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[1991-12-16-NJPW-Battle Final] Keiji Muto & Hiroshi Hase vs Shinya Hashimoto & Scott Norton

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Pretty good match. I figured Norton would stick out like a sore thumb, but he actually fit in with what they were doing pretty well. I love Hashimoto's desperation electric chair to stop the Muto moonsault. But it only delays the inevitable, as Muto puts him away with the same move for the finish just a few minutes later. Muto going over clean while the crowd chants his name seems like an appropriate way to end 1991 for New Japan.

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Norton did well on hitting his big power moves and then tagging out so as to not overstay his welcome. He liked to twist his opponents in the guard rail as much as possible. Hase looks recovered from his Island Death Match. Mutoh with the moonsault over Hash to win. Crowd loved it.

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Hase and Muto do a tremendous job of setting up Norton's offense, from bouncing off of him to going up for his way-cool double-suplex. This is really New Japan's answer to the Misawa Army vs. Doc/Gordy tags but it's probably better than all of them, in fact, since Hash is better than either of the two MVCs and can work the bulk of the match, and the natives do a better job of feeding themselves to Norton even if he's not as good as Doc or Gordy. There's a consistent story of Muto and Hase having better continuity as a team, constantly making saves and executing double-teams while I don't think Norton and Hash do any such thing the whole match. Not going to be a MOTY finisher but I think I'm way higher on this than Loss or Kevin. This was an excellent closing chapter for 1991 New Japan.

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I really dug this as well, Pete. Norton's strongman spots looked very cool, and Hase did a great job in general eating punishment and bouncing around for the big guys. Typically hot finishing stretch for a Muto-Hase tag, with the crowd going apeshit. I'm not sure the NJ tags have been better than the AJ tags this year, but it was certainly still a valid debate at this point.

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I was pleasantly surprised by how good Norton was here, strong in more ways than one. The challengers dominated the offence. But the champs took their medicine and caught Hash in a double team to grab the quick pinfall. The end came quite suddenly given the pacing. Good quality work as you had three top guy's keeping their end up and one overachieving.

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Hash's hair is out of control here. I liked the November Norton tag and this one was even better. The work on Hase was great and then we get another FIP sequence with Muto. Hase does the surfboard spot with Hash 2 years before Liger but this time it is with a bow and arrow. The comeback was timed well and ended appropriately with a big moonsault by muto on Hash.

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l liked this one a good bit. Muto and Chono are developing into a great team, and they certainly had the advantage in continuity and crispness. Hash and Norton tried to compensate for this with size and strength, and it worked for quite a while. Norton has been a revelation in both the Steiner tag and this one; it's little wonder that he basically homesteaded in Japan, because he found his niche there in a way he probably couldn't have here in the States, mixing his power moves with just enough skill to stay credible. In the end, it's Muto and Chono's ring smarts that prevail, as Hash thinks he's scouted Muto's moonsault and tries to stop it, only to be suplexed off the second rope by Hase. Muto then scampers up top and nails the moonsault anyway for the big win.

 

The fans really seemed to be into Muto more than usual here; could that be one of the reasons why WCW chose him to team with Sting against the Steiners the following month in the Tokyo Dome? You would think that if NJPW had had its druthers, they would have wanted the Steiners to challenge Muto (without the paint) and Hase for the IWGP belts, since that match had never happened, at least on a stage like the Dome.

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It actually did happen at the 1994 and 1995 Tokyo Dome shows, but yeah, your point is still correct. I wouldn't say the Steiners were washed up by 1994, but I would say that they were never the same after Scott's '91 injury as they were before it in terms of being over and their matches carrying so much excitement over what new moves they were about to debut.

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Despite the lack of offense for Muto/Hase, I liked this one a lot. You can see Norton's limitations, but they don't work against the match. He comes across as a viable gaijin monster. I don't like how sudden the finishes seem in these Muto/Hase tags, even if I see the advantage of painting them as underdogs who need to have good teamwork and time their comebcks well if they are going to stand a chance. Problem for me is it looks like Hash or Norton would wipe the floor with either in a singles match.

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Damn what a match! This is Hashimoto & Norton working as the Twin Towers. Just two big menacing dudes waltzing in and daring anyone to stop them. Norton going „So I'm a massive freak, what are you puny japs gonna do about it?“ is all kinds of fun and Hase looks really good trying to chop him down. Hase really lays clotheslines into Norton in such a way that Nortons shrugging him off genuinely looks impressive. Hashimoto was just laying epic beatings on everyone. At one point Hase got his throat worked over, and his hot tag is literally getting thrown into his own corner as a crumpled mess by a Hashimoto kick. There was some cute Muto stuff here, but both he and Hase take massive beatings and it actually looks like he has to dig deep and survive the onslaught. Some wonderful nearfalls down the stretch. This was just plain fun.

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