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[1991-03-21-NJPW-Starrcade in Tokyo] Jushin Liger vs Akira Nogami

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I don't think I've ever really seen an Akira Nogami match, so I wasn't sure what to expect here. But this was fantastic. Granted, that was mainly because Liger looked incredible, but Nogami was really good too. This is the best juniors match in a dome that I can recall seeing. It's weird that this is one of the first matches of its kind, and the matches that followed it didn't try to take from the example they set here in how they worked the match -- which was to bring out the highspots in the opening minutes and create an emotional hook through Liger's selling of his knee injury. This was worked really big, and despite the offense being pretty top notch for the time period, the layout is classically basic. I really loved this.

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Now this was my match of the night . I loved Liger's outfit. Both guys worked pretty hard. I dug Liger's ankle injury spot. Nogami worked it over well. I liked how Liger would do certain moves and the ankle would fail him. Just a really strong match.

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Hah--I watched the NJ '80s set and this still feels like my first Nogami match. I do love the Kabuki gear for Akira and alt-color outfit for Liger. I wonder if anyone else like me was introduced to Liger through this match (or pictures of it, in my case) and for years thought of the green & gold as the "standard" Liger colors. Anyway, I wasn't really as high on this as everyone else, I guess because this felt like a total one-man show by Liger. And a fine show it was, but Nogami just wasn't compelling enough as an opponent or aggressor for this to be a standout great match. His offense was pretty pedestrian, though credit to whoever booked the ankle injury to give him something to focus on. Liger was great but the overanalyzer part of me couldn't help but notice how his ankle injury seemed to come and go as was convenient for the plot.

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Nogami has himself some nice prematch gear with streamers that shoot out of his hands. Liger wearing green. Well it is close to St. Patrick’s Day. I’m closer to Pete on my feelings of this but do agree with Loss about the highspots early for the Dome show. Crowd seems more into it. Nogami did a good job attacking the ankle but also trying to get pinfalls through different type of roll ups.

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Juniors in the Dome. I just love writing that. Akira was okay but nothing special, being prone to sloppiness from what I've seen of him from this time. They gave it a go here and a solid match peaked with a tasty top rope DDT finisher.

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Liger is 2 for 2 so far this year with me. I thought this was really good stuff with some nice body work and Liger being resilient and throwing some nasty offense to put him away.

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Actually, both guys had knee and ankle injuries here, but Nogami was able to shake his off quicker than Liger was.

 

This is the second straight match where Liger was grounded for the most part, and yet he still shined. He's a hell of a salesman when it comes to injuries, and I'm not all that concerned with his lack of selling at the finish, because I tend to think of it in storyline terms as ignoring or willing away the pain in order to do what he had to do to win. If he knew he had to hit offense that required his legs to be at almost full strength, he blocked out the pain and executed, just like any other athlete in any other sport that is presented as not scripted, staged, or predetermined, whether it actually is or not.

 

I've been reading the "Match Criticisms" thread, and I come down on the side that says that most selling is way overrated. Bouncing right back up after taking a DDT on the concrete floor is exposing the business; executing leg-based offense despite injured legs and with few visible signs of the injury is persevering and getting the job done. Besides, Liger had sold enough prior to the finish that every fan in the Tokyo Dome had to doubt his ability to both climb to the top and execute the DDT once he got there. He also sold quite effectively after the match, to the point of needing help from both Nogami and the referee to get out of the ring.

 

I liked the mat-based exchanges throughout the match, and both guys really brought the competitive fire, as you'd expect after their almost confrontation the previous week. I'm nor sure if Nogami wore face paint in every match, but the fact that he did here was a nice contrast to Liger's full-body costume..

 

This is my Japanese Match of the Year so far, and I know that there's plenty more good Liger to come on this and future sets. Hopefully we'll see a rematch, because this bout deserves one.

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I disagree with the notion that Nogami brought little to this match. Sure he kept things simple, but it was clear to me that he knew what he was doing, and by keeping things simple he allowed Liger to shine. This match was about Liger's injury and often when Liger is selling without a game opponent that's all you really get; Liger selling while an opponent aimlessly goes through some moves because they don't know what to do. Nogami was able to work through his offense and use holds and high spots to keep the focus on Liger. I actually thought he was better than Liger in some ways, but I'll need to give this a rewatch to see if that's actually true. I didn't really like all the big spots at the beginning and I worried that was all this match was going to be about, but I get why they did them. Once Nogami took out Liger's leg, and his own to some degree, this match became a lot more interesting and was almost reset with Nogami going to the typical opening chain wrestling. Good match.

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IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Jushin Thunder Liger vs AKIRA - NJPW 3/21/91

 

1991 is a strange year for Liger. He had big time feuds with Sano 89-90 then Pegasus Kid '90. His booking is hallmarked by trading the belt. In '91, he tries to elevate AKIRA & Honaga, which seemed to be the least successful elevations of his career as these are his least famous opponents. AKIRA & Honaga had been in NJPW for a while so it made sense to try to propel them up the card. I have never seen a Honaga match, looking forward to that.

 

AKIRA has received his personality transplant and is rocking the badass Kabuki gear. Liger is wearing green & gold. Not my favorite Liger outfit, never really been a fan of green & gold. They are in the Dome so Liger starts off hot with palm strikes and does a big dive. Then drops into a sleeper. I know that it is customary to do matwork in the beginning of NJPW, but this was not very inspired chaining at all. Quickly moving in and out of holds. The turning point of the match is when Liger goes to dive on AKIRA, but AKIRA nails him with a ground-to-air dropkick. He nailed him good and Liger's knee is injured. AKIRA is all over the knee. Liger is really, really, really good at selling. I thought AKIRA was good on top with holds and stomps but Liger was making this. The finish run was fine; didn't think was anything too great. Liger really trying to get over the palm strikes. Liger's knee seems fine for a while and then acts up on tombstone attempt. He did drop the leg selling pretty swiftly. AKIRA also did not go back to the knee as he was going for quick falls and Germans. I think AKIRA should have been attacking the knee more. AKIRA missed two big splashes off the top. Liger hit a couple Ligerbombs nothing doing. So he needs the SUPER DDT to win!

 

Pretty standard Liger. Big dive->matwork->turning point->great selling-> extended finish run with nearfalls and a big cresecendo. Besides the great selling, I really did not think this was particularly special Liger performance. He is a very selfless worker and allowed AKIRA to get in some big nearfalls before he hit a bunch of big bombs to win. It is Liger 101. ***1/4

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I really enjoyed this a lot. Both guys delivered here, and I enjoyed Nogami quite a bit. I'd be closer to calling it a great match than good. I thought the finish looked sweet, the selling was good, Nogami looked mean at times - good stuff!

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I like Nogami a lot. He keeps things simple and tends to go more for a solid story in a match instead of looking for big reactions. No exception here as he is pretty focused on Liger's leg injury and they work a great match around that.

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NJPW must of been high on Liger around this period. Every '91 Liger match I've seen so far has him feel like he's on another level than the guy he's facing. He does sell for them (as evident by his brilliant selling of the leg here, he never lets it become an afterthought), but he's the star.  He's like a junior heavyweight version of John Cena in that regard! Nogami is a more interesting heel that Hogana was in his match with Liger a few days previously. My main criticism is that there's too much downtime, stopping this good match from becoming a great match.

★★★¼

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