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Charles (Loss)

[1999-06-03-NJPW-Best of the Super Juniors] El Samurai vs Shinjiro Otani

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This is a lost classic almost on par with their legendary January ’96 match, and it’s worked in a similar style. I think in some ways it might be better just because Otani is wrestling like someone more sure of himself at this point. The matwork immediately seems so gripping and high-stakes, with dramatic submission attempts and amazing selling right away. This is not at all filler, this is meaningful and consequential wrestling right out of the gate. Samurai shows his goods on the mat, where he’s always been very good, but this is really the Otani show. His selling and offense are as good as anything you’re likely to see anywhere. This is similar to the Yoshida matches in that they are doing all this tricked out mat stuff, but sprinkling in a few high-impact moves for the sake of drama. The selling is great on a micro level, but the big picture selling where both guys are selling the fatigue is what puts this over the top. We might end up looking at this as the last great singles match from the New Japan juniors of this generation.

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Holy shit this match is incredible. This definitely has similarities with their classic 96 match as early on Samurai goes for the arm and Ohtani goes for the leg and they actually make it mean something. The opening mat stuff is fantastic and once they target in on the body parts they start busting out some big submission spots and this match feels like a hard fought war before they even start throwing bombs. The selling from both guys is great here too. Ohtani seems to get more mileage out of the leg than Samurai does out of the arm, Samurai sells a bit more and for a bit longer, and Ohtani goes back to the leg later in the match in a way Samurai doesn't. Once they start throwing bombs they don't forget to sell and this match really goes to another level. Some amazing spots and Ohtani's out of it selling is really fantastic. This isn't a go-go-go kind of match at all as they're always selling the fatigue but from a workrate prosective it's still as good and exciting as any of the great juniors matches. There are some real heart stopping near falls at the end. Ohtani also hits just about the nasties boot scrape of all time. Kind of bummed about the draw ending because this was a match I really wanted to have a real finish but damn this was one of the best juniors matches ever. My new MOTY.

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This match I hope gets praise like the Toshie 97 GAEA match. It is incredible piece of wrestling and provides the ultimate 1-2 punch to their January 96 match. Great mat work starting out with Otani being confident but ferocious. Him raising his hands after attacking the leg was great as he pumps his fist in the leg lock. Samurai feels like someone that time has passed him by and he is out to prove his worth here. His arm work on Otaini was done brilliantly and with precision that was amplified by Otani writhing in pain. This certainly was not a subtle sell job by Otani but he is a wrestler who first and foremost emotes so it felt true to his character arc. Any little opening in this match can change the momentum. Samurai is ever so slightly slow in getting up after a rope break and otani does a swift leg sweep to regain control. Otani allows Samurai to get back in the ring and he immediately takes over with a nice submission attempt. I really appreciated that in RINGS like fashion, all of the submission attempts felt like they could be the finish and absolutely nothing was taken for granite or earned easily. The match cranks into another gear with the bootscrap that catapults Otani out of the ring. Otani selling the arm after the senton on the outside was choice selling. Samurai responds with a dive but takes even more damage on his leg. Back inside he skips to the top rope and delivers a missile dropkick and headbutt for a really good nearfall. Dramatic ending with nearfalls, slap exchanges, and hate and desperation between both men selling the fatigue of the beating they have inflicted. Otani at one point has to be awaken by the referee and his facial expression is amazing. Otani gets his missile dropkick and suplex and can grasp victory but Samurai says no. He decides to go back to the leg well and Samurai has a great sell job just gyrating in the ropes from the pain being inflicted. They exchange some roll ups which gets over the desperation but honestly may be my least favorite sequence of the match. Samurai wins me back with a stiff slap to Otani and a reverse DDT for another nearfall. Otani shakes the cobwebs and looks for a suplex to secure victory. Samurai clinches the ropes for all he can but in a sudden movement, Otani hits a powerbomb for a nearfall and covers again as time expires. What a beautiful piece of pro wrestling. ****3/4

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I watched this match twice. First time I watched it, I couldn't get into it. That happens a lot with these New Japan Jr matches with me. Second time I watched it, I liked it more. I dig Otani's offense like the bootscrapes and just being a dick in general. I wouldn't call it a MOTY but it's really good if you like the style.

