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[1991-08-10-NJPW-G1 Climax] Big Van Vader vs Keiji Muto


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Top 5 New Japan heavyweight match of the 90's (with the other four being 8/11/91 Chono vs Mutoh; 8/15/95 Mutoh vs. Hashimoto; 1/4/96 Vader vs. Inoki; and 8/2/96 Hashimoto vs. Choshu).

 

This is the archetype for the Sting vs. Vader matches, with Vader dominating and Mutoh getting small comebacks which popped the crowd big. Vader brings out a release german suplex as a counter to Mutoh's handspring elbow, a powerbomb, and a couple of stiff lariats. Lots of nearfalls, including getting the most out of the mid match nearfalls since Vader was taken very seriously as a threat to Mutoh by the fans at Sumo Hall.

 

Strong MOTYC.

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I'm not really a fan of either of these guys, but I thought this was a good match. I dug a lot of the shots Vader gave Mutoh in the early going and I thought the stretch run was really good. The finish could've been timed a bit better, but it didn't take the gloss off what was a well put together match. It seemed a little on the short side to be a top 5 heavyweight match, but I haven't seen a lot of 90s New Japan and from what people say about their longish heavyweight bouts the length of this may have trimmed a lot of the dead spots. I often dislike the set-up and execution of spots in Vader's matches as they seem really telegraphed, but the release german and the rest of his spots were cool, and Mutoh was fairly likeable for a change.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I thought the handspring elbow counter was more of an uranage than a release German. Regardless, I'll echo the praise for this match. Vader totally looked like WCW Vader, and Mutoh was kind of foreshadowing Hansen/Kobashi with all the pin attempts he was going for at the end. Mutoh's no-selling comebacks were pretty annoying, but this was great otherwise.

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  • 2 months later...

This works on every possible level. I can see fans who aren't familiar with puro getting into it without a problem, since big vs little is a universal concept and they use 'universal' moves. Good crowd, good pace, good action, feels important, and when it's over they both look good.

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I agree that this is proto-Sting/Vader. Excellent match. My favorite parts of Vader/Sting matches are always Vader taking Sting's offense and playing pinball. So it stands to reason that him doing the same for Muto would be my favorite part of this match. I love the David vs Goliath dynamic, and how into each nearfall the crowd got, with the two count off of Vader's splash being my favorite.

 

This tournament continues to impress me. While Chono is getting upsets and showing his toughness by hanging with a badass, Muto is in his block doing the exact same thing. Great way to set up the final.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I can only add to the praise for this one. The first half of this was your basic athletic guy doing stick and move vs. monster heavy hitter. They executed that part well, with Vader really laying in his shots. But the match took off in the stretch run, with some tremendous counters (Vader catching Muto mid-handspring and throwing him on his head was a highlight) and nearfalls. Muto earned a credible win without making Vader look anything less than beastly. I watched four matches from this show. Chono-Bigelow was surprisingly good. Hash-Choshu was quite a spectacle because Choshu ate a hellacious beating without ever really rallying. But the crowd gave Vader-Muto a whole different level of reaction, which was a testament to how good they were this night.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Despite not being a fan of his at all, Mutoh has forced his way into strong Wrestler of the Year contention. Absolutely fantastic desperate, hit-and-run tactics from Mutoh, who takes some sick offense from Vader, in front of a psychotic crowd. The near-falls don't feel self-conscious here at all, even when both guys eat the other's finishers and kick out. You just get more involved in the match, wondering what could possibly put the other away. There was so much big offense here right from the start that the match length feels just right. With no feeling-out process or slowdowns, it stands to reason that such a match isn't going to go 25+. This won't win MOTYC over the big All-Japan six-man but it's a top 5 contender.

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Super match, action packed and really exciting. Some nice stiff shots as Mutoh stands up to Vader and gives the monster all he can handle. I loved how they played off the Vader vs Fujinami finish. All 4 nights were in Sumo Hall so that would be fresh in many of the fans minds. Vader falls victim to another cradle and the celebration afterwards was like Mutoh had won the G1 itself. Cushion were thrown in the ring and the fans go crazy. What a tournament!

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This is unexpected as I just figured this whole tournament was done pro shot. Muto does his handspring eblow outside to Vader and I feel let down. Vader should have done his release German suplex on the floor. This turned into a really fantastic match. Vader and Vader that you expect. Muto survived the onslaught and gets the pinfall on a reversal. Just a well done match.

