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[1991-05-31-NJPW-Heavy Crush] Jushin Liger vs Norio Honaga

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Aside from the uneventful March match, so far Liger has had three excellent matches with Honaga in 1991-1992, with more to come. It says a lot about Liger that Honaga looks so good against him, but not really against anyone else. This develops into a wild brawl, with Liger swinging chairs and making Honaga bleed, and wrestling half the match with his mask off. Liger does a Macho Man elbow (!) and pulls the long turnbuckle pad completely off the post and uses it as a battery ram! The match ends with Honaga holding the ropes to get a cheap win. Tremendous! Great, great match. This feud is gold.

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Anytime the Liger mask gets ripped off to reveal a pissed Keichi Yamada, it's a good thing. He delivered a furious beating that made this match memorable. Their 4/30 match was better; Liger's fury was such that his dominance carried on a bit long and became one-note. The execution of the finish seemed dodgy as well. That said, kudos to them for keeping the feud lively by doing something different and compelling.

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I thought these guys delivered another hate filled match with both guys looking great. Liger is Liger, but Honaga's character work in this feud has delivered in spades.

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Holy shit, that ending had me gasping out loud. Honaga makes the mistake of tearing Liger's mask and gets brutally tortured as a result. Liger decimates Honaga with a chair, including a great diving chairshot to the floor, and this takes on the feel of the Ali-Floyd Patterson "what's my name" fight/exercise in brutality. But unlike Ali, Liger keeps the beatdown going just a little too long and Honaga is able to make a comeback. I love the fact that Honaga's counters and offense focus mostly on low blows. Next to the incomparable Buddy Rose, he may be the most accomplished ballshot artiste in all of wrestling when it comes to both volume and variety. Right as I'm about to snarkily congratulate Honaga for his fluke title reign and ask if it was worth it, he sits on Liger in the corner and pulls out ANOTHER fluke victory.

 

I've always preferred All-Japan to NJPW but the appeal of the latter is growing more and more clear to me. There's no way to pick a winner and loser in a 6-man tag, much less a singles match, and even Fuchi at his dickish best probably couldn't construct an epic match around turnbuckle pads and groin attacks. Honaga may not be any good against anyone besides Liger but he definitely brings out something different in Liger just as Liger does to him. I could watch this feud for awhile yet.

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Honaga does not like masks. I was a bit worried once Liger got the mask ripped that he would spend most of the match trying to cover his face and fix the mask. But he's pissed off and just takes it off himself! Liger makes good use of a chair and bloodies up Honaga. He's trying to practically rip Honaga's face off at times. I thought they screwed up the finish with Honaga putting his hands on the ropes with the referee right there. But on rematch it was a legit pinfall. He manages to pull out another win on Liger. Looking forward to more from them.

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Great way to keep a feud interesting with an intense brawling match, Luger getting pissed at his mask being ripped, but Honaga able to escape with the cheap win. This has been a very enjoyable feud to see develop throughout 1991.

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For a non-native like me, the best Japanese matches are the ones that transcend language and cultural barriers to tell a universal story. So it is here, as Yamada has chance after chance to defeat a bloody and semiconscious Honaga but instead insists on revenge for having his mask ripped. In the end, he pays for it, as what looks to be a finishing reverse sunset flip turns into yet another improbable (and illegal) win for New Japan's answer to the Honky Tonk Man.

 

Of course, comparing Honaga to Honky isn't really fair; Honaga shows basic athleticism and ring knowledge, while Honky was all about his prematch schtick and doing as little as possible while getting his ass kicked to everyone's satisfaction. Still, both men share a knack for getting improbable wins over guys they don't figure to be able to hang with. In Honky's case, it was Ricky Steamboat; in Honaga's case, it's Liger/Yamada. But you'd think Yamada would be smarter than he showed he was here, as Honaga's already beaten him twice when he seemed to have no business doing so prior to the bout.

 

I normally would downgrade a match for making one of the combatants look that dumb, but in this case Honaga's craftiness makes up for it. If he was a more gifted athlete and was portrayed as a guy who could beat his opponents straight up, three finishes in a row like this against the same opponent would be quite a bit more distressing. As it is, I'm not really sure what they'd accomplish with a fourth. Should there be another rematch, one of these two guys has to win clean and leave no doubt who the better man really is.

