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Charles (Loss)

[1996-08-05-NJPW-J*Crown] Ultimo Dragon vs Shinjiro Otani

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Definite MOTYC. What makes this great and what makes it standout from other juniors matches of the year is the little stuff they do between the moves. This had the feel of two guys who had their opponents well-scouted because of the quick counters and side steps when certain moves are teased. The crowd is also super hot.

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Definite MOTYC. What makes this great and what makes it standout from other juniors matches of the year is the little stuff they do between the moves. This had the feel of two guys who had their opponents well-scouted because of the quick counters and side steps when certain moves are teased. The crowd is also super hot.

They wrestled at the 12/95 J-Cup, and this may have played a little off it. Been a while since I watched them. Do recall that the Liger-Dragon finish played off the 12/95 finish: one extra reversal for Dragon's win.

 

Liked that match a lot. One of the more fun moments of watching wrestling live. Kind of funny looking back and seeing that in the middle of the card, and the rest of the card being perfectly entertaining as well. Tenzan-Hash was a good storyline match. I also think it was the night we were sitting next to Koshinaka's wife and in-laws in the first row of balcony, and there's something about watching a family pop for their guy while he's working a match that's fun aswell.

 

John

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I have a love and hate relationship with Dragon. Growing up, I was always a big fan of the Dragon because of the costume and all the really cool spots (I always dug the hip swivel before his bridge). To this day, I love Dragon for his vast arsenal. He is a really well-rounded wrestler offensively. Needless, when Dragon is in the match you are almost always guaranteed a hot finish. This match is no different as it has a really thrilling go home segment However, his selling can be spotty and his psychology is just weird sometimes. I will get my quibbles out the way here. He does such a good job verbally selling the arm that I was annoyed when Dragon insisted on doing the skin-the-cat spot, when he could have worked it into the shine segment instead of doing a mat-based shine. Also the last transition from Ohtani's heat segment to the finish run seemed like "Ok now it is your turn to go on offense Dragon". I think being in the ring with 1996 Ohtani really helped him deliver a classic match.

 

Ohtani was just on fire throughout this match and looked like the best wrestler in the world. The shit-eating grin he has at the beginning when he escapes La Magistral cradle is pitch perfect. The way he sells frustration after not being able to put Dragon away is great. I feel like I am missing another great Ohtani moment. His offense was crisp and so varied. Both these guys just have so much to give that it was a perfect confluence of styles. The super front suplex was a great highspot that I always pop for no matter how many times I see it.

 

A great, great juniors match that I would definitely put in the top handful that I have seen.

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This is rightly viewed as one of the greatest Junior matches in history. Almost immediately they're referencing La Majistal, fantastic psychology. It's one of my favourite moves, but Ohtani let's us know that shit aint working a second time. They moved onto the matwork which was sharp and lively. There was a submission emphasis with both men looking like they were going for the win. It was far removed from the usual time killing. Then Puro dramatica down the stretch with back 'n' forth action and terrific near falls. Ohtani's character work was off the charts as the head was shaking. I was marking out so hard as he fell to another agonising defeat. Dragon certainly impressed, and provided the platform for Shinjiro to deliver a top class performance.

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I don't know if this is the better match than the Samurai bout, but this might be the greatest performance of Otani's life, and one of the better ones I've ever seen, period. Dragon has morphed into at least an inoffensive worker, but this was still a match almost completely made by Shinjiro. From his early la majistral escapes, to the timing of his kickout when Dragon actually gets him in the move, to his offense, to his awesome selling and frustration every time Dragon makes an escape. Otani is pretty easily the #1 worker in the world at this point, and he puts on a second MOTYC in what's one of the most impressive and highest-end carry-jobs in history. I don't want to sell Ultimo too short, as he hits all of his spots and I don't think a match this good can be entirely the work of one guy, but he couldn't help but be overshadowed.

