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Charles (Loss)

[2002-04-07-NOAH-Encountering Navigation] Jushin Liger & Minoru Tanaka vs Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru

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New Japan (Jushin Liger & Minoru Tanaka) vs.

NOAH (Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) - NOAH 4/7/02


In my opinion, this is the best match of the trilogy with great intensity and payoffs. As always the match starts with a melee as Liger greets Kikuchi on the ramp with a PALM STRIKE~! In a great early spot, Liger shoots Kikuchi into the ropes on the ramp so he just walks right through into the ring. Crowd pops! I love it! Kikuchi grabs a double wristlock on Minoru is going for the early submission and is relentless on the arm. The NOAH ref actually has to pull him off, which affords Minoru the opportunity to tag Liger and for Liger to palm strike Kikuchi. Looks like the fix may be in and the ref has some Yakuza bookies to pay off. :)


Liger applies a cross armbreaker to Kikuchi, who sells it well, but it was not sold like in other Minoru matches the urgency to get out it. They went for more of a dramatic, long-term sell. Jushin "Nature Boy" Liger and NOAH Official Tommy Young get into a heated argument. Then Minoru comes in hits a dropkick, kips up and flips off Kanemaru on the apron. Minoru does the one foot pinfall attempt. This is great heel work from the New Japan boys and everything is focused on the arm throwing it into the post and kneedropping it. Kikuchi back drops out of a Ligerbomb attempt to tag Kanemaru, which was a bit of unsatisfying transition.


What happens next is some of my favorite stuff to ever happen in a wrestling ring. I have come to realize that Kanemaru' has a penchant to low blow with his leg when he being attacked from behind. You have to get up pretty early in the morning to get one over on Liger, who avoids Kanemaru's natural defense mechanism and then kicks Kanemaru in the balls. Kanemaru sells it like death. The NOAH young boys are red hot and take to the apron to protest. Liger taunts them and palm strikes one off the apron. LIGER RULES~! Minoru sets up Kanemaru in the corner for Shattered Dreams, but first he hits two dropkicks and then casually walks over and kicks him in the balls. Minoru hops around in the ring grabbing himself taunting the crowd. I love it! Minoru kneedrop and does the one foot cover again to no avail. Kanemaru hits a dropkick to tag Kikuchi, again kinda lame transition. Kikuchi is red hot and is just tackling everyone and forearming anyone he can get his hands on. He tags Kanemaru in and then in the payoffs to end all payoffs: Kanemaru knocks Minoru on the ground and drop toeholds Liger so that he headbutts Minoru in the nuts. TREMENDOUS!!!!! In turn out after having his manhood abused Kanemaru grew a fucking set because he rips Liger's mask and goes after Liger's eyes. Liger kicks out of his moonsault at one and just lets out what can only be described as a roar! Now you gone and done it, boy!


Liger absorbs a palm strike and lets loose with one of his own for two. They trade brainbusters to level the playing field. Minoru flies all around Kikuchi making him look foolish. Minoru heel hook does not do it and Kikuchi rattles off a German, but on the second attempt Liger palm strikes him in the head. Liger tells Minoru to take care of his light work. Liger piledrives Kanemaru on exposed concrete. Minoru gets a two with a head kick and the immediate cross armbreaker gives New Japan the victory. I thought the first 3/4 of this match would give the Midnights/RnRs a run for their money in combining drama and comedy in a match. The New Japan heel work was awesome and the testicle psychology was off the charts great. Kanemaru taking it to Liger was awesome and really should have figured into the finish. Instead, the finish was the usual stuff with Minoru winning with the cross-armbreaker. There was definitely a lot more to explore in terms of Kanemaru going to town on Liger. In addition, the babyface transitions were not the strongest, but still overall a super fun and excellent match. ****

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This was all kinds of fun. Minoru and Liger turning the tables on Kanemaru with the ball shots was great. Kanemaru getting revenge using Liger's head via drop toe hold was better. The mask ripping and HATE in this match were off the charts. I still think the New Japan rematch in August is better so this won't be getting a vote. But damn is it one great match.

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It's so awesome to see that these matches still hold up. I still have fond memories of watching these while reading the DVDVR these were reviewed in. I've seen more clever nutshot shenanigans in lucha but this is still high end groin centric comedy. The hatred and the more focused than usual face/heel dynamic make this stand out.

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On first watch, this was favorite of the series and on rewatch this trumps the February match because how much stronger the story is and how each segment has more memorable spots. The February match has a more brutal Wataru Inoue performance but Minoru Tanaka was so on fire at this point that his cocky character added plenty to this match. I loved the beginning with Kikuchi getting the deep double wristlock on Minoru Tanaka and then Liger using the ref to apply a cross armbreaker to him. I thought the arm attack being much more focused in this match gave this more direction. I liked how when Kikuchi started to rev up Minoru calmly kicked him in the head. Once Kanemaru got in, the TESTICULAR PSYCHOLOGY~! was off the charts awesome. Kikuchi brought the heat back with some great spears. Not to be outdone Kanemaru goes for Liger's mask and shit gets red-hot. I loved the finish run with Minoru exhibiting his awesome submission skills and Kikuchi's resiliency. Lets see if August can top this. I have this at #2 for 2002 right now. ****1/2

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Just a great match where everyone contributes something. Kikuchi is the world's greatest babyface who can throw a meaty forearm, Liger is one of the most expressive wrestlers ever even though his face is covered and Tanaka is as arrogant as he is athletic. Hell, even Kanemaru shows a lot of fire saving his downed buddy and when he's trying to unmask Liger. Throw all that in front of a molten-hot crowd and you got yourself something brilliant.

 

★★★★

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Tanaka was in full "I'm married to Yumi Fukawa and you're not" mode. He's such a great heel, I had no idea he had this in him (I'm more used to the old Battlart Tanaka). Yet another terrific junior interpromotional war, and that's all there is to it. It really gave Kikuchi a nice last great stint, although he looked really rough at times. But damn, heel Liger getting elbowed in the face never gets old. Great match. Again.

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NOAH vs. NJ part two. Everyone is on fire! Liger is a no selling douche! Kikuchi is a mad old bugger who will take a chunk out of you without blinking! Clever nutshot spots! Mask ripping! Submissions are important! This match did a great job milking and amplifying the heat of the feud. Lean and strong pace with an emphasis on masks ripped open and nasty elbows from mount, this is the direction japanese wrestling should've kept going. Watch the backstage footage too!

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