Jump to content
Pro Wrestling Only
Sign in to follow this  
Loss

[1996-01-21-NJPW-New Year Special] Shinjiro Otani vs El Samurai

Recommended Posts

I'm not sure what else I could say about this match. It's still an all-time classic, still has matwork on another level and still kickstarts an awesome year for Otani. It still has that unexplained older guy at ringside who is at all Otani matches around this time. It's still really brutal and as many others have already said, represents what would have been an interesting style shift for the NJ juniors. Still has awesome moments like Otani's desperation headbutts or biting Samurai's calf because it's the only way he can break a hold. Still has Otani understanding his role at this point perfectly, getting outclassed most of the way despite probably being the more talented of the two, because he can't keep his emotions in check. I say this not to bag on Samurai, but this is the Otani show, and Otani probably could have had this match with anyone competent in the style, because this is all about his selling, his reactions and his story, while at the same time this match is clearly making a philosophical point about the wrestling style used in the division. Beautiful match. Quite the year when this isn't the unquestioned MOTY, although it's still very much in the running for New Japan match of the decade.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been hard on this match's status as a classic in the past, so I'll prefix the rest by stating it is a very good match, and if I've been overly harsh it's because my argument has been "why it's not a classic" rather than just a general feedback to the match. So, this is the best "dueling limb work" match I've ever seen. The matwork is very rugged and intense, the execution is generally strong throughout, the atmosphere is really good and it's far more believable as a "sporting contest" than pretty much any match I saw from 2010.

 

That said, I don't think there's a great deal more to it than that. I'm not particularly bothered that juniors tended to "blow off" the limb work, because I don't place a great deal of importance on it, and the matches were really always about the closing stretch for the JIP TV. You're not given someone to root for until Ohtani goes into his underdog/crying schtick near the end, the match isn't laid out as a dominant/underdog story and it's not as if Ohtani hadn't beaten Samurai in a title match before (in the Dome, no less). The action is basically even, the transitions aren't particularly hard-fought (though the headbutts before the springboard are nice), and it's not as if one guy really ever has a sustained period of dominance. The dives are also one of the weakest "we're juniors, we must dive" sequences, too...

 

The comparison I've always used has been Benoit/Eddy from June, aka the "sleepers" match. Their opening matwork is less rugged, but equally as believable/competitive, and even crisper (in fact it's probably the "crispest" match I can think of). But rather than do leg vs. arm and stick to that (which is fine, but it's not a "story" by any definition I can think of), they establish Eddy as the faster, more athletic and flashier guy. Which leads into Benoit using the sleeper to drain him of that advantage, and so whilst Eddy's always trying to fight back (juniors matches, after all, have to be more action-based than the heavyweights and they can't really work too long a one-man control like Misawa/Kawada/Kobashi would to tell the story, etc...) it's clear that Benoit's dominating the match after the 2nd or 3rd one, and Eddy is the underdog, setting up his struggle to fight back. Obviously he does (putting the dizzyness/etc. over sublimely) and so you have a clear and simple "story" there, you have clear roles; a well structured match executed brilliantly.

 

Where's that structure in Ohtani/Samurai? What's the story there beyond "who's appendage will hold up the longest?" I mean there's a lot of nice moments, and the work is strong, but there's not a great deal to the match, for me, beyond "hey they stuck with the limbs!!" And that's not really worth much exalting fifteen years later even though juniors are still doing the same "kill time... hot finish" shit. Limb-work isn't everything, at the end of the day. No one's, to my knowledge, ever criticised Misawa/Kawada 6/94 because the neck/leg angles "disappear", because people are aware it's just a smallish part of a bigger story (though Misawa attacking the leg, with the history of not having done so before, is quite telling), as limb-work should always be (12/93 is about far more than "Kawada sells the leg", after all).

 

There's an awful lot to like, if not love, about the match and in 2010, yes, we're talking a very, very strong MOTYC. In the US it'd be a MOTYC for 1996. It's very, very good. But next to Benoit/Eddy for Jrs. MOTY, next to the great AJPW matches (all bar the RWTL Final I'd put Benoit/Eddy on a level with)... I just don't see "classic".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm at a loss where a match needs an dominant/underdog, or where the lack of one is a negative. Or that's it's a requirement for having a "rooting interest" in a match. You don't think that people rooted for Ohtani simply because they liked him? Or rooted for Sammy becasue they liked him?

