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Charles (Loss)

[2001-01-28-BattlARTS] Alexander Otsuka & Tiger Mask IV vs Carl Malenko & Ikuto Hidaka

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Probably the best Battlarts match nominated for this project to come before the 2008 return to glory. Not a wildly violent Battlarts match though there is some good striking. I like Tiger Mask and Hidaka in this setting but this is all about Malenko and especially Otsuka. Otsuka brings all the best matwork, counters, selling, and throws and it really feels like a good match to show off his skills without having the other 3 pillars of Battlarts (Ishikawa, Ikeda, and Ono) around.

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One of the things I love about Battlarts is the constant battle for body position in relation to counters and submissions. And these guys all bring that kind of sensibility to the match, even TM4. The thing about TM4 is, his kicks are one of his weaker offensive weapons. He's got good punches and is really, really good on the mat. So to me, Battlarts is the perfect showcase for him as a good worker. Hidaka is great in this kind of setting, and he and TM4 have some incredible exchanges both on the mat and in standup. His late run with Otsuka is one of the big highlights of the match. Malenko is really great on the mat and gets to show it off a lot. He's got good kicks and knees too, but I really like his matwork. Otsuka is incredible. He brings so many different styles into one package. He'll bust out pro wrestling style suplexes and amateur wrestling takedowns in the same sequence. He's got great headbutts and is a master of well-fought matwork. And (not in this match though) he's got some nice dives. Here he is a suplex and mat wrestling machine. His early deadlift German is absolutely phenomenal. The finish is great as it plays off of the legwork that has been done to Otsuka through most of the match.

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Is there a more well-rounded wrestler than Otsuka? Probably not. Great explosiveness in his offense, from his suplexes to his grappling. I think Hidaka is very much an underrated matworker. I really liked his quickness across the canvas and the fluidity of his takedowns. Tiger Mask looked pretty good here, too. His early legscissors takedown was great and he hung on the mat with Malenko in a neat exchange. Malenko sells the danger of submissions really well, and the struggle between he and Otsuka on the ground was great. But Otsuka stole the show with not only with his offense (stuff like the deadlift German and gutwrench backbreaker) but fighting through submissions as Calenko and Hidaka target his legs throughout. Hidaka gets a really cool double leg takedown into the submission but Otsuka pulls out the win, countering the rolling leglock with a heel hook. Very cool tag match.

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Really good BattlARTS match. Otsuka vs. Creco was the highlight for sure, but I thought Tiger Mask and Hidaka might drag this down and they never did. If you know me then you know I'm a massive Creco fanboy. I LOVED the match-up with Otsuka here even though I'm not an Alexander fanboy. The match was worked in the hybrid style but there was enough grappling to satisfy a barnacle like me. 

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