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[1992-04-30-NJPW-Explosion Tour: Top of the Super Juniors] Jushin Liger vs El Samurai

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This is one of my favorite matches of all time.

 

Liger finds himself. Samurai is a total asshole, spitting in his face before the bell, slapping him, taking him to the mat to rip up his mask, beating him up with a beer bottle and tombstoning him on the arena floor, and this is all in the first minute.

 

After a few more minutes of taunting and general assholery, Liger has to get nasty himself and drops some vicious punches on Samurai and finally suplexes him out of the ring. He removes the padding around the ring and powerbombs him on the floor! And just to make his point, he decides that if Samurai is going to rip masks, so is he. There's this amazing visual where Liger looks at the audience with his mask ripped as if Samurai is the one who has sealed his fate. He locks in a scary looking hammerlock and Samurai screams out in pain. Samurai reaches the ropes, so Liger drags him back to the middle and this time does the Fujiwara armbar. It's like he's just toying with him, but he's also making a point.

 

Samurai is still too good to toy with though. He comes back, with his mask draped entirely around his neck, and wrestles the rest of the match with no mask at all. He nails Liger with a neckbreaker and a scorpion deathdrop, then locks in a scary submission of his own. When Liger finds a way out, he locks in a sleeper with a bodyscissors. When he tries a superplex, Liger fights him and then they enter a stretch where they both seem to be thinking 2-3 moves ahead, and they seem to have counters to everything. Eventually Liger wins out and puts him away with a top rope huracanrana.

 

This is a bit of an outlier for juniors matches, and that's by design. This match couldn't be the formula match, as they'd never live up to it. It's a unique match and moment, one where Liger went from being an exciting guy who fans liked to The Man.

 

Best match in the history of New Japan Pro Wrestling, Liger's career, Samurai's career or the junior division.

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This is one of my favorite matches of all time.

 

Liger finds himself. Samurai is a total asshole, spitting in his face before the bell, slapping him, taking him to the mat to rip up his mask, beating him up with a beer bottle and tombstoning him on the arena floor, and this is all in the first minute.

 

After a few more minutes of taunting and general assholery, Liger has to get nasty himself and drops some vicious punches on Samurai and finally suplexes him out of the ring. He removes the padding around the ring and powerbombs him on the floor! And just to make his point, he decides that if Samurai is going to rip masks, so is he. There's this amazing visual where Liger looks at the audience with his mask ripped as if Samurai is the one who has sealed his fate. He locks in a scary looking hammerlock and Samurai screams out in pain. Samurai reaches the ropes, so Liger drags him back to the middle and this time does the Fujiwara armbar. It's like he's just toying with him, but he's also making a point.

 

Samurai is still too good to toy with though. He comes back, with his mask draped entirely around his neck, and wrestles the rest of the match with no mask at all. He nails Liger with a neckbreaker and a scorpion deathdrop, then locks in a scary submission of his own. When Liger finds a way out, he locks in a sleeper with a bodyscissors. When he tries a superplex, Liger fights him and then they enter a stretch where they both seem to be thinking 2-3 moves ahead, and they seem to have counters to everything. Eventually Liger wins out and puts him away with a top rope huracanrana.

 

This is a bit of an outlier for juniors matches, and that's by design. This match couldn't be the formula match, as they'd never live up to it. It's a unique match and moment, one where Liger went from being an exciting guy who fans liked to The Man.

 

Best match in the history of New Japan Pro Wrestling, Liger's career, Samurai's career or the junior division.

 

I watched this match a little over a year ago in a Meltzer 5 star comp somebody put together and my take was completely different. I'm really surprised as our opinions usually match closely, but on this match we were worlds apart. My review:

 

Jushin Liger vs. El Samurai (New Japan 4/30/92)

 

"Wow. This is the epitome of "does not age well." I'm sure if I were to have seen this in 1992 I would have been hailing it as the greatest match I had ever seen, but watching it some eighteen years later has ensured this match will never be considered for that title. While it wasn't a *bad match*, it wasn't all that great and definitely not a ***** match as the WON rated it.

 

The start of this match is rather familiar as Samurai plays rudo and takes Liger out to the floor and gives him a tombstone piledriver and brings out a bottle from underneath the ring to use as a weapon. (see Tiger Mask v. Dynamite Kid 4/83). Samurai continues to control early and even begins ripping away at his mask, which is usually a shortcut into my heart when judging a match, but then it kinda dies. Liger gets pissed and completely rips Samurai's mask off his head and then continues to hit him with every big highspot that was around in 1992. The problem I had is that Liger would hit a move, wait, then hit another big move. Overall, it just felt disjointed and had me tuning out as it progressed."

