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Sano delivers a beating on Liger that is usually reserved for the dude that bangs your girlfriend.

 

I watched this back-to-back with their August 1989 match. I think that match has an incredible one-arm performance from Liger. His performance is on par with that match here and I think Sano has stepped up his game making this better of the two matches. Sano has a pretty spectacular arsenal of offense and this being the first time I have seen him I will definitely want to see more of him. Liger looks so good here between the selling of being a fucked-up mess and perfectly timing huge hope spots. I love the finish which climaxes beautifully.

 

This is the type of hate-filled fight that I wish pervaded the juniors scene more later in the decade. I figure one of the Jumbo/Misawa matches is the pre-ordained favorite for Match of the Year this year, but I think this one has to be right up there with it.

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I don't know if it's the very best Liger match ever, and right now, I'm not really interested in exploring that question. But this is an out of this world match and pair of performances. More hate-filled than any juniors match. There are a few highspots, but most of this is just a bloody brawl. This is deserving of all the hype it gets, and it's one of those matches that reminds me of why I'm a fan. If the match was great, what really put it over the top was Liger's disgust with himself in the post-match for having to get so violent to pull off the win.

 

One of the best things about this match is that where most matches start off more sportsmanlike with more wrestling and then build to a brawl, this is the inverse. It started out as more of a hateful brawl, and when their hatred had taken them as far as they could go, they had to revert back to wrestling. The hate probably felt good, but skill was what was going to bring this home. And never have the nearfalls felt more appropriate in a juniors match than here. They are both desperate to end this thing, so they are going for every pin attempt possible. Liger is losing more blood by the second and both guys have taken a big beating. So there's this desperation to the close calls that is often missing from those types of sequences. That's why I love this match so much.

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It's been a long time since I watched the NJPW '80s set. My first guess is that this isn't quite as good as the shoulder-pad match. But holy fuck is it a war. Liger sort of only has himself to blame for the post-match tantrum--as Ventura would surely point out, Liger started it with the pre-match slap and hey, it isn't Naoki's fault he's pinned him a whole bunch of times. Liger's aggression gets the best of him and Sano destroys his face with a scary combination of violence and intense focus, breaking the mask apart to make him more vulnerable and then pounding Liger into a bloody mess. All of Liger's comeback spots involve bombs or death-defying dives that are more intent on breaking Sano and doing it quickly before he falls apart again rather than highspots for the sake of highspots. Everyone has each other's moves well-scouted, but Sano goes to the well one time too many on more than one occasion, and it's those counters that ultimately doom him. He hangs on with one kickout of the Ligerbomb but he's pretty much beaten then.

 

Liger throws the belt down in disgust during the post-match ceremony and blames it all on Sano for tearing his mask open. Crybaby.

 

Match of the Month winner for January, as if you couldn't guess.

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True confession, I have never seen this match before. I think this match is enriched by sitting through the previous match as everything they did here served a purpose and advanced the storyline of the match. A masterful performance by both Liger playing the wounded warrior and Sano constantly given punishment and being an assassin. Liger ambushes him at the start but it is not long before Sano dishes out an ass kicking of the ages with mask ripping, blood, and overall general intensity that is rare for junior wrestling. Liger gets in some hope spots with a beautiful dive but it seems like Sano is able to weather the storm and has the win within his grasp. This makes every nearfall dramatic.. The ending with them just wanting to end the match is beautiful in a way and Liger's SSP to win the title and him slamming down the belt was poignant and amazing for the theme of the match. It would have been easy for him to be jumping up and cheering after winning the belt but he stayed true to the theme. A superb match.

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I'd add in that Yamada's SSP gets brought back after the mask ripping "exposes" that Liger is Yamada. People "knew" that Liger was Yamada, but he avoided the move under the pretense that he really wasn't Liger. It's pretty damn cool to dust it off here given the mask ripping gave a reason for it.

 

John

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First time for me seeing this one. Getting to see Sano the junior heavyweight was interesting. Liger smacking around Sano early only to get his ass handed to him after was impressive. Early on I was waiting for some of the flashing big moves to happen. But I got sucked by the violence Sano was unleashing with the mask ripping and busting up Liger's face. Liger would get brief spurts of offense but Sano would get things back in control in his favor. Don't think I've ever seen Liger dominated like this. Sano hits loads of different types of suplexes to try pin Liger. Can't say the guy didn't try his best and bust out the big moves. He can't put Liger away though and a reversal and big moves from Liger put him away. Liger is not happy after. Excellent match that closes January.

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This is not what I was expecting out of a New Japan juniors match - and even though I like NJPW juniors matches, that's a good thing. Intense, hate-filled brawl that opened my eyes to Sano. I will want to watch this one again in a day or so, as I only about 3/4 watched this with other things going on, but this was damn fine pro wrestling and a fine way to close out the first month of 1990.

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I like Liger in general, and I thought the 8/89 match between these two was really good, but I've never been able to get into this match. Whenever I tried to watch it, I found myself zoning out and not caring about what was happening. After making a concerted effort to pay attention while watching, I figured out the problem: the beatdown by Sano goes on for way too long. Liger barely gets in any offense at all for the first 18 minutes. When someone's in control for that long, it crosses the line from "how's Liger going to come back from this" to "Sano doesn't have enough to put Liger away." It's like a football team that dominates the time of possession but doesn't score any touchdowns.

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I rewatched this again this evening and if anything, it was better the second time (funny how not being half-asleep makes the match better). I didn't think the beatdown by Sano went too long at all, as Liger had some good hope spots mixed in there as well. I really liked Sano in this being the ultimate dick, there's something about even the way he looks that makes him look like a huge asshole. I also liked that somebody actually hit the "battering ram into the ringpost" move here, as it seems every time somebody tries for that move, they get pushed face first into the ring post. Sano hitting it here retroactively justifies every attempt at it I've ever seen and hated because it never hits.