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Ohtani is amazing. I can't get over how much I get invested in him and feel like he doesn't ever become whiny or annoying even though he toes the line so well. I don't get that vibe with crying Kobashi as much as others and I am extremely high on Kenta, but Ohtani's facials are even a level above. You just can't believe that he keeps being unable to get over that hump and win that one marquee match. Maybe it is my Atlanta sports fandom talking but it is such a rewarding experience seeing his growth transpire in the ring. Ultimo was solid here and remained the stoic but flashy offensive worker he needed to be in this match. This is definitely on the short list of junior matches of the 1990's. ****3/4

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In my opinion out of all the New Japan juniors matches considered great/classics, this ages the worst. Don't get me wrong, this is a great match but in my opinion it doesn't hold a candle to the match structure and storytelling of a bunch of Liger bouts, Benoit/Eddie and Ohtani/Samurai. This has that pointless matwork/submission stuff to highspots transition that bugs a lot of juniors matches. Still Ohtani's excellent performance and the sharp spot/counter-spot wrestling make this really good. ****

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Ohtani, ladies and gentleman. What a worker he was back hen. The slighest of his body movement expressed something. And the execution. Well, it's not like Dragon was much behind, as he was also a great masked wrestler, in that he conveyed so much emotion and intent with the mask. Amazing pinning attempt early on. Which never looked like two guys doing some cool flippy stuff, but guys trying to fucking win a pro-wrestling match. And yeah, this is the kind of awesome match which should remind everyone that yes, execution does matter. Ohtani is just on another planet and Dragon has never looked much better than this. MOTYC. A classic junior match that holds up even better today after years of awful X-div shit and self-conscious epics.

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I have a love and hate relationship with Dragon. Growing up, I was always a big fan of the Dragon because of the costume and all the really cool spots (I always dug the hip swivel before his bridge). To this day, I love Dragon for his vast arsenal. He is a really well-rounded wrestler offensively. Needless, when Dragon is in the match you are almost always guaranteed a hot finish. This match is no different as it has a really thrilling go home segment However, his selling can be spotty and his psychology is just weird sometimes. I will get my quibbles out the way here. He does such a good job verbally selling the arm that I was annoyed when Dragon insisted on doing the skin-the-cat spot, when he could have worked it into the shine segment instead of doing a mat-based shine. Also the last transition from Ohtani's heat segment to the finish run seemed like "Ok now it is your turn to go on offense Dragon". I think being in the ring with 1996 Ohtani really helped him deliver a classic match. Ohtani was just on fire throughout this match and looked like the best wrestler in the world. The shit-eating grin he has at the beginning when he escapes La Magistral cradle is pitch perfect. The way he sells frustration after not being able to put Dragon away is great. I feel like I am missing another great Ohtani moment. His offense was crisp and so varied. Both these guys just have so much to give that it was a perfect confluence of styles. The super front suplex was a great highspot that I always pop for no matter how many times I see it. A great, great juniors match that I would definitely put in the top handful that I have seen.

 

Ultimo Dragon vs Shinjiro Ohtani - J-Crown Semifinals

 

Shinjiro Ohtani's individual masterpiece as he drags a classic out of the man bereft of psychology, Ultimo Dragon. Ultimo Dragon is one of my all-time favorite offensive wrestlers, but the reason why so many of his matches are stuck at the sub-**** mark is due to his insistence to get his shit in at the expense of logic, escalation and the narrative. Ohtani made Dragon earn every single inch of this match, which is made this a classic. So few challenge Dragon, even the great Jushin Thunder Liger allows Dragon to hit all his spots at the expense of psychology.

 

From the outset, Ohtani is wrestling a full court press strategy. He is just suffocating Dragon with headlocks, chinlocks and always shortening the distance between him and Dragon. Dragon needs room to generate offense so this is an excellent strategy. You see Dragon forced to create takedowns. Twice he goes for La Magistral Cradle and both times he is thwarted by Ohtani. The second time, Ohtani even gives him the Dikembe Mutombo finger wag. Dragon is able to takedown Ohtani but he is having trouble holding Ohtani. Ohtani just seems to want it more. Dragon steps through on a hold and just stands on Ohtani's face. He is going to fight dirty too. I thought his leg work here complete with his hip swivel showed he was not going to be shown up by this punk. Ohtani gets an excellent knee lift when they stand up sends Dragon reeling. Ohtani is just so intense and explosive with his moves. Great dropkick and bodyslam. Basic, but in the hands of Ohtani powerful and impactful. You see Dragon is not even given a chance to think. Ohtani clamps on a chinlock and the transition into some really nasty armbreakers. Dragon's verbal selling is top notch. The way he is flailing in the hold really adds to the drama. Dragon is no slouch on the mat is able to counter into his own armbreaker. From there, Ohtani tries to avoid an attack in the corner but Dragon springboards off middle rope and nails him with dropkick. I am still not happy Dragon insists on doing his intricate outside the ring sequence which requires skinning the cat with his bad arm, but Ohtani does swat him away when he goes for the splash. Ohtani looks confident.