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Liger was The Man back in '90, and by '91 he was used to 'make' guys (ie. Honaga, Nogami). This match certainly put Samurai in the spotlight but it didn't mean much long-term for Liger. It's good and all but not *that* good. I recall them having a fair amount of downtime. A match of significance, but New Japan bested it many many times.

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And it is "that good".

 

Here's the thing. If you look at matches Liger had during this time, or just matches that were taking place in the division with anyone for that matter, you weren't seeing anything like this really at all. The closest thing is Liger's feud with Sano in 1990, but it wasn't often that they got personal like this.

 

Liger had faced some tough opponents before that had pushed him pretty far, but this match is totally made by the disrespect. Liger is a great wrestler, but Liger is usually a sportsman. Even when some punk wrestler would get cocky and try things with him, he kept his cool and kinda laughed it off, usually because the guy wasn't a huge threat. Samurai was the closest thing he had to a peer at this point. He had beaten him two weeks before this and would eventually do it again. He took the match to a pretty violent place and Liger responded in kind. I always saw this as the match that shows that you don't fuck with Liger. In addition to being a great athlete and wrestler, he's also super tough and if you provoke him, he does have a temper.

 

Was that known before this match? Had Liger ever lost his temper like this? As I said, maybe in the Sano feud, but that was two years before this, and I always saw this match as the Sano match on steroids. (Figuratively ...)

 

I don't know what down time is being referred to, and I don't understand the criticisms that this is disjointed. There is a consistent narrative, and all the stuff they're doing plays into that.

 

Samurai ambushes Liger early --> Liger loses his cool and comes back --> Samurai shows it's not going to be that easy to fend him off --> Final back and forth stretch with each guy getting desperate --> Liger gets the win.

 

I'd also add that with the mask ripping and Samurai's general rudo tendencies, this has some lucha undercurrents. Trav also mentioned the bottle being used being reminiscent of Tiger Mask/Dynamite Kid.

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It depends on who was saying it? If it was Meltzer, maybe I'm wrong.

 

I'll add more thoughts whenever I get around to watching this again.

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I could have sworn it was jdw, but when I looked back through the pimping posts, he said no such thing. But I swear I have read that somewhere.

 

What jdw said was that this was a one-man show with Samurai along for the ride, which I totally disagree with.

 

The carrying seems to be what Dave also said at the time:

 

Liger pinned Samurai in 21:15 to win the tournament. Incredible match due to Liger, who had one of his best performances ever carrying Samurai to a level well beyond his ability. Samurai took the early advantage hitting Liger over and over with a beer bottle. He also worked the neck over with piledrivers. Liger made a comeback by unmasking Samurai and giving him a power bomb on the floor. With Samurai on the floor, Liger came off the top rope head-first like a missile and landed on Samurai's chest. Liger did one great move after another including an Orihara-like moonsault off the top rope to the floor. Samurai made a comeback and did Liger's own signature dive over the top rope with a mid-air flip. The moves here were far more spectacular than the Liger-Pillman match even though Samurai isn't in Pillman's league. But Liger did every hot move invented before winning with a Frankensteiner off the top rope. *****

I think the one-man show stuff ignores the strong heel work and violent nature of the match and makes this all about the highspots. I didn't even really think this was that special from that point of view. I was more hooked on the story of Liger being pissed off.

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I was trepidacious about watching this again and, unfortunately, that turned out to be for good reason; this might hold up the least with me of all the '90s Jr stuff.

 

I just didn't feel the hate at all. They sounded like they were wrestling on mute. The controls (and then transitions) felt just so casual. Aside from a bit on the surfboard, Liger didn't fight back once during Samurai's early run, which had a complete lack of intensity once he took it back in the ring. Samurai looked woefully green here to me, he really did. And Liger's just laying there taking it. And then... he does a total no-sell comeback. You saw it coming with the repeated punches but, really, he just suddenly fights back, levels him with a few shoteis and he's fine.

 

Then you get Liger's main control which, for 1992, features some awesome spots. But it felt like a casual exhibition. There's more intensity from Liger, and there's far more emphatic execution, but it felt so easy, Samurai might as well have been a body bag for what he was doing here.