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  • 5 months later...

What a super stiff match. I have always wanted a great match that occurred on my birthday and I have found it with this one. Vader mauls Mutoh but he hangs in there and uses his flash to offset it. The crowd going apeshit at the end throwing the seats was an awesome visual. The type of handheld where you are still able to feel all the stiffness and struggle of the match.

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  • 1 year later...

I would call this a David and Goliath-style classic, but Mutoh never lets himself be the underdog here; it's more of a match of equals where one of the equals has a hundred and fifty pounds on the other.

 

Amazingly, Vader loses by fluke in two out of three matches in the tournament, but looks as strong as ever, with both Fujinami and Mutoh receiving brutal beatings for their trouble. I hadn't really seen enough of him before this yearbook to weigh in on whether he was one of the great superheavyweights of all time, but now that I have, he definitely belongs in the top two or three (Prime Andre might not have done as much athletically, but his aura and reputation were so fearsome that it's hard to rank anyone over him.)

 

I'm not sure about this bout being one of the top five Japanese heavyweight bouts ever, but right now it's a frontrunner for Japanese singles bout of the year.

 

Did Mutoh ever wrestle Vader in the Muta paint? I'd love to see if the difference in gimmick, slight as it might be, led to a different type of match between these two.

 

Love the throwing of the seat cushions during Mutoh's postmatch celebration. Anyone who believes that Japanese fans can't get excited over matches needs to take a look at this bout and consider themselves educated differently.

 

I'm really looking forward to the Mutoh/Chono final. How many more classics can one tournament produce?

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  • 1 year later...

This was good. Vader lays a Vader-sized beating on Mutoh, who fights back with athletic type moves, e.g. dropkicks, spin kicks, dives and so on, which was unusual for the time. I didn't think Mutoh was anywhere close as good as Sting as he didn't really have the selling or transitions down pat, but the match was fun enough and Vader beat him up in such ways that not much selling was needed. My favourite bit was the punch combo threw when Mutoh had him in the headlock aswell as the illegal punch right before the finish, that was such a dick move.

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  • 3 months later...

Yeah, this is pretty awesome. I loved how Muto bumped for that near-knockout blow from Vader toward the beginning. It doesn't have the war for the ages feel the Sting series has, but damn it's stiff. New Japan owns July & August of 1991, and so does Vader. GREAT match. War for the ages may be a odd way to phrase it, because they go at it. I guess I mean it's more clash of the titans than David/Goliath. I think this is another MOTYC for me.

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  • 5 months later...

One detail I haven't seen mentioned yet is the way Muto runs after being whipped to the corner by Vader. It's this awesome half stumble, half run that suggests he's just been propelled into the corner. I'll agree Muto didn't sell a ton, but I honestly don't think you can expect him to. Not in the more traditional way of selling that we're used to. He has his own way of doing pretty much everything and he shows vulnerability when he needs to here. Loved the vibe of the match with Vader laying in a huge beating and Muto taking it, but firing back with his own big shots to even things up. The homage to the Fujinami finish is nice and Vader is still very protected coming out of the match. Easily the best match of the tournament so far.

 

I know you might be thinking, why did the Chono/Hash match have to be a draw after the finishers didn't work and not this one? In answer I would point to the direction the match takes following that stretch. Hash/Chono they go back to weardown holds and basics to rest up for a bit. This match they go right back to trying to put one another away with the moves that make sense to do so.

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  • 1 month later...

Did this not make Charles' 500? I am shocked. It is a classic.

 

Keiji Mutoh vs Vader - NJPW G-1 Climax 8/10/91

 

What makes this work is that you don't have to sell for Vader. The reason wrestlers have to sell is to make you believe. If watching Vader punch someone in the face, does not make a believer out of you then I guess the only recourse is to have Vader punch you in the face. :)

 

