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Charles (Loss)

[1996-06-11-NJPW-Best of the Super Juniors] Wild Pegasus vs Black Tiger

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Had Chris Benoit never killed his wife and son, editing this yearbook would have been much tougher than it was already. This feud probably took the hardest hit of all. Benoit and Eddy had about a dozen really strong TV matches throughout the year, and almost all of them were really good. But this is the one that felt essential, the one that's the best showcase for Eddy, and also the best match. There's a nice WCW-style entrance ramp that they take advantage of for a few spots, and then we get into the wear down sleepers, which are the best part of this match, as Benoit goes right to it every time Eddy starts to string together any offense. Eventually, Eddy is incredibly sympathetic and the crowd is chanting "Tiger, Tiger". I feel comfortable calling this the best singles match Benoit ever had, and maybe in Eddy's top handful as well.

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I'm not sure how/if anything in his second WWF/E run changed his opinion, but in 2002 Eddy said this and his match with Rey were his joint two favourite/best matches... I have this ahead of that on the basis of the action/story being more level in their qualities, but they're both great, of course. I actually watched this a few days after the whole Benoit thing, maybe a week at most, the first match of his I'd watched after it; it didn't affect me then and doesn't now. A beautiful match and my Jrs. MOTD.

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I think I'm beginning to think the NJ Juniors matches not involving Liger aren't for me. This was ok but I didn't love it. The constant headlocks Benoit did for heat was a nice touch.

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The rare match where repeated chinlocks make things more interesting. I'd agree that this is Benoit's best match. I loved Eddy struggling to shake the cobwebs out of his head during his comeback. I wish the Splash Mountain wasn't so out of nowhere, though.

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This was pretty whatever and I'm not going to waste time trying to go to bat for Benoit, as enjoyable as I've found some of his stuff. I'm stunned that this was as well-received at the time as it apparently was--I guess Benoit really could do no wrong at this point, because any other wrestler would have been crucified for all the chinlock/sleeper/"rest hold" stuff by smart fans of the time. Even the live crowd seems to be shitting on it when Benoit goes back to the hold for like the 30th time. Eddie's pop-up huracanranas and doing the slingshot senton to the floor on the ramp were nice early touches and I really liked the tease of the top-rope tombstone, but I can't say that I found this particularly special otherwise.

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I thought this was great and the perfect way to build in mat wrestling to the overall junior style. It almost had a more unique feel than Liger vs. Pillman from Superbrawl which I watched right after. That match also had wrestling segments to offset the high flying but Benoit here using the chinlock was the great equalizer that glued everything together. It has been impressive seeing Eddy really rise into one of the best workers in the world in the past few months and finally show his potential that really up to this point we have only seen glimpses of. ****1/2

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This was a deecent match. The opening matwork didn't blow me away, but it was nice and tight enough and it was cool to see two workers with a "technician" reputation actually hitting the mat. I felt the chinlock work was kind of poor. They made clever use of it and Tiger did a nice job selling the dizziness later on, but ultimately it felt like a clever way to kill time to me. Tiger would get out of it and hit his explosive moves and then just get caught again. So, Tiger was explosive, but not explosive enough to evade Benoit's dreaded chinlock, and Benoit's chinlock didn't slow down the Tiger enough to stop him from hitting his explosive moves. The best spot of the match was the guardrail toss to set up Benoit's dive. That whole segment had "clever" written all over it, almost to the point where my old "wrestling match written by a computer" criticism of 90s Benoit came to my mind again, but that would be unfair. Then they move into the part where they hit all their big spots. It was all done in such a way that I felt the match deserved it's status as a classic, but I couldn't help but feel that modern workers would get grilled over some of the transitions here. The finish could have used a dramatic turn or something a little more grand but atleast they were wise enough to end it believably, with the biggest spot.

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Benoit's chinlock worn down Guerrero enough that he had a hard time stringing moves together. Anytime, Benoit was in danger he would just wrap him up in chinlock. I loved it. Is it really that clever? To me clever is winking at the audience. This is actually effective pro wrestling strategy that is not used enough.