 

I was a Kawada fan. I rooted for him when he was a dog to Misawa, a favorite over Kobashi, a dog to Hansen, a peer to Doc and slightly ahead of Taue. I rooted for him when he was a sorta-face dog teaming with Tenryu, when the fans turned on the Footloose (moreso Fuyuki) against the Can-Ams, as a face with Misawa, as a rudo opposite Misawa.

 

In a sense that match gave a rooting interest to the respective fans of the wrestlers: it was a taught, close, hard fought match with the result in the balance.

 

In a way, that's not entirely different from the Liger-Ohtani in March. If you were a fan of Ohtani, you had reasons to root. If you were a Liger fan, you had reasons to root. They put on a good match, Ohtani fans might have worked themselves up into having some hope, while Liger fans got to pull for Liger to turn back the kid.

 

I actually like the "dives" because I consider the ones *into* the ring as being more critical than anything out of the ring. They incorporated the flying into the other work of the match rather than simply being highspots. Flying going after the arm, flying going after the leg. I'd take that over space flying tiger drop / sasuke special that I saw at the last PWG show I went to.

 

The reason this got pimped is because it was outside the standard mold of "the matches were really always about the closing stretch for the JIP TV". The body of the match became the closing stretch of the match. It did something different, and as you point out, did it extremely well.

 

Frankly it has good juniors action. Lots of high spots. Some are big moves. Some are flying. Some are submissions, done more effectively than one saw in junior title matches in that period. There really is a lot of shit going on in it, and I suspect if we did a "work rate" comp of it to a typical juniors match of the period (say Liger-Ohtani in March or the tourney semis/finals later in the year), this wouldn't take a backseat in how much they're doing a minute that's more than simply killing time. They just go about their work rate in a non-standard way for the division fashion. But they go about it very well.

 

I guess the analogy would be a network books its schedule to have a different cop show every night of the week at 10 PM.

 

Six of them are Law & Order format: Cops handle the first 30 minutes, DA's handle the last 30 minutes with courtroom drama leading to the big finish / verdict. Episodes self contained, just one case, wrapped up at the end of 60.

 

One of them is say Homicide-style. The DA element is a small side tangent. It's very much cop focused. There are multiple cases in an episode. Some of the storylines playout over several episodes, perhaps even most of the season. Others being handled are dealt with in just the hour. The highspots in the show are often quite non-standard, though we still have some of the standard cop-show ones: the murder scene, the grilling of the suspects, the joking banter of the cops to get through a depressing job, the scene(s) with the Lt/Cap where they're being kicked in the rear to go out and solve the case or given the fatherly advice to pick them up.

 

Let's remove the element that the real Homicide, at least early in the series, was vastly better than the Law & Order shows at their best. Let's make the analogy that all six shows are professionally done, well written/acted/directed/produced for what they are. These are seven good cop series. But six are good in a similar formula/format. The other doesn't just pushes the edge of the format of the others, but breaks outside it to show that there are different ways to do cop shows. Granted, we had other ones like it before (let's say the Hill Street Blues to this analogy). But at the time of these seven series, this network had a successful formula that was working, and used it as a template. The Homicide series was breaking outside that formula.

 

I think we'd all agree that the Homicide series would stand out a bit. And that it would be odd to knock it because it didn't follow the successful Law & Order format, and instead did it's own successful format.

 

In the context of 1996 juniors, Sammy-Ohtani kind of stands out.

 

One of the reasons it got pushed hard in some corners (read that as *me*) is that it wasn't pushed hard in 1996.

 

It was in a small setting, with the secondary title, and with one of the wrestlers in it about four years past the point where newsletter writers/readers truly cared about him (Sammy's peak for them coming and going with one match back in 1992). Take this exact same worked match, move it to 3/17/96 in an IWGP match with Liger defending against Ohtani rather than Sammy-Ohtani, get the exact same heat reaction from the crowd, show the whole thing on tv rather than JIP... And it would have gotten ****3/4 or possibly even ***** from Dave, and been high in the year end awards. Instead it was Korakuen Hall (which was actually the pefect setting for it), Sammy rather than Liger, and didn't get as much run as a lot of the junior matches of 1996.

 

I pushed it for several the years after that online, though I never sensed it went anywhere. When the DVDVR 90s poll came around in 2000/2001, it was at a time when Junior Luv was in total dominance: 10 of the Top 11 matches. Even my ballot which intentionally tried to put in heavyweight matches that I thought folks should see as a contrast to pure junior-centricness... it had 11 junior matches on it. But I put this #1, rambled strongly about it, and that seemed to be the start of more people actually watching it and thinking about it.