Vader bullies Mutoh into the corner and it is classic Vader the rights and lefts in the corner. You already know Mutoh is in dire straits so when Mutoh makes a comeback it is not that he is no selling. It is that he is fighting through the pain because you already believe. I thought Mutoh was perfect in this match offensively. Five distinct and interesting offensive series. The first being a series of punches to the face that reels the big man and lets him know that he is ready for the fight. Then he goes for a lock up and Vader tags him real good in the face. His next series is a series of dropkicks and after three gets Vader off his feet. Mutoh establishing the quickness game. Now Vader takes offense for a bit longer. It is the clotheslines, splashes and just using his girth to steamroll Mutoh. They go into the corner and then throws him into the post. But as he is getting back in Mutoh dropkicks him. Plancha. Railing. Back handspring elbow on the railing! Back in the ring it is the classic Mutoh elbow. It is a very electric and exciting comeback. Mutoh tries to put Vader in a hold. Bad idea. Vader just tees off on Mutoh. A lot about Mutoh but heres an example of Vader's greatness. Huge Lariat and then the urgency and tightness of his cover put over the stakes of the match. Great stuff from the Big Man. I love the fourth comeback. Mutoh slips down from a suplex and rocks Vader with two smashmouth forearms to the face and then hits a back suplex, springboard missile dropkick (floors him for two) and then a moonsault. Love the urgency from Mutoh. The transition back to Vader is all time great one when he catches him in the back handspring elbow and then Vader THROWS HIM DOWN FOLDING HIM IN HALF. Mutoh is made to look great kickout out of a big Vader splash and Vader powerbomb. My one complaint is the finish was a bit weak. This was a bomb throwing match. To end it with backslides, small packages and not the greatest reversal of a powerslam just felt disjointed from the rest of the match. Mutoh was Vader's equal and this felt tacked on. 95% of this was just gold and you know what the finish is still good enough. Very exciting pro wrestling that makes sense. ****1/2

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Pretty good stuff here, with a lot of back-and-forth early on, Vader clobbering and Mutoh handspringing around like Vader's clubbing blows aren't all that powerful. I liked when Mutoh was fighting back with these great lunging elbows before he heats up with a chain of offense, including the moonsault. Vader catching the handspring with a German uranage was a definite highlight and later, using the closed fists to get some heat from the fans. The finishing stuff was kind of sloppy -- they had to re-do the backslide spot and Mutoh was Mutoh, so you get no selling for the sake of signatures. But whatever, this was fun.

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  • 4 months later...

So I had been meaning to watch this for some time I suppose. No real reason that I hadn't just time and it being in competition with 1000 other wrestling things to watch. Obviously, being the day we learned about Vader's passing, I felt compelled to push it to the top of my free time priorities. I had heard some hype, but I had also seen some people who were in the "good, not great" camp on this. It blew my expectations out of the damn water.

 

This was all sorts of good, probably my favorite Vader match ever to be honest. I would echo that this is obviously a precursor to what we would ultimately get form Sting/Vader, but on first watch I actually think this is the ideal for what Sting/Vader could be. Muto is far more athletic and hard hitting with his offense and it comes off as more energetic and believable than even Sting's best performances. I also think there is more snap and stiffness to Vader's counters here. His punches always look great but you could see them from the stands on a fan cam in this, almost adds to them. I loved a lot of the counters (as mentioned before here) and the way Muto would string together his offense. For example, there is a great section that turns the corner just after the half way point I think where Muto takes a nasty clothesline, kicks out and is able to spin out of a sluplex for those big lunging elbows. Then he snaps off a backdrop driver-esque slam as Vader is trying to fire back. That is followed by a massive springboard dropkick, bridges into vader's sprawled legs and then muto gets flung across the ring on the kick out. Nothing in there is crazy, but the dynamic they pull off of is perfect. From Vader's kickouts being huge and Muto's being more like a shoulder inching off the ground to the level of control/momentum muto has feeling like its constantly in danger of being squashed, even when he is on the offense, I think they executed the story they were trying to tell to near perfection. The finish miscues knock it down just a touch, but they don't honestly bother me much. Muto no selling at the end doesn't bother me either. It didn't even read to me as odd or out of turn in context. I just thought this was a fantastic bit of wrestling.

 

I probably need to get some distance between watching this and Vader's passing to give it a real assessment, but I am a good bit higher on this than most people seem to be.

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  • GSR changed the title to [1991-08-10-NJPW-G1 Climax] Big Van Vader vs Keiji Muto
  • 1 year later...

This was something special. Within the first two exchanges they establish everything you need to know about this pairing. Vader's a powerhouse, but Muto is one of the best around. Muto throws bombs at Vader during the second exchange and Vader slides out of the ring and puts over Muto as a threat. This felt like it could go either way, with Muto always finding something in his arsenal stopping Vader from squashing him like a bug. They do go into overkill with the nearfalls, but this was a super stiff, high stakes match that's a strong MOTYC.

★★★★½

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