flying Elbow, Tanahashi in the Slingblade. But they opted to not use them for dramatic purposes, and that and the lack of big moves and spamming nearfalls is what made me go "that's it?" when the match ended. I realise these two are never going to do it for some people since they're Keiji Mutoh fanboys and their offence is juniorish in a way some dislike, but I think they structured a very good match that combined the best elements of the matches they worked back in 2010/2011 and the matches they worked now and recently. Tanahashi's character is one who often tries to match his opponents, which is one of the biggest reasons I disliked their 2015 G1 match a lot. It's much more interesting when one is reacting to Naito's character, but one also has to actually have a character to be able to do that. That Tanahashi didn't mimick Naito at all made his taunt after he laid him out at ringside mean much more as you could hear in the pop it got. Naito's character allowed him to to keep his legwork interesting by constantly finding ways to make basic spots fresh and varied-him directing Tanahashi's leg at the referee and using that split second to quickly quick it was brilliant, and I loved the desperate rope pull he did that prevented Tanahashi from hitting the High Fly Flow. Naito's Bridging German where his leg gave out at first but he used his other leg to kick himself back up and hold Tanahashi for the count was a neat detail and something that fits into how they treat limbwork very well. Them exchanging low kicks did look weak but outside of that they handled the mirroring spots surprisingly well. Not the match I'd have expected to most differ from New Japan conventions but I'm glad it did. ***1/2
  10. A big time dramatic main event epic. I really loved it for the most part - it had some selling issues, but overall I thought it was a really damn good match. ***3/4
  11. I don't know, guys. I think they broke me. Perhaps I just understand the "grammar" of this style more now or perhaps they really just have finally refined this main event NJPW style to something that I completely enjoy because I LOVED THIS. It starts off a little slow but without much of the meandering matwork that comes from matches earlier in the year. Here, they go right for the good juicy meaty stuff. Lots of mind games from both guys as expected and lots of personality. Both guys target the neck relentlessly and there are some pretty fantastic moments that surround it. Omega not being able to complete his usual kip up and springboard was MASTERFUL (5 star moment). Omega stayed fairly consistent with his neck selling all throughout the match too and god knows it played right into the finish as well. Naito meanwhile put in what might be one hell of a babyface performance. He looked amazing taking just a BRUTAL beating from Omega. I have so much love for Omega's repeated and deliberate V Triggers all building up to that glorious callback of Naito collapsing just as Omega went in for one more (5 star moment). It was a great spot at Dominion and it's a great spot here. Then you have that ridiculous top rope DDT into the ring post and a whole series of bumps that people really shouldn't be taking (face first into the turnbuckle off the top, top rope powerbomb countered into Rana, etc.). Loved the desperation of Naito at the finishing stretch trying to hit any variation of Destino possible to get a pinfall. He probably went for one too many but that is a minuscule nitpick to this match. Is this the MOTY? It just might be. It really just might be. While Okada-Omega III had the blistering pace and the down to earth story, this seemed to perfect the more theatrical elements that something like the Dominion match aspired for. Whoa, boy, what a G1. *****
  12. This was your classic Zack Sabre Jr. torture show. He worked all over Naito w/ his submissions & slick transitions - in many ways this was similar to the match ZSJ had vs. YOSHI-HASHI on Day 5 of the tournament (I gave that match ***), the difference is that in that match, it seemed like only ZSJ brought it while YOSHI-HASHI gave a very soulless performance working from underneath as ZSJ tortured the crap out of him with those submissions. That sure wasn't the case with Naito here as he definitely matched Zack's great performance w/ his selling & great comeback flurries. Loved his selling post-match, too. ****
  13. Last stop on the Kizuna Road tour and I was most interested in here in the Okada/Anderson interaction as I know they have some big matches upcoming with the G-1. They get a decent chunk of this match with Anderson booting Okada hard in the corner, and Okada reversing his powerbomb into the inverted neckbreaker. Anderson gets off a bunch of neck breakers and does hit his big power bomb but Yujiro breaks up the pin, which makes him look pretty strong. Naito wins with Stardust on Yujiro. This was perfectly fine.