 

My ballot, as pointed out in the preface, I said "I felt like being a bit quirky here." Would I put it #1 if I went through another big NJPW project again?

 

I don't know. It's possible that at the end of another such project that again something that "a bit different" would stick with me while some of the typical stuff from the promotion would bore me over time. Or maybe it would be flat on a rewatch, though it wasn't the last time I looked at it several years back. Who knows.

 

But I do think the premise of pushing it remains valid. This was a different-from-the-norm juniors match. It did show a type of juniors match that could have been effective in New Japan. One can argue whether it could or should have become the dominant path they went down, but it certainly was a type that could have been done more regularly, and lots of the elements could have been more regularly incorporated.

 

Would it have improved the division?

 

I think so.

 

John

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I'm not the biggest NJ Juniors fan looking back on them, and so there's every chance that because there wasn't really any "dead time" here that if I were to go through all the matches I'd still have this around Top 5 - Top 10 or thereabouts. It's a better match than any Jr. Title match I've seen recently, and I can see the appeal of a very well-worked match that's different from the junior norm of the time of 'kill time/hot finish'. But there's a difference between a very good, well-worked 'niche' kind of match, and an 'all-time classic', certainly as you look back years later.

 

My argument is that there's not a whole lot to the match, story-wise etc... beyond Ohtani attacks the leg/Samurai the arm. That'll suffice for interest to big Ohtani and Samurai fans, of course. But wrestling's never been about "just work a match and your fans will be into it". You lay-out roles, have a bit of a narrative, build to something, whatever... this is just leg vs. arm. Nothing changes, nothing really develops. What's the goal of the match? What's there to pull in casual/non-fans? Ohtani acts like the underdog down the stretch, but where's the stuff earlier in the match that puts that over? It's 50-50 and his transitions are generally one-move, keep up the pace sort of things... I'm not saying Ohtani needs to be an underdog, but there needs to be something more. You can exchange arm and leg for a respective move each, plenty of matches have been built around one/two moves for one/both of the guys. But the great ones have more to them than a 50/50 back-and-forth pacing/structure/etc... like I said I think it's a very good match, but next to something like Eddy/Benoit that has work just as good, if not even better, plus more story/narrative/character/drama... It's a nice deviation from the juniors formula, and absolutely is something people should watch/be watching years later, but I just don't see 'classic'.

 

Incidentally the dive sequence I meant is the first one. I think Samurai hits a dropkick or something, Ohtani rolls out, Samurai casually pescados. Straight back inside, switch, Ohtani knocks him out and does his own dive. Return to the ring back to limb stuff. The springboard dropkicks to the legs/arms are nice moments and variations on their offence, but that initial dive exchange just felt "we need to get a dive each out the way" and not terribly in synch with the rest.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd say part of it depends on just how many "all-time classics" one thinks there are. Is it more like 20, or more like 100? I wouldn't put this in the 20 best wrestling matches of all time, but it's an easy top 100. Considering the absolutely massive amount of pro wrestling that has happened in history, top 100 is still going to mean something.

 

MJH, I see where you're coming from in that there isn't a particular storyline/feud/"issue" at stake in it. But I'm with JDW in thinking that it stands out as unique relative to other juniors wrestling, and I'd say as a pure technical showcase it's memorable for the history of pro wrestling based on the way it mixes submissions with junior spots. Not sure I'd have it #1 for the decade from NJ, but it would be up there. And if one rates the style just a little bit higher, and rates the match at #1 in the style (which isn't a big jump from "top 5-top 10"), then "all-time classic" would tend to make sense.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My argument is that there's not a whole lot to the match, story-wise etc... beyond Ohtani attacks the leg/Samurai the arm. That'll suffice for interest to big Ohtani and Samurai fans, of course. But wrestling's never been about "just work a match and your fans will be into it". You lay-out roles, have a bit of a narrative, build to something, whatever... this is just leg vs. arm. Nothing changes, nothing really develops. What's the goal of the match?

It's a basic narrative: there's a title involved, and the two are trying to win the match. One is champ, the other is challenger. They're closely matched, and busting their ass to win it.

 

 

What's there to pull in casual/non-fans?

