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[1993-12-10-NJPW-Final Battle] Shinya Hashimoto vs Keiji Muto

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Ditch: do you host the Hash-Sasaki match from this same series? If you do, can you toss a link to it up in the backlot?

 

I'd love people to see that as well. Hash-Mutoh gave folks at the time an inkling that Hash "might be okay" during "his turn" with the IWGP Title. [Yeah, I know that sounds odd in hidnsight, but as I've written a few times, people had low expectations for Hash as a champ... he was very much less thought of by hardcores at the time compared to Mutoh, Chono and Hase.] But the thing with Hash-Mutoh is that there was still a lot of Mutoh-Love among hardcores at the time left over from 1989, so Hash-Mutoh being seen as good might have been chalked up to some as Mutoh.

 

Hash-Sasaki... that being long and at the very least "okay" surprised people, as there wasn't a lot of love for Sasaki at the time. I tend to think that's the match where, if more were paying attention, they might have grasped onto the notion that Hash kinda had a good clue on how to be IWGP Champ.

 

It's not as great as some of Hash's best matches, but it's certainly worth watching, and I'd be interested in what people think about it. Wouldn't be a bad place for people to toss their thoughts about it into here, and also people seeing it in the context of a full year's worth of 1993 Hash and right in the context/comp of the Mutoh match.

 

John

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I'm not sure how much of this aired on TV, but this feels like many NJ matches in that they wrestle the match knowing it's going to be JIP. The action and heat suddenly pick way up in the last 5-10 minutes, and the final stretch is really good. This is a good match, but I liked their match earlier in the year with Muto as Muta better, although that was from a Valis comm and probably less seen.

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The first half of this was sooo slooowwww. I respect their desire to build a match from basic holds but fuck, toss in some flurries to keep me (and the crowd) from dozing off. From the mid-match headbutt exchange on, it was good. But they certainly did better on multiple occasions.

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This was good down the stretch, but not exactly blowaway. And the first portion of the match with the guys trading holds was totally disposable. I don't think it was out of laziness per se, as they did crank the holds they worked and had a few nice stand-up exchanges, but the matwork simply wasn't compelling.

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This match was worked at half-speed, or at least it seemed that way to me. The matwork portion was way​ longer than it needed to be and didn't figure into the rest of the match at all, and the finishing stretch was wrestled like they were covered in molasses. Every move seemed to be followed by a ten-minute rest period while they figured out what to do next, and the only move that looked really devastating was Hash's finishing DDT. Like most of you, I've seen these two do better on many occasions, and hopefully if there's a rematch we'll see them at something close to full speed and energy.

 

What were they using on Muta at the end of the match? It looked like he was having the back of his neck steam-cleaned.

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I remember seeing a clipped version of this (basically all the matwork taken out) and it seemed like a really good finishing run so I wondered why it was cut that way, and now I see why.

 

Muto's matwork is just so blatantly filler that it's amazing he stuck with it as long as he did. I know in interviews he's said that was him keeping the spirit of Inoki's ideals alive or whatever but he's just not cut out for it. And "ground Hashimoto so he can't obliterate you with strikes" is a great strategy that Hase, Fujiwara, Regal, Yamazaki and others put to use in their matches with Hashimoto but the difference is they're just leagues above Muto on the mat. It just feels aimless, like he'll just grab a hold and then move on to another. Finishing run remains good but something like Hase/Hashimoto '94 is a better example of extended matwork nicely leading into a finishing stretch built around high impact moves and coming together to create a fully satisfying match.

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I didn't think the opening mat work was particularly engaging but at least it wasn't lazy as everything was locked in tightly. The final stretch with bloody mouth Hash looking to stalk Muto was really well done. I get what they were going for in trying to build up from a ground floor base to a classic but the opening matwork does prevent it from reaching the great match status. ***1/2

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IWGP Heavyweight Champion Shinya Hashimoto vs Keiji Mutoh - NJPW 12/13/93

 

Outside of two short reigns of Fujinami & Takada (143 days total), these two men owned the IWGP Heavyweight Championship from August of 1992 to August of 1997. In Mutoh's first reign under the guise of The Great Muta gimmick, he successfully defended the title against Hashimoto in 1992. About a year later in September of 1993, Hashimoto defeated The Great Muta ending his over one year long reign. This is Hashimoto's first title defense and it is against the Great Muta's alter-ego, Keiji Mutoh. I have to say hats off to Mutoh for working both characters distinctly different. It affords New Japan to get two completely different matches out of the same pairing of wrestlers. I didn't think this was quite as good as their September '92 match, but I still thought this was a pretty solid encounter.

 

I watched the 7-8 minute JIP version. It is Mutoh's holds versus Hashimoto's strikes. Mutoh rides a short arm scissors pretty good getting it twice and then a solid armbar. Mutoh even throws some headbutts and a nice forearm. He was definitely game. I thought Hashimoto's kicks looked great throughout this match. Eventually Hashimoto is able to blast his way out of Mutoh's holds and just start rifling him with kicks. There is a point where Mutoh misses his signature back handspring elbow and Hashimoto is just so geared up to light him up. Hashimoto hits some nice suplexes, really liked his suplex slam. I about to state something really obvious but Mutoh is a weird wrestler. It is in the way he sells. He kind of just doesn't sell and it makes it look like he is just standing around waiting to be kicked. That lack of struggle bothers me. It only is from time to time. Hashimoto goes for his DDT, which is one of his big moves. Mutoh drives him hard into the buckles and then hurls his body back into Hashimoto. The urgency can be there from Mutoh. Just not always. Then we get the big Mutoh finish stretch: top rope frankensteiner, German suplex, backbreaker/moonsault 1-2-NO! New Japan seemed pretty into the false finishes. Mutoh goes for the moonsault again, but lands on his feet. I liked Mutoh ducking the rainbow heel kick from Hashimoto. Evetually Hashimoto gets him up for the Brainbuster and 1-2-NO! Then DDT kickout. Is it 2018? Hashimoto gets that rainbow heel kick and then a vicious DDT to win. Thought the matwork was tight. Middle section featured some great Hashimoto strikes. Each person's finish run looked great. From an offensive standpoint, great match, but there is way more to wrestling than offense. Selling from Mutoh seemed off, lack of struggle was apparent. I think New Japan had a distinctive enough of style that they could have competed with All Japan in terms of match quality if they were just grittier. A pro-style RINGS which is what Inoki clearly wanted. Enjoyable, but nothing that will blow your mind. ***3/4

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The match worried me a bit with the really boring grappling portions of the match. It wasn’t the usual Muto lazy stuff, they were fairly snug and clearly tried to give the match a grand feeling and a big build. But it just failed to be interesting until they moved out of that. But the latter stages of the match more than made up for it with its drama and epic sequences with Muto invading Hashimoto’s dangerous kicks and strikes. The crowd once they woke up were rabid for this. It’s clear what they were going for but it only half worked. ***1/4
 

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