 

And then the transition out of that segment is a duck/elbow from Samurai. After a payback powerbomb on the floor, a somersault senton to the floor, a moonsault to the floor, a wicked shotei flurry etc... he just ducks a swing and hits a running elbow and he's on top again, looking perfectly fine.

 

I've no real problems with the finish, but by that point I'm bored and waiting for the match to end.

 

**

 

I get that Liger's control in the middle was blowaway at the time. He might not bring "every hot move invented", but it was spectacular. That aside, I really don't see anything in this at all. It's structured fine, but I don't think they told the story well; if you're building a match around hate, you have to be fighting over just about everything, and this didn't feel like a fight to me at all.

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Just watched this match to see what all the fust is about.

I'm with Trav & Ditch and fall into the this is good but not THAT good camp.

 

Maybe it would have helped if i'd seen more 92 stuff from both but watching this with no context as a stand alone match it really had the opposite effect I think they intended on me. Like by the end I ended up feeling sorry for Samurai and was rooting him on. Liger just raped him so bad and came across like such an invincible super man in this that I thought "no wonder Samurai had to cheat, a mere mortal would stand no chance". Kept hoping he'd just kick Liger in the balls or something as the match went on. Samurai's little mini come back near the end felt more like a lucky break and soon enough Liger went right back to destroying him on his way to victory.

 

And Liger's just laying there taking it. And then... he does a total no-sell comeback.

For me I was more botherd by Samurai laying thear and taking it. Liger's comeback atleast I could sorta buy as a "fuck this shit now i'm pissed" moment. Whole match felt like more of a glorified squash to establish Liger as being on a whole other level then the rest though. Nothing wrong with that at certain times, but tournament final between what should in theory be your top 2 guys doesn't feel like the rite moment.

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You guys are breaking my heart. :(

 

I don't know what you want from this match that it doesn't give you. I'm not sure how anyone can watch this and say Samurai looks green, considering that he stepped up his game to the point that his charisma rivaled Liger's, which is no small task. The spitting in the face, slapping, beating up with a beer bottle, tombstoning both in and out of the ring, doing Liger's own dives against him to the floor ... for at least one night, he looked like a peer.

 

Liger did destroy Samurai, but if you watch the opening minutes, it was set up well for that to happen. They built the heat to a point where Liger finally had enough and snapped.

 

I don't want to create a strawman argument, but there seems to be a point of view that this match is a bit one-sided, which I don't get at all since Samurai was so dominant early on, and even got a comeback later in the match. Liger was the unquestioned better man when it was over, but I see that as a good thing.

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I'm not questioning the structure of the match, I just think the execution of it was lacking.

 

Theoretically, the heel coming out strong, beating on the face for five minutes, setting up a few payback spots, and then the face making his comeback and giving it back to him and more should work really well... I just didn't think it did here.

 

The mask-ripping was fine from Samurai at the start, as were the tombstones, the spits and slaps on the break, and the bottle. But then you have some weak submissions, an ugly elbow and an overall lack of intensity (to me at least). And Liger's not fighting any of it other than the surfboard.

 

The transition was just weak. A very telegraphed, total no-sell.

 

Liger's offence is great, but it comes so so fucking easy and Samurai is just laying there. I don't think he even feeds for anything, he just waits for Liger to put him where he wants him and takes it.

 

The transition back to Samurai is awful. It's worse than Liger's because he's taken so much in such a short amount of time, playing dead, and then it just takes a ducked shotei/clothesline and a running elbow and he's suddenly fine again. He takes a small breath after the elbow and it's as if Liger's just had a short sequence and bumped him 2/3 times with basic stuff. Seriously, that's like Davey Richards level.

 

The final five/ten minutes are fine when they're just going back and forth fairly evenly, even though it's fairly generic (though that might be due to me wanting the match over by that point).

 

I get what Samurai was trying to do, and like I said it's good in theory, great even, but hate and intensity requires guys to work for their offence and transitions etc... there was none of that whatsoever.

 

***

 

That said, it's certainly worth watching. It's a famous match, and it's easy to see why people went ga-ga over it twenty years ago; Liger's throwing bombs that'd still get huge pops today. There's far more potential in them there for a great match than in a lot of guys today because they work a story to utilise Liger's great offence rather than just doing a spot fest like an Ibushi would today. They just don't do it well enough for me.