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I'd add in that Yamada's SSP gets brought back after the mask ripping "exposes" that Liger is Yamada. People "knew" that Liger was Yamada, but he avoided the move under the pretense that he really wasn't Liger. It's pretty damn cool to dust it off here given the mask ripping gave a reason for it.

 

John

When was this Yamada SSP you're referencing?

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Liger's selling compared to the Owen match is night and day. A piledriver almost knocks him out. His selling is very good here. I like the mask kind of hanging there, as part of this bloody mess than Liger has become as Sano beats the living shit of him.

 

Liger's flashy backbreaker looks very cool.

 

Perfectplex! German! Everything Sano has done on offense has been good including the matwork.

 

Massive clothesline and Liger looks like he's dead.

 

Sano is busting out every type of suplex in the book here, I don't know the names of some of them.

 

Crowd is very hot. Liger's hope spots are timed to perfection.

 

Powerbomb! Is that it? NO. Tombstone. Shooting star press! Is that it? YES!

 

Pretty fucking awesome match.

 

Post-match Liger throws a hissy fit because Sano ripped his mask off.

 

Match of the month.

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It's probably 9 years since my 1st and only previous watch of this where I thought it was a ***** classic. This yearbook project for me is about partly new discoveries, and partly about taking off the rose tinted spectacles of yesteryear and re-evaluating what was really great.

 

This got off to a hot start as they immediately built on the rivalry and hatred they'd developed over the feud. Liger punking his opponant out early proved a big mistake as Sano fought back with furious anger. Liger's mask was so symbolic. It hung by a thread, as did his chances in the match. His very life blood was draining away. All seemed hopeless as Sano ruthlessly destroyed his foe. Yet from his battered shell the man behind the mask; Keichi Yamada emerged and was victorious. Yamada won the match, not Liger.

 

No doubt an epic contest that felt longer than 20m. The beatdown was so one sided it was like watching certain lucha matches, it undoubtably lasted too long. The psychology was outstanding and the action at the beginning and end was strong with just the right ending. All it needed was a few minutes cut from the beatdown and that would have made a big difference. Still a classic match, but like others are saying it's match of the month rather than year.

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Awesome match! This isn't your typical NJ juniors match, but it was fantastic. Sano absolutely destroys Liger in the beginning of the match and hits a nasty looking battering ram to the post. I also have to give props to the post match here with Liger throwing the belt down in disgust. This match wasn't about a championship, it was about hatred. Match of the month and definitely a match I will go back and watch again.

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I'll admit that my knowledge of Japanese wrestling is slightly better than baseline. I had never seen Naoki Sano before (that I remember anyway) and he gave an immediate Eddie Edwards vibe to me.

 

Im an admitted Liger mark and this match just kicked my ass.

 

Liger makes Sano his bitch early with slaps. Sano retaliates like a fucking beast, beating the hell out of Liger and tearing the mask all to hell.

 

I didnt know the backstory on this one but it brought the Hate. Liger nearly impales himself on the guardrail.

 

I cant say enought about this one and I long for more of these two.

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I'd add in that Yamada's SSP gets brought back after the mask ripping "exposes" that Liger is Yamada. People "knew" that Liger was Yamada, but he avoided the move under the pretense that he really wasn't Liger. It's pretty damn cool to dust it off here given the mask ripping gave a reason for it.

 

John

When was this Yamada SSP you're referencing?

Yamada was the one who invented it. I'd have to look up when he invented it. Folks point to a Jan 11, 1988 match with Funkaki... not sure if that's the case and he used it earlier.

 

 

I could have sworn Liger used the SSP in his debut match (as Liger) in 89 v Nogami or whoever it was.

He debuted against Kobayashi at the Dome. Won with a german suplex.

 

Beat Nogami a few months later with a Liger Bomb.

 

I don't recall "Liger" using Yamada's SSP until Sano ripped the mask to shreds and revealed what everyone kind of knew: "Liger" was Yamada.

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The Funaki match aired in '88 but happened at the infamous "riot" Sumo Hall show a couple weeks earlier. That was indeed the debut, unless he tried it out at a house show beforehand.

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Huh. I saw somewhere that the match aired in January but was taped in December; guess that was wrong. But their December match later aired on NJ Classics.

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There is an awesome article somewhat wrote recapping this feud, and if I find it, I'll post a link. Anyway, knowing the history and build up to this match just makes it an even better all-time classic. Match of the Month for sure, likely MOTY.

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MOTY for me right now. This was just violence & hate. Is anything better then ripped masked bloody face Liger getting the crap beat out of him? Great finish, and Liger doesn't forgive just tossing the belt down multiple times.

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This was a good match but I'm not feeling it at all on the same level as everyone else. The bulk of the match is Liger selling while Sano does some moves then Liger does a move and Sano sells while Liger keeps doing moves, switch, repeat, repeat repeat and finish. There's no transitioning, no real sense of struggle to gain the upper hand. It just feels like a "dramatic" superficial exhibition. The selling and the moves only mean anything in and of themselves. There's nothing compelling to tie it all together. It was all just very mechanical.

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Guest TheGreatPuma

Lyger and Sano is just one of those feuds that are pure maJic and can not be touched. You watch this and it's just on a different level in what makes wrestling so special in every single way perceivable. It feels sooooo much more real in comparison to almost anything in wrestling. Especially back in the day. Pure epicness.

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