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[2001-05-28-NJPW-Best of the Super Juniors] Minoru Tanaka vs AKIRA

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This is an improvement over their previous match. In this one they manage to do the kind of early athletic junior exchanges you expect without as much of the cute stuff. The selling is as great as last time and pays off with an even more dramatic finish. Minoru catching AKIRA with the armbar after getting hit with the splash is one of the best near submission spots I've ever seen in an NJPW junior match.

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The finishing run is really good. It is a question of which is going to give out first, AKIRA's arm or Tanaka's leg? Only problem is, Tanaka has worked the leg quite a bit leading into it and AKIRA keeps going up top with no real slowdown from that or selling of it. Most of the match was really enjoyable, but it was about 5 minutes too long. AKIRA's tope is the highlight for me. Either he aimed wrong or Minoru moved, but AKIRA ends up going chest first into the railing with no real slowing of his momentum. Very nasty looking.

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Minoru Tanaka vs AKIRA - NJPW BOSJ 05/28/01

 

Minoru Tanaka, King of Flash Submissions, is neck and neck with Yoshinari Ogawa as my favorite thing about 00s puroresu. This is not quite at the level of his other elite performances, but it is just a notch below. I am so glad we get this match in almost complete form (missing a minute or so of 23 minute match) given as it is basically the extended, more deliberate version of the 2000 match I loved. We still get the double leg psychology that made the first match so interesting, but we also get the complete build. Also, it is less of a sprint so there is less blowing off selling. Minoru is so incredible in holds with his selling really drawing you when AKIRA has him in leg holds. In this match, Minoru does not destroy AKIRA's leg as much and thus when AKIRA does go for his big dives it is not as irksome. I love AKIRA's psychology to whenever Minoru gets one up on him. It is always to retaliate immediately with something big. Like when Minoru first goes after his knees, he goes for a palm strike to the head, but whiffs this opens him up to a dropkick sending him to the outside and a Minoru plancha. They spend a bit too much time in the rolling heel hook, without much selling, which is the worst part of the match. For the rest of the match, AKIRA's retaliation policy is to go after the knee to cut off Minoru, which reaps great benefits being to hit a huge dive to outside or his preferred finish sequence of German suplex and top rope splash. Minoru switches gears to an arm based attack after catching AKIRA off the top coming to the floor with an armbar. AKIRA tries to bring a chair into the ring, but ref is having none of it. AKIRA hits a wicked low blow, but it is not enough. His big splash hurts his arm and Minoru looks to win with a flash cross armbreaker, but AKIRA gets the ropes. I would be remiss not to mention that AKIRA was rover like over and not even in the underdog permission. They work a similar submission reversal sequence, but ending with AKIRA winning with an STF to cap off a great match. It is nice I left these junior matches to mix in with the later decade stuff because I just appreciate this style so much. AKIRA is a bit offense heavy, but still lets his spots breathe. Minoru is so amazing with his selling and his ability to work underneath, but always has a puncher's chance with his flash submissions. ****

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