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When the time limit expired. 23m of the 30m was shown with AJW TV quality clipping. Early on they established the theme with Ohtani attacking the knee and Sammy working on the arm. The focus was exaggerated as they kept going back to those body parts. I wouldn't usually hate on blatantly copying a prior match from 3 1/2 years ago, but 1/21/96 stood out for being so unique. So comparing the two was all I was thinking of whilst viewing. Back in 1996 Ohtani was arguably the best in the world for a time. Here he was trying to get back to that level, but it took more conscious effort and his antics felt a bit forced. Samuel was a rock solid technical workhorse, but it all revolved around Shinjiro. Don't get me wrong it was a quality bout. The word that comes to mind is sequel. Reuniting the cast, repeating the initial formula and then trying to go somewhere a bit different with it. It was reasonably satisfying, yet not as good as the original.

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I still like the '96 match better but this was a ride and a half. They take us from extremely focused body-part work--Samurai targeting Otani's arm and shoulder, Otani targeting the leg--and then move into bomb-trading but do it in an organic way. And Otani busts out a few leg submissions down the stretch as false finishes to keep a psychological thread running through this. Otani is still a master seller, not just of damage done to him but of damage that *could* be done to him (watch as he scrambles to not let Samurai do the inverted DDT off the turnbuckle) and reacting to other moments in the match (like Samurai kicking out of the German suplex). And good Lord are there some vicious dropkicks thrown here, of all kinds and varieties. When the time limit expires I groaned but it was the good kind of groaning, where I wanted to see these two continue and am extremely hopeful that there's another singles match to come in '99. If not on the Yearbook, at least one that I can find. Definite MOTYC and off the top of my head probably New Japan's best effort of the year so far.

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Shinjiro Ohtani vs El Samurai - NJPW 6/3/99

Not quite as good as their 1996 classic, but still a helluva find by Charles & The Yearbook Staff. Ohtani was in the zone in this match channeling his 1996 self. He was his histrionic best. I dont think this match was quite as nasty and detail-oriented as their '96 contest. I really Ohtani's noogie to the eye to break Samurai first attempt at an armbar, but after that the nastiness wasnt quite there. I can see why a lot of people like this because they do away with the perfunctory NJPW juniors opening matwork and replace with very focused and tight double limb psychology. They allude to their '96 classic with Samurai targeting the arm and Ohtani targeting the leg. The work was great but the drama was not there. I remember marking out in '96 when Samurai hit the double stomp to Ohtani's arm as he stretched it out the ropes. Here, I was like I bet that is what happened, it happened and I was like cool. I thought the transitions were good not great a little too "Now it's my turn". I feel like I sound too down. The work was really tight and I thought Ohtani's selling was really good. Ohtani is also at selling winning. He is such a prick when he is winning a match. They pretty much abandon the double limb psychology to start throwing bombs. Samurai to his credit keeps selling. Ohtani hits a WILD, OUT OF CONTROL FACEWASH! I thought he was going to decapitate himself on the ropes. His springboard offense looked incredible as always. He really wiped Samurai out with his ass on that springboard spinning heel kick. For his part, Samurai hit some great dives. I love Ohtani's selling down the stretch. The comedy gold of hugging the ring post to avoid a super back suplex. The exasperation of not getting a three (look at his sell after not getting the three on that late German suplex or when Samurai gets the ropes during the heel hook, incredible). The selling of Samurai's offense is so good. He was so good at the character work in this. Not to be outdone when Ohtani does go back to the leg, I loved Samurai's verbal selling in the heel hook and how he was thrashing around in pain searching for the rope. I didnt like the Draw finish. I just didnt feel like this match was that much of war. A draw feels like it should be because both men are spent instead this felt like both men still had life. 

This feels like a great bomb throwing workrate match with a strong mat portion at the beginning and tons of great character work from Ohtani. I think the '96 match has a more unique feel and is grittier. That being said this is still wicked entertaining and it is always a treat to get to see more Ohtani. That hugging the ringpost spot is an all-timer. Honestly, I thought Ohtani's reactions and selling is what makes this match stand out more than anything and they are my biggest takeaway. ****1/2

 

 

 

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