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[1996-10-30-BattlARTS] TAKA Michinoku vs Minoru Tanaka

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Long junior match! I dunno, this kind of 90s junior epic isn't my favourite match type, but this was very solid. The matwork wasn't anything brilliant, but they kept it interesting enough and Tanaka managed to not embarass himself. Tanaka stuck to shooty offense while Michinoku integrated some pro style into the BattlARTS formula, but never got too cute with it. Tanaka really isn't the most interesting wrestler, but he could throw palm strikes and kicks and lock in a few submissions like you want from a BattlARTS boy trying to take a title off of an outsider. TAKA absolutely sold like a champ and I loved his big punch to show Tanaka who he is. Get rugged, pretty boy!! They may have overstayed their welcome with the giant, grand finishing stretch, but a junior match that has toe holds and missile dropkicks as big nearfalls works better than one that has avalanche brainbusters. I could see some folks being really into this if you like junior wrestling that isn't all spot fu.

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Count me in as someone who loved this! I feel like Minoru Tanaka is a pretty good shoot-style wrestler having been trained at PWFG. Why do you think he would have embarrassed himself? Did you mean to say Taka?

Independent Junior Heavyweight Champion Taka Michinoku vs Minoru Tanaka - BattlArts 10/30/96

I meant to watch their '99 match but I couldnt find it, but this match still rules! I thought this was a perfect hybrid of shoot and pro style wrestling. Minoru Tanaka having trained at PWFG is a great shoot-style junior who I really came to enjoy during my watching of 2000s Puroresu. He is only in his second year of wrestling but carries himself like a veteran. He never quite hit his full potential due to tumultuous landscape of early 2000s Puro. Taka Michinoku has shown himself to be able to handle himself on the mat. The first five minutes is solid grappling, energetic, good body positioning and lots of struggle. There is a stretch in the middle where they were just wrestling at a ridiculously high level. Tanaka gets the first big submission hold which is a heel hook. The match really becomes about Taka Michinoku and his reaction to this. First, it is to counterattack the leg. We see him get a dragon leg screw and then his own heel hook. At one point he dropkicks the knee and gets a figure-4, but Minoru Tanaka is relentless going after the leg. Then it becomes about Taka's selling. The way he scrambles for the ropes in the hold and holds his knee on the outside was phenomenal. I liked Taka's new strategy which was to go for Knockout blows. He knew he was in deep trouble of losing his belt. He hits an enziguiri here, a punch to the head there. First Michinoku Driver, Tanaka turns into a heel hook, which when we get the really good Taka sell and scramble in the hold. The second Michinoku Driver attempt lands. Except there are no pinfalls in BattlArts! I FORGOT! Minoru Tanaka gets up at 8. Then Tanaka says two can play at that game and just starts dumping Taka on his head. German, Dragon suplexes. MISSILE DROPKICK! TANAKA BLASTS HIM WITH A HEAD KICK! You have to see Taka Michinoku's sell of this. The perfect 9 count sell. The only problem is once you do that you undercut the next one. So when Minoru Tanaka hits a Michinoku Driver, Taka's own move and does the Ikeda wind up motion to say Ballgame. BUT Taka does not have anywhere to go. He already got up at 9 the move before and he already did his best sell. That's moment when I knew the match was going to be AWESOME, just not Top 100 of all time. No shame in that. There is definitely overkill down the stretch, but it is wicked fun and keeps your interest.

Taka Michinoku finally quells the Minoru Tanaka run with a German suplex and then clamps on a sleeper/choke which Tanaka makes the ropes but it definitely drains his energy. After the rope break, he is tenacious and re-applies it, but Tanaka grabs a toehold. Taka is selling his ass off in the match. Tanaka gets a heel hook out of it. I love the desperation Taka shows in driving double axe-handles to break Tanaka's grip and lunge for the ropes. SPRINGBOARD DROPKICK! Tanaka unleashes an onslaught of Shotei, Muay Thai Knees, Taka is taking 8, 9 counts repeatedly. Can the young, red hot challenger pull this off? Muay Thai Knees, Clinch, MICHINOKU DRIVIER! Taka back to the choke! Minoru goes for the toehold, but Taka persists and Tanaka passes out. AWESOME FINISH!

Really enjoyed this match and highly recommend it. I thought Taka was the standout star. Great, great selling. It felt like I was Taka Flair stave off the latest, greatest challenger to his throne. He made Tanaka look like a million bucks and a future star in a loss. Tanaka looked awesome on offense. On a bigger stage, this would be remembered as the day Taka Michinoku made Minoru Tanaka a star. Just a huge match! There is some overkill down the stretch, but it just so big and badass that I was still eating it up with a spoon. Definitely check out this hidden gem! ****1/2

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