It's Korakuen Hall. Not many non-fans there. :)

 

New Japan wasn't on Prime Time anymore, and this wan't a Big Show like one at the Egg Dome that would have a tv special, or spike a rating where casual fans might tune in. New Japan fans would be watching. They worked a match aimed at New Japan fans, which is pretty obvious since going submission intensive played off recent New Japan stuff: NJ vs UWFi.

 

Ohtani acts like the underdog down the stretch, but where's the stuff earlier in the match that puts that over?

Again, who needs an underdog in every match? Was there an underdog in the 5/94 Misawa & Kobashi vs Kawada & Taue match? Kawada & Taue worked over Kobashi's knee, just as the juniors had body parts destroyed. But it didn't really make Kobashi an "underdog". He's already pinned the other two in a tag setting. Clearly the other two had pinned Kobashi a lot over the years. They hadn't beaten Misawa yet, but they'd already beaten the Misawa & Kobashi team, just as Misawa & Kobashi just beat Kawada & Taue in the last match up. 1-1 at that point.

 

So Kawada & Taue were "rudos", and they were the challengers wanting their belts back. Misawa & Kobashi were the faces, the champs, and Misawa was the promotions ace.

 

In the junior match, one guy was a young rising star, the other the vet. One was the champ, the other the challenger. Do we really need Sammy to bust out the barbed wire baseball bat to be the heel? Or go Chono on him? You can't simply wrestle a hard fought title match that gets the fans in the building rather heated?

 

 

But the great ones have more to them than a 50/50 back-and-forth pacing/structure/etc... like I said I think it's a very good match, but next to something like Eddy/Benoit that has work just as good, if not even better, plus more story/narrative/character/drama... It's a nice deviation from the juniors formula, and absolutely is something people should watch/be watching years later, but I just don't see 'classic'.

I don't think Tiger-Pegasus has anymore story. Just a slightly different one, and again a pretty basic one. Lord knows I liked the match. I'm the one who coined what everyone has called it since 1996: The Headlock Match. And I've pimped it hard over the years, even during stretches when people were creaming their pants over goofy stuff like Sammy-Kanemoto. I pretty much have pushed both matches when people have discussions of juniors matches folks should see, because it doesn't take much effort to add the old Usual Suspects.

 

Perhaps the irony is that Sammy-Ohtani and Tiger-Pegasus have become Usual Suspects in the past decade because the pushing led to people watching them, then pushing them, then more people pushing them.

 

Which is a good thing. A decade ago I was a canary in the coal mine on both.

 

 

Incidentally the dive sequence I meant is the first one. I think Samurai hits a dropkick or something, Ohtani rolls out, Samurai casually pescados. Straight back inside, switch, Ohtani knocks him out and does his own dive. Return to the ring back to limb stuff. The springboard dropkicks to the legs/arms are nice moments and variations on their offence, but that initial dive exchange just felt "we need to get a dive each out the way" and not terribly in synch with the rest.

It's standard junior stuff. As I said, it's still a juniors match per the Cop Show analogy. It still has big moves that are common to juniors matches.

 

Tiger-Pegasus has its moments of "we need to do juniors shit despite the story we're working".

 

Vader-Inoki had to give Inoki spots to make him look good despite the fact that Vader is kicking the shit out of him: he's freaking Inoki and the one people are coming out to see. It's part of the spectacle that their old hero can get some licks on the monster. Should Inoki logically be able to do it? No. But if we're a bit honest, I'm not sure Kobashi logically should be pulling out the moonsault after Kawada & Taue killed his knee dead.

 

Most wrestling has things that don't perfectly make sense. We all accept a degree of it. Some accept more, some accept less. If you have a problem with those dives, frankly there isn't a juniors match that you'd like. It's a minor item. You'll find the same, or usually worse, it every top juniors match... and if we think about top heavy matches, the same. It's not exactly a skull fuckingly nonsensical thing. :)

 

John

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think this was the first time I have seen this match in a complete form. I don't have much to add, though I wanted to say that this was maybe the best and most intelligent finish I have ever seen in a juniors match.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My argument is that there's not a whole lot to the match, story-wise etc... beyond Ohtani attacks the leg/Samurai the arm. That'll suffice for interest to big Ohtani and Samurai fans, of course. But wrestling's never been about "just work a match and your fans will be into it". You lay-out roles, have a bit of a narrative, build to something, whatever... this is just leg vs. arm. Nothing changes, nothing really develops. What's the goal of the match? What's there to pull in casual/non-fans?