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Why have I read time and time again that this is the match where Liger became "The King of All Juniors" if it was already the case?

I coined the term "The King of the Juniors" (beats me where the "all" came from). As far as I know, I've never said this is the match where he became it.

 

Liger was The Man back in '90, and by '91 he was used to 'make' guys (ie. Honaga, Nogami). This match certainly put Samurai in the spotlight but it didn't mean much long-term for Liger. It's good and all but not *that* good. I recall them having a fair amount of downtime. A match of significance, but New Japan bested it many many times.

Liger was the man when he won it. As far as I recall, his first three TV appearances:

 

04/24/89 Liger over Kobayashi (Dome debut)

05/22/89 Liger over Koshinaka

05/25/89 Liger over Hase (IWGP win)

 

He cleared the division of the prior three native champs. None of them would ever challenge for the title again. They were out of even working regularly in "juniors" matches before long. Liger got a monster push, and the division was "his" in every bit of the sense that it had been Fujinami's or Sayama's. Liger just chose to book himself differently than those two had been booked.

 

On "making" guys, Liger started doing that in 1989 two months after he won the title. Liger did major jobs to try to make Sano (1989), Beniot/Pegasus (1990), Honaga (1991), Nogami (1991), Samurai (1992), Kanemoto (1993) and Sasuke (1994). Kanemoto and Sasuke weren't in title matches, the rest were (along with the league job to Sammy before dropping the title to him two months later). Not all of them "took". Tigermoto never really got over, and he did much better after getting rid of the mask. Nogami never really clicked to a great degree. I like Honaga, but he didn't take off as a great rival for Liger.

 

About the only guy in that period that he didn't personally "make" was Asai. Sammy happened to have the belt when the feud with WAR started, and rather than take the belt off him, Liger put Sammy over in another title match then had Sammy drop the belt to Dragon. Pretty clear point was to hold off their match for the Dome. I don't think we've ever gotten a good insider look at what went on there. Tenryu vs New Japan was front and center from late 1992 until early 1993, with lots of high profile singles matches, three major jobs by Tenryu (Choshu, Fujinami and Hash out the door), while getting a slew of scalps (Koshinaka, Choshu, Hash twice, Chono, Hase, Fujinami, Inoki). There were just Dragon over Sammy and Liger over Dragon, and that tag match. It's so unlike Liger's typical booking before and after that you have to think there were significant non-Liger forces going on that prevented it from being a typical Liger set of bookings.

 

One man show is hyberboly, but on TV it was The Liger Show. That doesn't mean that the opponent sucks, or doesn't add anything positive. 12/03/93 is The Kawada Show, and the other three are quite good in it. This was Liger throwing the kitchen sink at Sammy.

 

John

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This is my #1 New Japan Juniors match of all-time. Probably the #1 juniors match of the 1990s. And in my top ten of New Japan all-time as well.

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Loss and others consider this the greatest juniors match of all time. Ditch and others consider it good but not great. I think they're both right.

 

I'm not a fan of the NJ junior style at all, so when I first watched this match, I was blown away by the fact that it didn't adhere to the typical junior formula. They didn't start out by wasting time with pointless matwork. Samurai brings the hate from the get-go, busting out every rudo tactic in the book in the process. Eventually, Liger snaps and unloads on Samurai with everything in his arsenal. And the closing stretch feels more organic than the usual my turn-your turn style.

 

Upon subsequent viewings, the mach loses its luster a little. For one thing, Samurai blows through his heel spots too rapidly. By the end, he's got nothing left, and it's just another juniors match. It kind of reminded me of KENTA/SUWA in that respect. And I agree with MJH that the transitions were a little too abrupt. Still, it's an awesome match worth checking out.

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I don't know if this is the greatest junior match of all time since I have hardly seen that many. However, this is a really great match. Liger is just in a different level and has a great peformance for all the reasons said. The one thing that pissed me off about the match is Samurai wrestling mostly without his mask on. Like what the fuck is that? Maybe it's the lucha fan in me but that's just wrong. Why even wear a mask in the first place?

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Maybe it's the lucha fan in me but that's just wrong. Why even wear a mask in the first place?

Eh, it's just not as big a deal in Japan. Majority of your big name masked guys over thear wrestled maskless for long periods of time before taking on their characters and it was hardly a well kept secret who each guy was. Over thear it was more about the aura/personality the mask gave you then it was protecting your identity.