  14. Impressive performance by Juice in his first big time real main event opportunity. He looked very good & his selling of the leg was very strong throughout the whole match - I was actually afraid he would totally no sell it when Naito started to attack it right away, but he sold it really well from start to finish. ***3/4
  15. This was fantastic. Loved the Naito vs. KENTA interactions, superb stuff. Tanaka & Marufuji beat the shit out of each other too & it was great. KENTA's FIP segment was super strong, great selling from him. Hot finishing stretch. Yep, this ruled big time. ****1/2
  16. Typical New Japan main event 'epic'. The first half was completely forgettable, the work Naito did on Elgin's leg was sold pretty badly by Big Mike. The match only got interesting once they kicked into the finishing gear w/ them just throwing big bombs at each other, but even then, it wasn't very interesting. *
  17. Very interesting match. Essentially it's Matt D's write up of the Buddy Rose-Martel match I'm going to watch like three years from now. Naito has to get YOSHI-HASHI over and help legitimize him after he spent years as a jobber. There isn't much in the opening portion worth discussing-but there was a phenomenal moment during YOSHI-HASHI's early shine where it looked like Naito was going to cut him off because he positioned himself like he was going for a Hiptoss, which is a lead in to his Sliding Dropkick. Just *positioning* himself like that made YOSHI-HASHI executing a move during his run mean that much more. There was *armwork*, in terms of how much the limbwork meant, they didn't really go all in on it but it did provide at least some interesting moments and served a purpose in getting sympathetic heat on YOSHI-HASHI. The only modern New Japan-ism I dislike I remember seeing in the finishing stretch was YOSHI-HASHI's comeback Lariat, and that's because you can see it coming and Naito wasn't really *going* for anything. It's not that it even bothered me much (didn't really affect my enjoyment of the match one way or the other)-but it is worth getting that type of thing out there and thinking about predictability vs. unpredictability. I do accept the predictability of Makabe's comeback. I know what's coming next and it doesn't matter. But sometimes the same thing is an issue. Hopefully watching more of the stuff where these types of tropes are heavily featured will help me explain it better. As far as the stretch goes-it was special. It was special because instead of just doing *stuff* they truly struggled over it. And sometimes it wasn't even about the struggle-but just that Naito smacked YOSHI-HASHI in the face ten times before doing a Frankensteiner instead of just doing the move on its own put over YOSHI-HASHI as a threat. And where the armwork helped is that you could do a sequence where YOSHI-HASHI would fight out of Naito's move and then have Naito attack his shoulder, quickly cut him off and continue his control segment. Another thing that made the match special was that Naito, who usually goofs around and sticks his tongue out even in the dreaded New Japan serious moments like forearm exchanging and whatnot, sold YOSHI-HASHI's main submission closer to how he sold when he was a face than now when he is a heel. It wasn't to get heat on himself here put to put over YOSHI-HASHI's hold as a serious threat. The elbow exchange they did here was very good-no weird pauses, worked with urgency and with them slapping the taste out of each other's mouth incorporated into it. There was a botch that the match would've been better off without, but sometimes you just can't help those things, a man slips from you when you're trying to slam him, what can you do? And that's not something I'm going to hold against this type of match when they did so many things right. ***1/4
  18. A lackluster heavyweight spotfest. Yujiro Takahashi was the worst performer here, using a turnbuckle powerbomb as a throwaway move and being responsible for most of the miscommunication. Taniguchi did some cool slams but no one else seemed to care much here. Never had much use for Manabu Soya, he might be an even duller Sekimoto than the actual one. **
  19. This was quite interesting and worked completely different than their matches for the NEVER belt two years ago. Those matches were worked completely in Ishii's style while this one felt like a proper contrast. Some people have a platonic view of japan that's all about the great matches and whatnot so I love the fact that Naito's gotten so over mostly on character work and stalling. I enjoyed his Rush-like control segments early on and the presence of BUSHI and EVIL at ringside added another dynamic to it, the way they'd have one of them pull Ishii's leg to get Naito back in control for instance was very smartly done, of course New Japan's camera men missed it. I liked most of the legwork and the way Naito sold but man Ishii couldn't execute a proper leglock to save his life. The finishing stretch was more focused on brutality than dance counters as I prefer, you had Naito's brutal Dropkick, a couple of Brainbusters, a vicious DDT counter, a Gloria that was about as Vertical Drop as anything Naito's ever done etc. I loved the way Naito used Ishii's own offence against him late in the match and despite the match going so long he was never in *true* danger of losing and put Ishii away pretty convincingly in the end. ***1/4
  20. This wasn't even a particularly good match but it was a special experience. Naito actually getting entrance chants in 2016 was a sight to behold and the crowd reactions transformed what would've been an underwhelming title match into a spectacular coronation. Perfectly booked and timed but Okada will still do the worst STF and Indy knee move ever to get me out of it. Naito's post match antics were better than anything in the match itself. ***