I understand what you're saying in relation to it not being a classic, but wrestling is pretty much always about just working a match. Ohtani and Samurai's goal was to have as exciting a match as possible, and I think they achieved that. It's not the most perfectly executed match, but the live audience don't care about how the stretch run relates to the opening matwork; they're just popping for the nearfalls like all Japanese crowds do. The match doesn't have a great narrative like some Japanese wrestling matches, but it hardly has any booking behind it either. It's difficult to achieve what you're asking them to do without any sort of storyline heading into the match. What's there to pay off?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ohtani's father is awesome.

This cannon be said enough. So great to see his reaction when Ohtani & Takaiwa won the junior tag titles, and he definitely helps make those big matches just a little bigger. It helps that he's got great facial expression (which is probably where Shinjiro got it from)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The variety on this set so far has been astounding. Now we have what arguably should be a high-flyers juniors match, and yet the bulk if it is submission matwork. What high flying they do use is always put to great effect, such as Ohtani throwing a missile dripkick and then going for a submission on the joint he kicked.

 

I haven't read all the text above me yet, but this is clearly a match that evokes strong opinion. Having never seen it before now, I can safely say I loved it. Ohtani's underdog sucked me in completely, and I wanted him to win do badly. When he freaked out after not getting the three with his suplex, I felt for him.

 

I am a sucker for battlarts-esque submission mat wrestling, and we get that here in spades. Samurai will even go for an armbar instead if a pin after hitting a devastating top rope move. It all makes me smile and is easily my favorite match so far on the set.

 

And now to read everyone else's thoughts. But first, two comments more:

 

1. Something about Liger hanging out in mask and track suit feels so wrong and yet so right.

2. Who's the older frowning man in the gray sportcoat?

 

EDIT: Okay, now I realize this is a "big match" in njpw history. But it was new to me, and I had a great time with it. I had no trouble buying the Ohtani is the one trying desperately to get over, as he always seems to get the worst of it.

 

One other thought: Did I miss O getting his nose cleaned up, or is there a clip somewhere in the match?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This was my first viewing and this was amazing. I like the "I'm going to make your limb snap before you make mine" vibe they had. When Otani first attempted the dragon suplex, and he reverses the reversal it crossed my mind that he tried the move simply to get Samurai's leg. I discovered later in the match that the dragon suplex is a big move for Otani, but that maybe thinking too much into things. You guys have said everything that can be said about this match. It is one I will certainly rewatch after finishing the set. Very good gem, that I don't remember hearing many talk about.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm a huge mark for limb work, so I found a lot to like in this match. The biggest problem was the complete lack of limb selling when both guys were on offense. I don't think it's asking too much to want Samurai to show a little bit of difficulty climbing up the turnbuckle or Ohtani to have a little bit of difficulty pulling himself up to do springboard dropkicks. The match did end in a submission, so it wasn't completely blown off. But in a way, that makes it worse. If Ohtani's arm was injured enough for him to tap out to an armbar, how was he able to hang on the ropes by that same arm less than ten seconds beforehand? It's much better than most juniors matches, but put me in the "not quite a classic" camp. Ohtani's dad ruled, though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I first got into watching anything from Japan, Ohtani was an instant favorite. The first comp I bought was an Ohtani comp. Even though I'm a guy who prefers a more brawling style, Ohtani's theatrics work for me, and they certainly do here. I've always imagined the old guy in the crowd to be Ohtani's junior high gym coach who told him he would never be big enough to be an athlete and now comes to his matches to watch him fail.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've missed Otani. Great match. I loved that we get mat work in a NJPW junior's match that actually matters later on. I do agree though with Nintendo Logic after some of this mat work were they seemed to ignore what had happened Samurai should not have been jumping up so easily to top rope after having his leg worked on so much. The reversals on the mat were great though. Otani's dropkicks are so great as he hits them out of every angle. Total heatseeking type move.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The construction was very focused and cerebral. Ohtani's arm and Samuel's leg were the limbs of choice. I dug how they kept going back to their target whilst seamlessly integrating aerial and high impact moves. It's rewarding to see body part work leading directly to the finish as well. Whilst the submission work was enjoyable it was Ohtani's amazing acting in the final couple of minutes that lit things up. A top class performance, showing such passion and charisma. Sam did a fine job of backing him up in the supporting role. It would be unfair to call it a one man show but it was mainly about Shinjiro.

