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[1991-04-30-NJPW-Explosion Tour: Top of the Super Juniors] Jushin Liger vs Norio Honaga

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I liked this match. I thought Honaga had some cool moments here. I thought his heel work wasn't over the top. I liked the mask ripping. I also liked how he gave Liger a ball shot on the top rope. I really dug the false finishes building toward the finish. Though the actual finish was kinda of just there.

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I thought they delivered a GREAT match that felt really big. Honaga is an interesting wrestler -- not at all consistent, but a guy who shows flashes of being excellent, where it occasionally surfaces in a way that works. He's also an effective heel. Here, Honaga wrestles like a far less athletic Benoit, getting really aggressive and even using some of Benoit's trademark moves. I thought the momentum shifts were really well done and everything they did seemed to be for the purpose of getting heat more than showing off. Honaga's low blow to stop Liger from doing the top rope DDT was an awesome, proto-Chono moment. I also love how into this the crowd is. The end result is that you have a match being fueled by attitude and aura, which makes it somewhat unique among NJ juniors matches. It feels more like two smaller guys working a higher-end NJ heavies match than a NJ juniors match, and while I enjoy the junior style most of the time, I do intend that to be quite the compliment.

 

(I also liked the deadlift German for the finish, and thought it fit the match quite well.)

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Some great callbacks to finishes we just saw, from Liger's attempted top-rope DDT to Honaga's neckbreaker drops. Great false finishes abound before Honaga gets his second upset on Liger in a month to take the IWGP Jr. title. This was outstanding, and it really felt like Honaga earned this victory.

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Loss nailed it by saying these guys created a "big" feeling. Honaga was best when he really embraced his heel side, which he did here with the mask ripping, etc. As a result, I got the feeling Liger was fighting for something in a way that hadn't come across since the end of the Sano feud. The finishing stretch was exceptional with genuine swings in momentum rather than my-turn-your-turn moves. And the crowd gave them the appreciation they earned. This could easily hold up as the best Japanese juniors match of the year.

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Honaga doesn't like masks. He always seems to be ripping at them. Thought this was great. Was really into Honaga in this one. He's aggressive and I like that he goes for all kinds of rollup pinning combinations. Back and forth at the end was excellent. And just when it looked like Liger would get his Super DDT off the top rope, Honaga hits him with a low blow. Total desperation move that worked in this instance.

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Really digging this series so far as Liger gets increasingly pissed during the match after Honaga rips his mask. HOnaga was in his glorious prick best here and the match was better than previous efforts as a result. Fun tournament to showcase the juniors.

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The TOSJ Final and they went full out aiming for classic. Honaga was sportsmanlike during the early sparring, but his true colours would come to the fore as it progressed. Mask ripping tilts the hell out of me. The second anyone starts doing it my blood starts to boil! All the trimmings down the stretch. Whilst being good overall it was only a partial success given what they were aiming for. The problem was that Honaga wasn't good enough. He was only passable athletically with a soft, pudgy physique. The execution wasn't always there and he was lacking in charisma. Liger did his best to carry him but there was only so high he could take it here.

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Hah--all those knocks on Honaga are legitimate and also exactly why I find this feud so compelling. There's no rational reason why Liger shouldn't mop the floor with the guy, but Honaga seems to just have his number every time out. On top of that, even if Honaga isn't a great worker, he's definitely different.

 

My favorite Cobra match during the '80s NJPW viewing was against Don Arakawa, who was also a scuzzy juniors heel (complete with interfering manager). I'm a sucker for New Japan juniors who work as Memphis-style heels just for the cognitive dissonance it can create.nitive dissonance it can create.

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It's rare that a performance by a sleazeball midcard heel is good enough to not only win him a championship, but put the crowd on his side. Congratulations to Honaga for accomplishing that here, as he displayed as much tenacity as Liger did in this bout, if not more. Liger kicked out of everything under the sun (often at the last instant), but Honaga refused to let it get him down, and eventually scored a clean three count. I loved Liger lying on the mat after it was all over, despondent that for once in his life, his best just wasn't quite good enough.

 

Once again, Honaga kept it basic, not trying to outwrestle Liger, but rather to beat him up. Great transition with a piledriver on the floor followed by a powerbomb through the press table, and from there the story told itself. I sure hope we have at least a couple of Honaga title defenses upcoming, because I'd love to see how this seemingly unlikely champion handles that role, especially with some of the great juniors we've seen in this tournament breathing down his neck.

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#347 - placetobenation.com/countdown-top-500-matches-of-the-90s-350-301/

 

The mask ripping and great selling from Liger are the story for me. Liger really pulls you into the match with his performance. When you add all of that with the explosive offense from Liger, you're going to have a great match. I guess what I'm saying is, Liger put on a great show here and Honaga carried his end enough to make it not just a ride, but a thrill ride. This is a fun match no doubt.

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Jushin Liger vs Norio Honaga - NJPW 4/30/91 Vacant IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship

 

Liger vacated the title prior to the Top of the Super Juniors Tournament, which I believe was a way to invest more into the tournament. There was a TOSJ in 1988, but this was the first since then and there has been every year since 1991. These two squared off in March of '91 with Honaga getting the surprise upset victory after multitude of nefarious heel tactics. You could say after the loss, Liger vacated the title as a way to give him extra incentive to kick some ass in the tournament. The opening matwork shows Honaga can keep up, but it is maybe a half step behind. After working hold after hold, Liger starts to go off, dropkick, suplex, dive from the top. He looks to be running away with the match when SPLAT! Liger goes over the top rope and eats concrete. Honaga pounces on him from the top rope and then POWERBOMBS HIM ON A TABLE!!! HOLY SHIT! God Bless Honaga! Honaga rips the mask and piledriver gets two. Liger has to fight out of quite the hole. We see sparks of life like the dropkick from the ground to knock Honaga off the top or the belly to belly suplex, but each time Liger is coming up short. I actually really liked Liger's selling here. He felt like a team that could keep coming back from behind to tie the game, but could never really take the lead. I thought it created for some real tension. Liger making one last ditch effort to block the top rope clothesline scrambles up the ropes and there is a scuffle where it feels like the entire match would be decided and BALLSHOT! Love it! Clothesline from the top! 1-2-NO! Don't love it. The biggest misfire was the extra three nearfalls before Honaga wins with a human capture suplex.

 

The way they were fighting on that top rope and then ballshot. Really ought to have been the finish. Like I said, I loved Liger going off early, but then eating concrete. He never fully recovered from the powerbomb on the table. I love when things that happen early in a match matter! Heat segment and hope spots were great. Only thing stopping this from classic status is the overwrought finish. Loved this! ****1/4

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Great match with Honaga doing enough heelish stuff to get the win. But despite all the dirty tactics and opportunistic attacks, the crowd still loves him. I thought his turnbuckle climbing was possibly the slowest I've ever seen a junior climb though. The ballshot actually had me buying into the false finish, so I'll say it worked like a charm. I also think that Honaga should learn to rip the mask a little bit at a time. That way he can go back to it instead of just a one-and-done deal because the thing wouldn't stay on Liger's head after another rip.

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