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IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Norio Honaga vs Jushin Liger - NJPW 5/31/91

 

I feel like no one says hey you gotta check out the Honaga vs Liger feud well they fucking should! Because this has been gold. I love how hate-filled the early 90s Liger feuds are (Sano, Honaga and Sammy) all have bloody brawls in their series. Not that mid-to-late 90s with their more technically inclined matches aren't great, but these are just superb. It really shows that the early Juniors style was more harkening back to the glory days of 70s and 80s bloody brawling. Here Honaga is more confident and is controlling on the mat. Liger seems tentative. Liger is able to use some speed and to create a Honaga mistake as he misses a clothesline. Big suplex over the top! DIVE FROM TOP TO THE FLOOR! Liger is feeling it and he wants the strap baby! Honaga gets the ballshot in when he kicks his leg up. Honaga tears the mask complete off and then just goes to town on Liger. Powerbomb onto the table again! But this time LIGER IS PISSED!!! Liger finally unleashes that can of whoop-ass we have been waiting for. He blasts Honaga repeatedly in the head with the chair. Honaga exposed the turnbuckles and Liger repeatedly sends his head into the buckles. Kneedrops and kicks to the head. Clawing at the open wound. Liger rips off the remnants of the mask and is just kicking ass. Ramping Honaga head in to hard metal and punching him with metal objects. Hell he pulls one out of my brother's playbook beating him with the turnbuckle padding. The thing is Liger wants revenge, inflict pain and humiliate Honaga, but he is not trying to put him away. That could spell disaster for Liger. Liger really needs to try to pin him. Liger goes for a bulldog and Honaga hoists him up and drops him balls first on the top rope.

 

I love how ballshots are Honaga's way of transitioning. He doesn't get the top rope clothesline but the missile dropkick instead for two. Clothesline gets two. Did Liger really blow it? German -> 2! KAPPO KICK IN THE CORNER FOR LIGER!!! Here we go! Go for the win brutha! Liger, sunset flip in the corner, Honaga kneels down on it, hands on the ropes! Honage does it again! Liger blows it!

 

Great progression here both booking and match execution. Liger finally gets a chance to tear into that piece of shit, Honaga, but overindulges and Honaga pulls out a cheap win. ****1/4

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I was impressed with this match. Liger just gets royally pissed and loses his shit enough to go too far when he should be pinning Honaga. So he leaves the slightest of openings and Honaga siezes the opportunity the only way he knows how, cheating to win.

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Pissed off and out for blood Liger is by far my favourite Liger. That usually comes in one of two forms, the first being inter-promotional Liger where he's out to put some M-Pro fools in their place or NOAH rock into town and he'll try and murder Kikuchi. The second tends to be something that happens over the course of a match, and the best examples are ones where someone foolishly goes after his mask. It's not surly Liger like you get against Ohtani and Kanemoto. He was always in a foul mood against those guys, but that's because they were punks and coming for the crown. When someone like Sano or Samurai tried to take the mask, that was when you'd get Liger going full and proper psycho. It went beyond the bounds of a wrestling match and you never wanted to push him that far. Liger was firing on all cylinders to start this, looking crisp in the early exchanges and picking up a well-earned round of applause after wiping Honaga with a plancha. He was looking like The Ace and you figured Honaga was in for a long night, but there was never inherent malice to what he was doing. He was going about his business and his business on the night was to win a wrestling match. Then Honaga went low and practically tore the whole mask off. Who knows why he did it. Maybe he thought Liger would lose all composure and it might actually give him a shot at getting into the match, maybe he just wanted to poke the bear to see if it would bite. Either way Liger goes apeshit and this was about as murderous as I've ever seen him. He demolishes Honaga to the point where people start booing him. Honaga is gushing blood from a cut and Liger is punching him dead in that cut, trying to peel the wound open further, just hammering him every which way. I thought they probably could've shaved it by a couple minutes and it would've felt a bit tighter, but I suppose it's hard to complain about getting TOO much psycho Liger. That they went and threw us a curveball at the finish was awesome and I should probably watch this feud in its entirety. How do I have no recollection of seeing it at all? This was peak Liger. 
 

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