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I looked at it like juicing in this context. Wrestlers juice to get over the brutality of a match. Samurai wrestled with his mask torn to shreds around his neck to get over the brutality of the match. Liger kicked his ass. :)

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I loved the hate here. The hate usually isn't evident in jr.s match.It was here. Samurai was great in his rudo role. The mask ripping was cool. Both guys worked hard. I have it as a MOTY condender in the 4 1/2* range.

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I remember the 1st time that I ever saw this match. One of the very 1st (if not the 1st) tape that I got through the mail was a comp that I'm pretty sure I got from an Omar Delgado out of his mailing list. My primary attraction that particular tape was this match as it had been described as the MOTY. And, being a teen whose mind was blown by what he had seen from Liger and other Japanese juniors, I was pumped to see what I was sure would be a ultra high-end match of a style that had really just been teased to me prior to that. I mean, up until that point, my point of reference for this stuff was Apter mags and the NJPW/WCW Japan Supershow which had a pretty disappointing Liger-Nogami match.

 

Anyhow, my reaction to this match when I saw it was pretty strange. It wasn't at all what I had anticipated, expected, and hoped for and yet I loved it. My 14-15 year old self was hoping for the 1992 equivalent of today's ROH/DG with tons of moves. Instead, I got a story and some violence that I thought we only got in the states. The meshing of the styles blew my little mind and I loved this match. On 1st viewing I really liked, but was slightly disappointed by it but was utterly compelled to watch it again. On 2nd viewing I absolutely loved it.

 

Nearly 20 years later I get to watch it again and it holds up well. I completely understand all of the detractors, but it doesn't hurt the match for me. For example, the suggestions that Liger should have fought back here & there resonate well with me because I'm someone who thinks Liger is an all-time great, but not in the class of Ricky Morton & Ricky Steamboat. Meanwhile, I also agree on the indictments of Samurai. I couldn't put my finger on what the detractors were suggesting until the KENTA-SUWA match was referenced and that was like a light bulb in my brain as SUWA gives 1 of the all-time great heel performances in that match.

 

In short, I get most of what the detractors are saying and I feel like we're arguing why a 4.5-4.75 star match isn't 5 stars. This is a great, great match

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Just watched this tonight on a Schneider Comp with my dad and fiancee. I've seen this match several times over the years; first time was in '02 IIRC, so it isn't new to me, but it was brand new to them. They dug it for about all the same reasons all us hardcore or smart fans do. The early rudoing of Samurai, the brawling on the floor, the revenge spots, the comeback of Liger, the comeback of Samurai, and then the comeback and finishing run of Liger's. My fiancee actually clapped when Liger pinned Samurai.

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Just watched this match for the first time (I come clean, I'm a complete puro newbie) after reading good stuff about it around here somewhere. I agree with everything MJH said about it. Loved the early heel work, my favourite part of the match, and although the two early tombstones puzzled me, I was banking on Liger and Samurai to work it into the story as a vital part of the match. And maybe they did. And maybe I'm to used too the WWE/NWA style. But my enthusiasm for this match scuppered when Liger suddenly took control. I mean it wasn't even a transition, it was Sammurai dominating, a switch flicked, Liger is dominating. I get the "Fool, now Liger's PISSED boy" argument but there still should of been some semblance (Am I using that word in the right context? Yes I'm a bit thick. Oh HI! btw) of a fightback and a bit of selling would have been nice too, cos pissed off guys can still feel twitches of pain, even if only occasionally. Especially after two tombstones ONE OF THEM ON CONCRETE! I didn't find myself sympathising with Liger at any point in the contest. I Also thought the closing part of the match felt a tad contrived.

 

Good match though. Never five stars. I suppose context has a lot to do with it as I understand this broke the mould in terms of junior matches in 1992. But as I watch this cold in 2012 it looks like a good match that told a good story which had huge flaws within it. I've spent the last couple of months watching loads of wrestling through youtube in my increasing spare time. I have a wealth of grappling available to me that I've never seen (and I mean shitloads compared to you guys. 1986 onwards WWF is the only wrestling I have any real authority on ATM) and plan to catch up with as much as I can. In this time of blessed unemployment I have seen many memorable and highly enjoyable matches. This wasn't quite one of them.

 

It's only like the 3rd junior match I've seen (!). I hope this means that I just found this one match to be overrated and doesn't mean I dislike the entire Japanese style.

 

Time will tell.

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