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[1992-06-26-NJPW-Masters of Wrestling] Hiroshi Hase vs Kensuke Sasaki

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I've got a soft spot for this. The story of Sasaki (who was returning from injury or an excursion) trying to get one over on his 'big brother', featuring a lot of stiffness and some hard-fought matwork, is the first standout singles match for Kensuke.

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This really in some ways is the best possible WWF-style main event match. What I mean by that is that the action is solid but not particularly special, there's a lot of laid out selling in an attempt to build drama, it's paced in a way to milk the dramatic moments for all their worth and there's a great storyline tying everything together that they sort of smack you in the face with -- that of Sasaki facing his mentor and putting forth his best effort, but losing in the end. It feels big and grand and I'd be surprised if this was entirely called on the fly. There are too many well-scripted spots that they clearly put some thought into. It's a smart match.

 

Sasaki bleeding adds to the drama. If this headlined a PPV in the WWF, it would be considered among the best matches the company has ever done. As it stands, it's my favorite singles heavyweight match in New Japan for the year (which I don't expect to stick) and kind of an instant sentimental favorite. If I ever released a Naylor/Schneider comp of my favorite matches, this may be something I would want on it.

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I like the analogy of this being a good WWF style main event. If this took place today, it would probably be MOTY. I don't know who I like more, Hase or Jumbo from this year. Got a laugh out of Sasaki waling right into the steam machine during his entrance.

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Certainly not aesthetically pleasing. Ken bled and it was a deliberately ugly battle. There was plenty of dislike going on and it was intense. Reasonable, but I didn't find it particularly enjoyable.

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If this headlined a PPV in the WWF, it would be considered among the best matches the company has ever done.

Nail on the head. This was awesome. Contrasting styles, big moves, big drama, big selling and storytelling and a finish that fits the match. Awesome.

 

****1/4

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Best Sasaki match ever? Well, to this point in his career, it's a no-brainer. Lots of hate and intensity with Sasaki's return coming off as a big deal.

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I've always been something of a notorious Sasaki hater, but even I enjoyed this. Hase wants to show that he's still big brother to the returning Sasaki and can still kick his ass on a regular basis. Sasaki wants to prove that he's "grown up" in a sense and isn't afraid to bend rules, like choking him with the sleeper, in order to do it. Hase responds by upping the brutality and destroying Sasaki with Uranages and finally pinning him with the NLS.

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This match was the ultimate example of how cheating doesn't pay. Sasaki tried to prove to his mentor Hase that he was a big boy now, but went about it the wrong way by using cheating tactics, most notably turning a sleeper into a choke on multiple occasions. That didn't get him the win, though, and the second half was an extended payback segment for Hase, who busted open his "little brother" with a brutal series of headbutts, then chokeslammed him no less than five times before executing his suplex variation for the win.

 

The only way I can see this getting Sasaki over is that he was tough enough to leave the ring on his feet instead of on a stretcher. Otherwise, this was the classic match type where the heel cheats until the babyface mounts enough strength for a comeback, then obliterates him. This was done by a lot better workers, obviously, but fundamentally this match is on a par with WWF Face X vs. Captain Louis Albano at any time between 1973 and 1983, with Hase as Face X and Sasaki as the Captain. This is nowhere near the best NJPW heavyweight match of the year, though I've seen so many bouts that it's tough to come up with a better example off the top of my head. Honestly, the junior division is so much more memorable for NJPW so far this year that it's not even funny.

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I liked this a lot.  Stiff, brutal, nothing close to pretty.  Just Hase asserting his dominance and Sasaki doing everything he could think of to stop it from happening.  I dislike this referee.  He seems way too physically involved and takes attention away from the wrestlers unnecessarily.

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