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[1993-01-04-NJPW-Fantastic Story in Tokyo Dome] Jushin Liger vs Ultimo Dragon

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High end mediocrity? I'm not sure how to describe this. The best stuff has been robbed time and time again in other matches, even if this is a really good wrestling match. I'm trying to forget about what came after it and look at the match in context since that is the whole point of the yearbook. And it does look good, but Ultimo is a little clumsy at times, and doesn't quite feel like he's become Super Worker yet. For all the talk of Tiger Mask/Dynamite Kid being such an influential series, and I guess it was in some ways, this match really feels that even more so, because so many of these ideas have been borrowed in other matches. Liger gets the win after a top rope huracanrana.

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I think this aged horribly, much worse than some other big-show juniors matches. Especially the NJ vs WAR junior tags from around this time; those hold up fine.

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Ultimo slipping and botching really kills it, even audible laughing/groaning? from the crowd on the top rope slip. Liger does his best to save it, but like Ditch said I think it ages poorly.

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Wasn't a big fan of this. They did not appear to be on the same page throughout the match, and it just felt disjointed throughout. There are a few cool moments, like Liger's insane senton to the floor, but overall nothing I would go back to watch again. Their match in the 95 J-Cup is worlds better.

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Feels ordinary after all we have seen from Junior matches that came after. I’d seen many other matches before finally getting around to seeing this one so nothing specail to me. Dragon slip was bad. Dragon hasn't put it completely together yet.

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Another special Tokyo Dome outfit for Liger--this time he's in blue. The armdrags-into-standoff opening seems pretty fresh in comparison to the '90-'92 Yearbooks but looks incredibly indieriffic now. I realize I'm falling into the trap of reviewing the match I wish had been booked rather than what was actually booked, and maybe I'm just too Americentric in my viewing of this...but I feel like an "outsider" from WAR coming in and taking the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight title could have been booked as being a bit more shocking, and the subsequent title matches worked accordingly. Tenryu is tearing shit up with everybody and really comes off as an agent of chaos, while this is worked like a run-of-the-mill juniors match. I guess Dragon didn't yet have the ring presence and smarts of a Honaga, Sano, or Kobayashi in order to work that way. So this interpromotional title war features lots of interpromotional surfboards and interpromotional drop toeholds. Dragon slips off the top at one point, but I can't say that it bothered me--he did still manage to hit Liger, after all. Dragon follows that up with a tremendous dive over the guardrail and both guys splatter against a ringside table and we finally have our first truly hot moment of the match. Dueling tombstone reversals and Dragon...oh, THAT'S the slip y'all were talking about. Yeah, that's bad. Dragon to his credit doesn't try to do it all over again and just moves on. Liger comes back and finally we get some intensity, with a power bomb on the floor and a stiff palm strike to the jaw. Ah, and we're back to sitting in holds. There really hasn't been any focus to any work at all, from either side. Moves are traded, kickouts are performed, Liger wins with a top-rope huracanrana.

 

High-end mediocrity is a good way to put it. There were some cool high-impact dives, but this feels like someone simmed a FirePro match between these two and then they based the real match off of that. There was no attempt at a focused "gameplan" from either guy, no real build to the big moves, and I didn't bite on a single near-fall. Liger's top-rope DDT should have been a "that's it" moment with Dragon's kickout being a holy-shit spot...but once Liger stayed down after hitting the move I knew he was going to slowly crawl over that would give Dragon the opening to escape, so the drama was all gone. That type of sell could have worked if I'd thought the match could have ended at any of the other near-fall points, but the drama just wasn't there--that's pretty inexcusable considering the interpromotional nature of the match and Liger's past rep. This was an off night for him and a hugely disappointing performance from Dragon, who comes off as a charismatic black hole in comparison to Liger's other opponents the past few years.

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High end mediocrity?

That really sums it up. Nothing amazing, but certainly not bad and the high spots keep it entertaining enough. But certainly sub par for both, and it bears no resemblance to anything else part of an otherwise incredibly hot and intense inter-promotional feud.

 

**3/4

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I am usually higher on Dome junior matches than others because i don't let the dead crowds get to me. As a result, I thought this was really good and being unfairly judged based on some botches. Don't get me wrong, the botches are bad but the other stuff like the super spots and everything else felt dare I say it fresh. LIger also seemed motivated to make something out of a less than game Ultimo. (***1/2)

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I enjoyed this one a fair bit. Yes Dragon slipped a couple of times, and the diving headbutt one was particularly bad, but i don't think it detracted too much, just added a sense of realism. The only botch that really took me out of it a bit was where something went wrong on the tombstone reversal. Liger, particularly has always been very good at holding things together when someone slips up so it was ok.

 

Maybe it doesn't hold up well in comparison to the junior heavyweight matches which came later, but looking at in the context of he time and place it happened, it was absolutely state off the art. The flying body press over the railing was an absolutely amazing spot too. That's one I'll remember.

 

Incidentally, regarding the slips, I'm sure I remember someone saying in an interview that the ropes New Japan used were particularly prone to picking up condensation in the bigger arenas making them slippery.

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This match is a perfect example of why I take booking and announcing (although that doesn't apply here) into account in my reviews. A lot of you said that this didn't have the fire that you'd expect in an interpromotional match, and you're absolutely right. But if Tenryu is as hot as you say he is coming in, and there's an IWGP/NWA World title match next between Muta and Chono (which there is), it makes perfect sense to me that Choshu would tell these guys to go out and work a normal juniors match. The issue between the two sides was going to be (presumably) settled later on, so it made no sense for these two to beat each other all over the arena.

 

So this match did what it was designed to do and did it well. There were a few botches, but the slippery ropes were about as good an excuse as you could have for them, and nothing was outright missed. Both Dragon and Liger took horrific bumps into the railing, and I think Liger actually split the press table in half at one point. Liger clearly outworked Dragon, but he outworks just about everyone his own size, so that didn't bother me.

 

Was this match derivative? Of course it was. Wrestling's like every other form of entertainment; original ideas are few and far between. What matters is the execution of whatever ideas are presented, and on that front, this bout was solid if not spectacular.

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Normally during a Tokyo Dome juniors match, the crowd sits on its hands and waits for the highspots.

 

Liger and Dragon knew that going in, so they subverted the audience's expectations by building a match not around highspots but around Ultimo Dragon's fuckups.

 

Just some next-level psychology right here. It really changes the way you think about wrestling.

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Oof, Dragon was practically Sabu-esque in this match.  Liger's rolling senton to the floor was crazy and the highest point in this match for me.  Not a good match IMO.

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