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[2002-08-03-NJPW-G1 Climax] Yoshihiro Takayama vs Kensuke Sasaki

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Yoshihiro Takayama vs Kensuke Sasaki - G-1 Climax '02


Sasaki is wearing a doo-rag because he has cut the most bitchin' mullet of all time off. Mullet > Doo-rag. However, I cannot deny he is rover like over like this crowd and they may have been able to get a little bit more out of him before transitioning into the Nagata era. Sasaki looks to power straight through the monster early with lots of stiff shots to the mid-section and head. This flurry overwhelms the Bleach Blond Giant enough to hit a powerslam on the ramp and a brainbuster before a HUGE knee lift puts on a stop to that. The crowd even gasped for that kneelift. For all the love the lariat gets, the knee lift is just as badass. Takayama is his usual dickish self putting just one foot on Sasaki counting along. He hits a nice jumping knee on the ramp and then his jumping knee/butterfly suplex combo. A cocky Takayama lets Sasaki take a standing count only to eat a lariat, big mistake. Sasaki is able to apply the scorpion deathlock, but Takayama is too close to the ropes. They start trading wild forearms and this turns into a battle of the big boot versus the lariat. Some of those lariats by Sasaki were vicious and Takayama ate them like a champ. Takayama goes for the German. Sasaki blocks it and then throws Takayama to the ground on his jumping knee attempt. This time the lariat fells the giant. He signals for the Northern Lights Bomb and the crowd pops huge. It is academic as Sasaki picks up the points in this match. ***1/4


It felt like a really high-end TV match, just simple, but exciting spots strung together in a cogent fashion to advance the tournament. Takayama came off as a bigger prick in this match and someone you will root against from now. The big take home was just how over Sasaki was in this match. The home stretch is how they should have ended the Nagata match. Sasaki basically used Takayama's size against him when he threw him down and then hit his big finish to a nice pop.

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The last time I went through 2002, I came in thinking this might have been a MOTYC. It isn't. However, it's got at least a 50/50 shot at making my ballot through the sheer force of brutality and overall efficiency. They don't go 20 minutes with 5 good minutes of slugfest interspersed. It's short, and thus predominantly slugfest, which is right in their wheelhouse.

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The last time I went through 2002, I came in thinking this might have been a MOTYC. It isn't. However, it's got at least a 50/50 shot at making my ballot through the sheer force of brutality and overall efficiency. They don't go 20 minutes with 5 good minutes of slugfest interspersed. It's short, and thus predominantly slugfest, which is right in their wheelhouse.

 

While I personally did not rate their 2004 encounter as a MOTYC, I could see someone making the case that was MOTYC (of course in a year when Kobashi was killing it that is a tall task). Sasaki and Takayama do have tremendous chemistry.

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This is my Sasaki match of choice so far. Just two big dudes duking it out and actually selling where it makes sense. I really, really, really love how Takayama makes his knee lift, dropkick, double arm suplex and legdrop into big moments in the match. Those are not things you would expect to find as "big spots" in 2002 but they rock. The Vader hammers by both at the end were fun, especially Kensuke swinging away after Takayama has been knocked down. Great way of giving the idea you're just swinging away on instinct after taking a beating. Only thing I didn't care for was the lariat thingy, but I'm getting used to mentally editing that out.

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A big fun slugfest that I've seen get overrated in other places but I'm happy to see rated so fairly here. I'll be honest, these guys just have cool offense and that can be enough in a match like this that holds no pretensions of being an epic.

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A match that still hols up despite so many years of slugfest and strike battles that have followed. This one gets it right by keeping up the pace, escalating the violence, and varying the hits. For so long, we've seen guys over sell and go to spaghetti legs only to keep standing to take an elbow. Here we have two of the hardest hitters and biggest stars of 2000's puro not afraid to actually get knocked down and sell a big hit properly. This then leads to the final trade-off which is exciting because they haven't done it 3 times already.  It looks like the finish and dammit, it is! Rather than milking it for another 3-5 minutes like is commonplace. These guys are pros and do so much with real simple stuff. I dug this, a great match.

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