 

Black Tiger vs Wild Pegasus - NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 6/11/96

 

Once upon a time, I had this match as the best match either man has had. At this point, I would say it is in the Top 5 for each man. Such an interesting piece of pro wrestling storytelling. There is nothing I enjoy more than breaking down kayfabe strategies. I thought this match was exemplary in showcasing contrasting styles. On the mat the tough and gritty Benoit can gain the advantage, but there are times when he loses it like Tiger's nifty trip at one point or the headscissors takeover. The real straw that breaks the camel's back is Eddie's back splashes over the top rope. Benoit takes exception to those and starts applying the chinlock. This is what this match is famous for. Black Tiger would escape the chinlock snap off one explosive move and Pegasus would promptly smother him with a chinlock. By the fourth or fifth time, the crowd was pissed and chanting for Tiger. It was really the perfect use of the chinlock to wrap up Black Tiger prevent him from hitting his high flying offense, but also set up his own moves. Notice Benoit would hit a chop and then go for something and Black Tiger would counter so back to the chinlock until that would not happen.

 

Benoit hits a MASSIVE POWERBOMB! HE THREW HIM DOWN! But he misses the diving headbutt! Tiger gets whipped into the guardrail and Pegasus comes flying out with a dive taking Guerrero over the top rope. He goes for the powerbomb again, but Tiger reverses into Brainbuster, weak transition. Black Tiger is a little foggy before he hits Frogsplash for two. Guerrero goes for the brainbuster, but Benoit drops down into sleeper! Excellent! I liked Benoit catching Eddie with the Dragon Suplex right after the break. Great struggle over the tombstone piledriver feels like the most important thing in the world. Benoit wins and sets him up top. Super Back Suplex! Great selling as always from Benoit on moves like that. He is one of the best as putting over the punishment his own body takes from his violent offense. SPLASH MOUNTAIN! Nice tease of Tombstone from top before Eddie reverses into Top Rope Frakensteiner and then SUPER BRAINBUSTER WINS THE MATCH!

 

I would say the biggest complaint I have with this match is they don't do a great job establishing why Pegasus needs to use the chinlock. A really hot shin would have made this a five star match. Because it would have added a lot of excitement and established the narrative for the rest of the match. The use of the chinlock was perfect as a means of getting Eddie over as explosive and Benoit needing to sap his energy. The weakest part of the match was Black Tiger hitting a brainbuster out of nowhere when he had been taking offense. I even thought Splash Mountain was set up better because Benoit was selling the after effects of landing on his head by his own move. I will admit that transitions to Eddie's offense could have been better. I thought it was nice three move finish Splash Mountain->Top Rope Frankensteiner->Super Brainbuster for the win. ****1/2

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The first third did a great job establishing Benoit's strength and Eddie's speed. Then comes the legendary stretch with Benoit's energy sapping sleepers where he would repeatedly grab a sleeper whenever Eddie built up any sort of momentum. Eddie's selling of the effects is just masterful and the segment brilliantly turns him from subtle heel at the beginning to a sympathetic babyface as the crowd gets behind him. The escalation in the last third is superb. The nearfalls are some of the best of all time, the top rope tombstone tease is great and Eddie powering out of Benoit's control to setup his big run of offense is a great finish.

 

Strong MOTYC in one of the most loaded years in wrestling history. Best Benoit match by a massive margin and up there with Halloween Havoc 97 vs. Rey for singles Eddie matches. **** 5/8

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All time great juniors match. This is like, a classic 90s juniors structure and every aspect of it was done as good as possible, with some extra character thrown in with the chinlocks. And man, even more than having them locked on tight, the way Benoit grabbed Eddy in those chinlocks looked like an offensive move itself. The early matwork was very tight and very good. Eddy's selling of the headlocks was awesome, and subtle at times in a good way. Really great home stretch and cool ending with Eddy pulling off two super moves to get the win.

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Maybe the best Jr. Heavyweight match in New Japan history. Some very good, very grounded work to start off things - after the first third, what would become the big story of the match kicks in; Benoit's tight Sleeperhold. He makes it look about as vicious as a Sleeperhold can look in a pro wrestling match - Eddie's hope spots get the crowd going, and the way Benoit cuts him off just at the perfect times to get heat on him is simply masterful. My favorite part of the match is when Eddie gets his first somewhat extended comeback in after the Sleeperhold festival began, and just when the crowd is going crazy for his energetic, highflying offense, Benoit cuts him off & puts on that tight ass sleeper once again to big time boos by the crowd. Absolutely brilliant. Eddie's selling of the whole thing is rock solid, too; he would look all dizzy & tired while getting his stuff in. They bring out the big bombs in the finishing stretch, and there's some really great storytelling in there, too with Benoit kicking out of all of Eddie's signature moves (Frog Splash, Black Tiger Bomb) - which meant Eddie had to bust out something real big to get the job done, and that he sure did with that Super Brainbuster. A masterpiece. ****3/4

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