 

I wouldn't peg this as a great match, it's a level below that. The finish was certainly great, but it wasn't at that level for long enough. You need an elongated stretch so you can reach that high end level and then maintain it. Once they'd touched that peak here it was soon over. Not that I'd necessarily change how they did this as it stands out for being different. Another factor is that the best matches need two outstanding performances generally.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This has been one of my favorite threads to read of all in the match discussion archives.

 

Few matches in Japan that are considered classics nowadays are new discoveries to me. For some reason or another, I never got around to this one. That is a shame as I think it is comfortably the best New Japan match of the 1990's. The junior stuff we have seen in subsequent years plays off of this with certain narratives like Otani not keeping his emotions in check or resulting back to moves that work once too often but this really played them off in spades. I love focused body work and this had it in spades initially with Otani going after the leg of Samurai and Samurai responding by cranking out the arm of Otani. I thought the selling of both was tremendous as it persisted throughout the match and they both were favoring the respected hurt limbs. That is key considering the backbone of the match is around that arm and leg work. The finish was great as Samurai plays a stoic warrior in a manner that would make Misawa proud which greatly contrasts the emotions running through Otani's face. He knew this was his match and yet he let his emotions get the best of him and it slipped through his finger tips too. I think the best moment is actually after the match with one camera angle. Otani is walking to the back to extremely polite applause of the crowd. They knew they had seen a classic and responded accordingly. In the upper left hand corner, one person isn't clapping. Otani's dad has a look of disappointment that will melt. Its beautiful storytelling. Other ancillary factors like the surrounding UWFi vs. New Japan mat stuff only emphasize the depth of this match. A masterpiece on all accounts. (*****)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not that there isn't some High End Offense here, but the mat and limbwork is so intense and focused that despite this being primarily a mat-based match for the bulk of things, both guys still look and sell like they've gone through a war. This is the most intense and vicious pro-style matwork since Bockwinkel vs. Robinson in 1980. Outside of Otani's dragon suplex this doesn't build to a bunch of near-falls, but the selling and psychology is so strong that it doesn't need it. This is an easy Match of the Month for January and should be a strong candidate as a top-ten MOTY.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

UWA Junior Light Heavyweight Champion El Samurai vs Shinjiro Ohtani - NJPW 1/21/96

 

Nasty little fucking match. There's a segment where Sammy is clawing at Ohtani's bloody nose to avoid a legbar and then minutes later Ohtani is biting Sammy's leg to avoid a cross-armbreaker. Nasty little fucking match. Mr. Ohtani is straight cash money in this. He would be the biggest meme in the wrestling world if he existed today. This disapproving look he gives when his son squanders his advantage and his arm dangling off the apron is so amazing. At the end of the match, just looks away at yet another loss for Shinjiro when he really had the match at multiple points.

 

The hook of the match is the incredible dueling limb psychology and the fierceness of the grappling.

 

The matwork in this is so intense and so detailed. Samurai crossfacing Ohtani to try to release a toehold, but when Ohtani starts to grind his elbow into the knee Sammy actually grabs his arm and tries to apply a cobra clutch to stop it. It really was magnificent. Ohtani was using his joints to create lots of pain in the ankle and knee of Samurai. When Samurai tries to counter, Ohtani gets really revved up. You can feel how bad he wants this. Samurai gets some hope spots here and there, but this Ohtani's match to lose. Samurai tries to go after the arm, but Ohtani is able to return back to leg. However, in the process of trying to submit Samurai is able to gain wrist control and yank Ohtani down hard into a double wristlock (kimura). He tries to convert this into a cross armbreaker, Ohtani flays so hard onto his stomach he gives himself a bloody nose. Nasty little fucking match. Samurai is relentless on the arm while it is dangling on the apron. Cue the first image of Mr. Ohtani shaking his head, "What are we going to do with you, Shinjiro".

 

Samurai creates some opportunities for himself to fly. I agree that the number one complaint of this match that the selling while on offense does lead something to be desired. Ohtani is able to avoid Samurai and hit a dropkick to outside. Samurai thinks he avoids the slingshot, but Ohtani hits a great dropkick from the apron that sends Samurai swinging on the steel gate. Nasty little fucking match.