 

Springboard spinhweel kick gets two. His father looks on and gives the signal for one more. Ohtani goes for his Dragon Suplex, but Dragon breaks out and hits a tight Tiger Suplex for two. Ohtani cant believe. Ruh roh! Is it happening again! Ohtani MISSES the springboard dropkick! This is opening Dragon needed. Give him an inch and he will take the mile. LA MAGISTRAL CRADLE...1...2...NO! Great way to build to that cradle as a nearfall as a play off the earlier work. Dragon does not rest on his laurels. TOMBSTONE...SNAP MOONSAULT GETS TWO! Ohtani is hanging on by a thread. Dragon goes for a hurricanarana, but powerbomb. Ohtani, who is wrestling the match of his life, is AMPED to hit his springboard dropkick. NAILS IT! Hooks the Full Nelson...DRAGON SUPLEX...BRIDGE! 1...2...NO!!! Ohtnai flops over on his stomach in disbelief! You had a good run, kid. Dragon wins the top rope battle with a Super Front Suplex, which looks better in your head than in practice. RUNNING LIGER BOMB!!! Ultimo Dragon vanquishes the upstart.

 

Great Ace vs Upstart dynamic. The gulf between Dragon and Ohtani is not large at all, but this would have been the biggest win of Ohtani's career here. He wrestles like this is the biggest match of his life. He is just all over Dragon at the beginning and the way he shuts down La Magistral not once, but twice is great. The matwork was great. I loved how Dragon tried to turn into a flying contest and got bit. Nice run up by Ohtani and missing the Springboard dropkick was such a great "Oh shit not again" spot plus a great opening for Dragon and I loved that he pounced with LA MAGISTRAL! Dragon pouring it on in tight fashion only for Ohtani to have one last run, get his deadly combo and still come up short was fantastic, what a great reaction! I love that they are jockeying for position on the top rope and whoever wins this battle will win the match and Dragon is able to hit the front suplex enabling him to win with the Running Liger Bomb. I want to reward this match for being so damn tight and economical, but building such great drama and Ohtani giving one of the all-time character performances while Dragon provided his legendary status, big time offense and willingness to struggle to win. ****3/4

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This was a really excellent wrestling contest. Yeah, Ohtani is so over the top it's hard not to love him, but the main selling point for me was the really good, super simple work in the opening. Just sweet tight holds and takedowns worked with a purpose. Of course Ohtani adds something to his grinding basic armlock by being a smug prick, but the baseline is that he was also doing some really great elbow popping grinding arm work there. Ultimo was right there, laying in stiff kicks and stepping on Ohtani's face, and not an inch behind in execution. The knee to the balls was a great move aswell and the moment where Ohtani finally manages to make that damn Dragon's flashiness backfire to him is a hit too. The finishing stretch is not on the same level as the body of the match, but Ohtani never loses you with his overrunning faces and music video like enthusiastic body language. Both characters played great together here.

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For me this didn't live up to being a top-notch classic. Too much a match of two parts; very much a sort of juniors match with an extended opening/matwork section that isn't really anything special, then a quick shift of gears into lots of big moves a nearfalls (although the magistral teases in the very beginning were very good, and paid off awesomely with the magistral nearfall). But the matwork section was by no means bad, and the run of big moves and nearfalls was really outstanding. And man did the crowd come alive once the match shifted into that gear, they went nuts for everything. The front suplex counter from the top was an awesome spot, perfect to lead into the finish. The early Magistral teases were awesome and everything from Ultimo's springboard dropkick on was incredible juniors action. What happens in between is perfectly fine, good at times, but nothing special. Overall a great match for sure, but not one of the elite matches of the year.

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