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[1995-01-04-NJPW-Battle 7] Shinya Hashimoto vs Kensuke Sasaki

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This was everything you want in a Dome main event. Just an incredible spectacle with lots of big, dramatic movements, slapfests and awesome facial expressions, and Hashimoto making Sasaki look like a world beater, even though Hash took the win. Both guys pull off some tremendous desperation spots, with Hash's surprise spin kick being the highlight. Hash has a bloody nose and looks pretty worse for wear. The best match of the night, and maybe the best Sasaki singles match I have ever seen.

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Yeah, this was manly beyond description. Felt like a real struggle and both guys really beat the shit out of each other. Hashimoto is everything good about the pro-wrestling.

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There was a really screechy fan who was heard clearly through these Dome matches. Must have been sitting right next to a mic. Really good physical match. Love the Fisherman Buster move. Hash hits a good one on Sasaki to put him away.

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Sasaki's ridiculous Brian Bosworth mullet haircut is a crime against humanity, but everything else here was great. Kind of a Hash carry job but that's only fitting for the guy who's been New Japan's MVP for the past year-plus. Sasaki sure isn't afraid to beat the shit out of a guy though, and Hash obliges him. I liked this more than the other Sasaki singles match I have feelings about, which is the Kawada bout (good but underwhelming).

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Now I normally love to see any mullet in its natural habitat; the wrestling ring. But Sasaki's haircut at this time is brutal beyond words. This is a total Hash carry job. Ken wasn't ready for the role he'd been given, at times looking lost. The champion took charge and puts his opponent over as a threat. It had the potential to be a disappointment, but ended up being a quite acceptable main event.

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IWGP Heavyweight Shinya Hashimoto vs Kensuke Sasaki - NJPW 1/4/95

A battle of wills! Two rams that would not give an inch to on another. I had seen this match like five years ago and I remember loving it and I still think this is amazing and another overlooked NJPW Heavies' classic. We are in the midst of peak Hashimoto. He had just finished running through the legends (Tenryu, Fujinami, Fujiwara & Choshu) and had wins over his peers (Chono, Hase & Power Warrior), but now Sasaki has removed the makeup and is ready to challenge for the championship as Sasaki. Hashimoto takes the best of Inoki and Choshu, but also puts his own spin on it. As much as I love Sasaki, he is Choshu v2.0, which is fine because Choshu rocks and Sasaki rocks too. Plus Hashimoto vs Choshu is one of the all-time great rivalries in pro wrestling. 

What makes this match so good is that everything is earned. Both wrestlers dont yield to the other. To hit any move feels like a herculean effort. They are tentative to start but they start firing off stiff slaps that Sasaki gets the better of. However the ref breaks them in the corner and Hashimoto gets in a cheapshot. He RIFLES Sasaki with kicks to the chest. O how I have missed Hashimoto. The ref breaks in the corner again, but this time it is Sasaki with the cheapshot and he starts giving these kicks back to the receipt. For a dude with short, stubby legs he actually has pretty good kicks. Sasaki's strategy early on seems to get a cross armbreaker, this is thwarted as Hashimoto is too strong still. Sasaki comes charging in with one of his meaty lariats but Hashimoto blasts him with an elbow to the lariat arm. OW! Hashimoto now smells blood and tries to go for his own Fujiwara armbar and cross-armbreaker, but Sasaki will not allow it to happen. He has too much fighting spirit. Hashimoto hits a Missile Dropkick! Holy shit! Sasaki still will not go down. So he goes up again, but this time Sasaki hits a massive exploder from the top rope. One other thing I forgot to mention is I love how symmetric this match is. Both cheapshot on the ref break. Both go for the arm. Both hit big highspots from the top. It makes Sasaki feel like Hashimoto's equal. With Hashimoto having defeated everybody but Mutoh in the past year, it was important someone look like Hashimoto's peer. I LOVE this control segment from Sasaki. It is a ton of big, muscular highspots combined with trying to rip Hashimoto's arm off. Basically it is big highspot, cover, no dice, let me try to dislocate his shoulder. The highspots such as the powerbomb, powerslam and his specialty power armdrag all look great and are perfect for the big Dome atmosphere. Then when he cant negotiate he tries applying the armbar, but Hashimoto fights with all he has got to get out. This is Bill Watts Mid-South wrestling with more submission focus. It is two big uglies fighting each other with all they go. At one time, they are just locked up and Hashimoto busts out a belly to belly suplex and Sasaki lands on his bad shoulder. Hashimoto wants that armbar for himself but Sasaki just keeps fighting back. It is intense and everything drips with struggle. The power arm drag was Sasaki's last nearfall as he pulls Hashimoto up, Hashimoto uppercuts him and SWEEPS THE LEG! You have to see how much work Hashimoto has to put in to hit the DDT. Once he hits it you know it is just a matter of time even though Sasaki kicks out and kicks out of the rainbow spinning heel kick. It is finished with an Fisherman Brainbuster! 

Where's the beef? Right here, Grandma! Big, burly, brawny pro wrestling everything was earned, nothing given that made Sasaki look like a future main eventer at the end though he succumbed to Hashimoto The Destroyer! ****1/4 

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