 

Ohtani uses more typical pro wrestling attack on the knee (seat drop, driving knee into the mat). He applies a kneebar. Loved the struggle over Samurai hitting a piledriver and then immediately going for the cross armbreaker. He has a game plan and everything is working towards that goal. The struggle over every hold makes this match the classic that it is. I love rolling double wristlock takedowns and Samurai has a beauty in this one. Ohtani's comeback begins by grabbing Samurai's head and hitting repeated heabutts! Nasty little fucking match. There are some issues I have with transitions mostly from Samurai like hitting the powerbomb out of nowhere. I did love again the diving headbutt right into the cross armbreaker. Everything is about the coross armbreaker so I loved it.

 

I have watched this match before like five years ago and loved it. I remember the dueling limb psychology, but there was only spot that really stuck with me. Ohtani's German and Samurai's immediate counter from the bridge into a double wristlock in one fluid match. MARK OUT CITY! The tension on the that submission was unreal. I loved Ohtani's big succession of three springboard dropkicks to the knee. Before AJ Styles, there was Shinjiro Ohtani. Ohtani goes for legbar, but it is back to the ropes. Ohtani cant believer, he is selling his arm a little. He is trying to fire himself up. Tries to hoist him up in Dragon Suplex, but when Sammy reverses he rolls through into a legbar. Nice! I love the facewashes on the apron. Nasty little fucking match.

 

Now it is Samurai with the nasty headbutts. He totally WIPES OHTANI OUT with a springboard dropkick to the back. Ohtani's father disapproves greatly. The camera misses how Ohtani takes out Samurai's knee. Springboard dropkick to the back of the head! He doesn't cover! Is this a mistake? DRAGON SUPLEX! 1-2-NO!!!! OHTANI IS INCREDULOUS! Total exasperation. He lifts Samurai up on the top rope. Never give your opponent the high ground! Headbutts and a tornado DDT follow. Big mistake!

 

Sammy finally gets that armbreaker and then as Ohtani is reaching for the arm to picks himself up Sammy comes crashing down on the arm with a kneedrop!!! MARK OUT CITY!!! CROSS ARMBREAKER TAP OUT! Ohtani's Dad, "Whose child is that?"

 

Perhaps the greatest finish of all time! I loved that! From a layout, commitment to strategy, escalation, offensive psychology, and struggle perspectives, the match is absolutely perfect. I just cant give it the full monty too many selling issues on offense and the transitions should have been tighter. The struggle was just off the charts. Everything was contested and earned. Samurai's commitment to applying double wristlocks and cross armbreakers out of any situation was great. Ohtani's urgency down the stretch was awesome, you cant help but get invested in who is going to win. Both were great mixing in their bombs with their submission attempts. The finish stretch with Ohtani's combo of Sprinboard dropkick/dragon suplex failing. Only to have Ohtani reach out for the ropes for salvation to have Samurai crash down with all his weight on the exposed bad arm and in a flash Ohtani is tapping out to a cross armbreaker. Nasty little fucking match. ****3/4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think this edges ahead of Bockwinkel vs. Martel 9/1984 as the best dueling body part work match ever. While, that match had considerably stronger limb selling (atleast when both guys are on offense) but this is a tighter match and has a far superior finish. In fact, that has a goofy dusty finish while this has one of the greatest finishes to a wrestling match. I can understand some of the limb selling criticisms (for example Ohtani could have sold the arm more while doing the springboard stuff) but both (especially Samurai) guys were consistent and did a more than solid job in that department.

 

The other reviews have done a great job talking about the drama, grittiness, struggle and strategy based smarts of the match. A juniors classic for the ages. **** 1/2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Incredible match. Many juniors matches -- many matches period, really -- open up with matwork and then shift into another distinct phase of the match; but here the matwork and hold trading was just as offensively significant as anything else, and it was all integrated seamlessly. And it's not genteel sportsmanship type matwork either, there's tons of aggression and nastiness. In between holds there's aggressive stomping, grinding the boot into the opponent, hair pulling, etc. Otani's demeanor is especially nasty. That's one of my favorite things about Otani, he's just about the most "normal guy" looking wrestler ever but he's so expressive in the ring. His performance was really magnetic in this match. The dueling limb work gets over tremendously and submission attempts get reactions from the crowd as big as any near fall.

 

Otani's springboard dropkick rule in this match, two awesome ones to the leg and then the big one toward the end followed by the dragon suplex for as close a near fall as you can get. The ending is tremendous, each move executed and sold so perfectly. Otani's selling of the final arm breaker was something else. Definitely an all-time classic. 1996 has some pretty high end matches, interested to see where this ends up on my final MOTY list.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×