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[2001-01-04-NJPW-Wrestling World 2001] Toshiaki Kawada vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan

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This is simple and effective and definitely better than their 2004 match. Tenzan's striking is inconsistent but Kawada's selling makes up for that. The headbutt that puts Tenzan in control is a real good one though. This is all about Kawada's selling which makes it better than it would have been with the focus on Tenzan's selling. The problem is that leads to a match with more Tenzan control segments than I'd like. The length makes that a bit more acceptable but it still never gets better than just good.

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Toshiaki Kawada vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan - IWGP Championship Semi-Finals Tokyo Dome 01/04/01

 

Kawada, lookin' tan, drags a pretty good match out of Tenzan en route to the IWGP Championship rematch with Kensuke Sasaki. The trick with Tenzan headbutts is to get a good camera angle though the transition headbutt actually draws blood from Tenzan. Tenzan's game plan is to overwhelm Kawada and hit his big spots. I enjoyed the cutoffs as Tenzan put up a good effort like the headbutt to the mid-section after a missed diving headbutt, the always excellent desperation Kawada closed fist and the dragon leg screw from Tenzan. Kawada is really great at selling in the moment, but in the 00s he is not very good at selling long term. The leg psychology I thought was something that would boost this match did not go anywhere. The finish run was to be expected lots of jumping kicks from Kawada and headbutts from Tenzan with each trying to set up their kill. Kawada hits the powerbomb for the win. It was enjoyable, but nothing that special. The struggle between the two keeps it interesting, but they never get to the next level. ***1/4

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Man, is there a more annoying wrestler than Tenzan? Naoya Ogawa STO'ing people over and over till they fall unconscious is cool. Tenzan wandering around and hitting these crummy headbutts and chops that look like they do nothing is just the worst. Anyways, Kawada could carry a dead man to a solid match, and this wound up being good, but I couldn't help but feel like I was watching Dick Murdoch carrying an untrained dude with a horror movie gimmick or something.

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There are four Kawada matches on NJPW World, and they really emphasize how much better Kawada was than these NJPW chumps.

 

This is a really good match in spite of Tenzan, whose offense is just ridiculous. He spends most of this match on offense, which is too bad for a couple reasons:

 

1. He's bad at it

B. The crowd, which you might expect to be rooting for the home team, wants Kawada to win. They want Kawada/Sasaki in the final, and they pop big when they get it.

 

So this is pretty great thanks to Kawada's selling, Kawada's desperation punch to knock down Tenzan and give him an opening to start kicking head, and Kawada's offense.

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This was decent enough for what it was. The chances of it being great were slim to none but it was interesting to see Kawada in this setting again. I thought he sold too much but in a way that illustrated the contrasting philosophies of New Japan vs. All Japan. I wasn't entirely convinced that he did enough to put Tenzan away but they would've outstayed their welcome if they'd gone any longer. Some interesting parallels to Tenryu's forays into New Japan but Kawada didn't have the charisma that Tenryu possessed which meant it wasn't as electric. 

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Dave’s report says this was MOTN to most people. I guess I can see that as it was compact and billed as a violent bombfest but giving the way this show is trending and the limitations of Tenzan in general, this probably won’t end up in my top 3 on the show overall.  Kawada was good here at selling damage and seeming winded and that in turn causing him to fight with more desperation.  The two best examples of this is when he throws a hooking right punch that they show in slow motion connection and the way he tries to desperately hook on the stretch plum.  Tenzan for his part is better here than in the Nagata match, but just doesn’t look that imposing when he gets into strike exchanges.  Kawada was looking throughout the match to hit the powerbomb and he does to advance and create a final that felt set in stone once Sasaki won the first semi final match.  I would have flipped the order of the semi finals as Chono vs Kawada could have been a big match worthy of a ¼ main event too. ***1/2 (6.8)

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I loved it.  Some fantastic individual sells from both Kawada and Tenzan after taking headbutts and punches, respectively.  Great story of Tenzan dropping him early but Kawada having more in the tank and turning it around after his right hand lands.  Kawada gets the powerbomb and moves on.

***3/4

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