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[1998-07-20-RINGS] Akira Maeda vs Yoshihisa Yamamoto

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I liked this way more than I expected, simply because I didn't think Maeda would have anything left at this point. It's not the technical masterpiece on the level of the Han/Tamura/Kohsaka stuff at the time, but not much is. Instead, they brutalize each other with stiff shots and build a lot of drama around strikes. There's also a really cool vet vs young guy dynamic going, with the young guy really making a hell of a showing. This was an awesome match and a nice surprise. I presume this is the last standout performance of Maeda's career.

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Was this a retirement of sorts for Maeda? The ringing bell at the end was the reason I ask. Anyway, I agree that this didn't have the precision or the brutality of other stuff in shoot style we have seen in 1998 but it did have an awesome story of Maeda having pretty much complete control and then realizing in the tail end that he was out gunned and didn't have much left to give and therefore he runs out the clock. The stirke exchanges in the waning minutes were nice and the ankle lock in the middle of this looked brutal. I love the variety of all the shoot style matches that have stood out in 1998 so far. (****1/4)

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Though Maeda looked gassed most of the way, they actually made that into something compelling, with the old ace having to gut it out just to survive. I'm not generally a fan of slap fights but man, those were some great slap fights, peppered with an occasional hook to the ribs. Because Maeda was genuinely tired, he did lie around some, which sucked some tension out of the middle of the match. But I wouldn't say it diminished the drama much in the end. Fun to see a different kind of main event from RINGS.

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Maeda's retirement bout, and he went out with a DDP. Obviously it wasn't his final bout, that would be silly. I absolutely loved the dynamic here with the ageing legend against the youngster in his prime. Lots of enjoyable matwork early doors. Nothing groundbreaking but it was good quality and easy viewing. That developed into a huge strikefest in the second half. The vet got pounded over and over again, but the tough old bastard would not go down. He was exhausted and hanging on for dear life. They fought to a standstill as the 20m time limit expired. Thanks to some overly generous officiating Akira was declared the victor. Yamamoto should've won, yet being part of a fine match like this was a worthy second prize.

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Pretty fun--I wish the ground work were half as compelling as the stand-up portions, but the strike exchanges were wonderfully stiff and heated. Maeda is pretty out of shape by this point but they manage to work around that.

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I guess it's official. I don't like, or can't get into shoot-style. Fat Maeda against a guy I don't know laying on each other for 17 minutes of a 20 minute match is not my thing.

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Been wanting to watch this for a while. I'm a sucker for old gunslingers nearing the end of the road trying to dig for one last drop out of the well, and that's exactly the role Maeda played in this match. This was his retirement match and, based on the shape he was in, I don't think anyone thought it came too early. As mentioned, he was fat, slow, and seemed to gas pretty quickly. Yet, in spite of all that, here he insists on going to war with a young guy who has him outclassed in nearly every aspect. The one thing he had over his younger opponent was size, and he tried to use that advantage as much as possible. He's big enough that he's able to takedown Yamamoto at will to shut him down whenever he gains some momentum standing, but that's about it. He does do a few things on the ground, but, for the most part, he struggles when it comes to getting past Yamamoto's guard and actually doing damage. Rather than the flash you'd get out of a Tamura or Han match, Maeda plays a slow game of just trying to survive and capitalize off whatever opening he can find. Yamamoto, for his part, seems oddly passive on the mat and I got the sense that he was simply being respectful by letting Maeda have his way rather than making a serious run towards submitting him. Towards the end, there's several times Maeda ends up defenseless on his hands and knees, and Yamamoto just walks away as if to say that he wants to give him the opportunity to go out on his feet like a true warrior. When they're not on the mat, Yamamoto gives Maeda a pretty rough beating, unloading on him with some hard barrages in second half of the match. At points, I was reminded of those boxing or MMA fights where you have an aging legend getting dominated by a hot young prospect. Still, this is pro wrestling and they do work in some good drama in the form of a few nice submission attempts on the ground and giving Maeda a pretty hot standing rally in the last few minutes so it's not a complete squash. I have to admit that this match was completely from the striking war I expected it to be based on the comments I'd read about it, but what I watched is still a great usage of a 20 minute time limit and a compelling example of storytelling within shoot-style. ****

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At this point, you can't expect much out of Akira Maeda but the way Yamamoto embarrasses him with the barrage of open hands is quite something...and the escalation to the final minute with them just smacking the shit out of each other until the bell rings and they immediately fall into an embrace is quite special. There are some cool moments from Maeda, like him busting out the shoot dragon screw or some of his big knees, but he doesn't give Yamamoto much to work with on the mat. I mean, there are times when the referee has to get Maeda off from just laying on Yamamoto. The first rope break doesn't occur until 14 minutes into the match so the submission work is secondary to Yamamoto straight walloping his boss, which is something I'm sure some of us would love the opportunity to do. I love that Yamamoto keeps standing up when Maeda only wants to turtle down, even grabbing the rope to force the stand up. And Yamamoto does a really good job of selling Maeda's body punches but once Maeda gets bloodied, he seems to pick up the intensity leading to that final powerful moment. Good stuff!

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