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[2000-09-12-NJPW-Amazing] Jushin Liger & Shinya Makabe vs Koji Kanemoto & Minoru Tanaka

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IWGP Junior Tag Team Champions Koji Kanemoto & Minoru Tanaka vs Jushin Liger & Shinya Makabe - New Japan 9/12/00


Not to be outdone by the previous Junior Tag Title Defense this also had a great closing stretch, but the beginning of the match was pretty ho-hum. The story of the match was the development of Makabe into a man. At first, he was never able to press the advantage against his opponents even though Liger, the God King of Juniors, would set up with some great advantages like tilt-a-whirl backbreakers/surfboard on Kanemoto or powerbombing and piledriving Minoru. It is not that Makabe was so incompetent that he get his ass beat it was just he didn't do much. He threw a lot of lame dropkicks. Liger finally says fuck it and is going to take the match over and hits a big palm strike in the corner on Minoru. Minoru clings to the ropes for dear life. Liger gets cocky and Minoru quickly applies a heel hook. Kanemoto stomps Liger's leg and dares Makabe to try something. Makabe being the putz he is does nothing. Liger makes it to the ropes and Kanemoto & Minoru just kick the shit out of his leg. Where's Makabe? Liger gets a desperation palm strike, but Kanemoto from the ground applies the heel hook again. Minoru throws Makabe out. Makabe is friggin' useless. Liger needs to think about getting a new partner. Liger avoids Kanemoto's flip splash and tries to get the leg woken up, but eats an overhead belly to belly. Makabe breaks up a pin?!?!?!?!?!?!? He is learning! Kanemoto hits his moonsault for two and now has a standing anklelock. Makabe hits a nice German suplex on him. Liger palm strikes for everyone. Ligerbomb on Kanemoto only gets two.


Liger tags in Makabe who runs in and spears Kanemoto. That was pretty cool. Minoru stymies Makabe with a dropkick and Kanemoto hits a bridging Tiger suplex, which Liger breaks up. Minoru applies the heel hook on the outside to Liger. Makabe hits another spear on Kanemoto and a bridging Germans get two. I have come to find out Makabe has two moves at this point: the spear and German suplex. Kanemoto grabs a heel hook out of the German, which allows him to tag Minoru who dropkicks Makabe's knee and applies his own heel hook. Liger saves Makabe from what should have been a submission. Minoru starts to kick Makabe, who starts to fire up with fighting spirit. I have become a pretty big Minoru fan and was actually worried this moron might beat him. I began to actively root for Minoru and the cross armbreaker, which may color why this ending was so exciting for me. Makabe spears Minoru and hits rolling bridging German suplexes for two. Minoru takes a wicked bump off of a lariat and Kanemoto saves. Liger detains him and tells Makabe to finish him off. Ruh roh. Makabe hits a Northern Lights 1-2-NO! MIN-OR-U! MIN-OR-U! MIN-OR-U! Ok so the crowd was not chanting it, but I sure was in my living room in Massachusetts 14 years after the fact. Makabe looks to be on fire, but the dumb oaf eats a kick to the head and Minoru applies the cross armbreaker to get the flash submission.


What a great finish to get me so invested in the outcome. They have done so much to get Minoru's flash cross armbreaker (which is how Del Rio's move should be treated) that you knew it was going to be the finish, but it was smart to have Makabe make the fighting spirit comeback to have him show a good outing. They used the vets tastefully as Liger hit all his sweet offense and played a good FIP. The story was to really let the young lions shine and Minoru looked like he was ready for primetime. ***3/4

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Kanemoto & Minoru Tanaka vs Liger & Makabe, IWGP junior tag team titles, New Japan September 12th 2000

 

Background: Makabe was a somewhat plus-sized junior heavyweight at this point in his career, and his simplistic moveset was balanced by the power advantage he had over other juniors.

 

Why I think it's underrated: This aired on New Japan's somewhat obscure SXW program, which meant it was hard to come by initially. I only found it because of a positive review by the almighty Stuart. The match relies on Japan's standard "young lion underdog tries to make good" story, with Makabe holding his own against the much more skilled champions. This isn't an earth-shatteringly great match, but it's very solid and builds to a few excellent nearfalls off of relatively small moves.

 

What it deserves: Top 100 consideration / on the bubble.

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Really dug the finishing run with Makabe getting the big comeback bid with his spears and Germans. Crowd really wanted him to get the pin on Minoru with that northern lights, but it wasn't happening. The leg work was well done in a way that made you think that Makabe was going to tap while Liger was taken care of. Crowd made it better by being so damn into it. I'd say it's a well-worked juniors match that ends up somewhere in the lower half.

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Solid NJPW junior tag from when the baseline for NJPW juniors wasn't as low. Makabe as the strong youngster added an interesting dynamic that makes this match stand out but it isn't spectacular enough to make a top 100.

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Black Liger! Skinny Makabe! Makabe as a powerhouse junior seems like a nice contrast against Kanemoto & Tanaka. Really liked how Liger played the Misawa role here, always there to bail out Makabe when the opposition has him reeling and using the palm blows as his equalizer. Also thought it put over Makabe's size & power offense effectively before the limb work of Tanaka ends it. Really fun, different juniors match with a different dynamic than I'd usually expect from the juniors.

 

***3/4

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This may not be in the tip top NJPW junior stuff as far as work and stiffness goes but it isn't far off and it carries a great story featuring Makabe. I've said it before but it is shocking how much I am enjoying him and his strikes in 2000 compared to the go away heat he carries with me in present day stuff. Tanaka and Kanemoto are a really great ass kicking tag team with Minoru feeling like the younger brother of Koji but only by a year or two so they are pretty equal. He still wants to prove himself to his big brother but he can hang. Liger is Liger in this match and that isn't a bad thing. His palm strike to take over on offense was super and he really put over the leg work that played into the final moments of the match. Overall when it boiled down to Tanaka and Makabe they crafted an exciting finish that had many teases and transitions. Some of Tanaka's kicks here were on point and brutal. The arm bar finish comes out of nowhere but does help to get that over in the changing landscape of NJPW. **** (7.8)

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Solid tag match, made better with a hot crowd who really got behind Makabe in the backhalf. I liked the legwork on Liger that set up Makabe's big shine, as he comes in and German suplexes Kanemoto off the ankle hold and starts to build momentum from there. I mean, the finishing stretch was the real highlight of the match, with Makabe a medium-sized house of fire with all his suplexes and nearfalls, and Minoru going to town with his stiff kicks and getting the flash armbar submission. Fun stuff.

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This started off as another juniors stiffest but it ended up being a bit too cute with all the nearfalls and saves. And I couldn't quite figure out why Liger didn't make an effort to storm the ring at the end and at least try to get to Makabe. But it's another match that shows how good Kanemoto is in 2000 at least in tag matches.

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The first half of the match wasn't exactly lighting the world on fire or anything but there are far more egregious examples of poor front ends followed by a hot closing stretch than this. Here you at least get Makabe being a kick pad for the Koji team and constantly trying to catch their legs to fight back. Still this had its middling moments, saved big time by a brilliant stretch run with tons of believable nearfalls. The crowd of course helped this tremendously and really helped cover for some off moments by Makabe and Tanaka. Tanaka gets the win but Makabe gets to shine big time along the way.

 

****

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