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[2000-01-04-NJPW-Wrestling World 2000] Shinjiro Otani & Tatsuhito Takaiwa vs Minoru Tanaka & Kendo Kashin

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Look I like Kashin alright and probably more than most but this match will essentially live and die by how inoffensive he is. Takaiwa and Tanaka start out with some dueling leg mat work and Otani shows he is an ass by giving it a sarcastic applause when he comes in the ring. Otani and Kashin proceed to have a really nice exchange with some added touches like Tanaka moving out the rope when Otani reaches for them and Kashin and Tanaka double teaming Otani. Tanaka finds himself in the wrong corner and Takaiwa absolutely waylays him with a lariat. The action here hasn’t taken a turn where one person is worked over for an extended amount but it has remained interesting and the strikes have been impressive. Otani runs through some of his signature stuff on Tanaka including the face wash and the springboard dropkick. Takaiwa gives no fucks about throwing out these vicious clotheslines. Minoru and Kashin are able to gain their bearings with a pair of flash armbreakers and Tanaka locks another one on Otani that Takaiwa has to break up. Really great sequence of missed maneuvers with Otani and Minoru after that teased finish. Kashin has hung in there and looked actively good in the match so far. I really like how they pull out these armbars straight out of their ass as a great equalizer. Takaiwa has one of his own with his trusty lariat. Things break down in the later stages and Takaiwa and Kashin get lost in the only low point of the match. Takaiwa does hit a nasty Death Valley Driver bomb to put him away. This match was a load of fun. ***1/4

 

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Am I overrating everything so far? I thought this was absolutely spectacular. LOVED the way they got over the cross armbreaker as the great equalizer and then paid it off at the end. Kashin and Tanaka kept going back to it throughout the match to counter just about everything Otani and Takaiwa threw at them, and it always worked. Kashin and Tanaka, by the way, were a machine as a team and Minoru Tanaka really looked like the future junior heavyweight superstar. He was more over through his ringwork than I've ever seen any junior heavyweight in the dome to this point -- that includes Liger, Kanemoto, Ultimo Dragon, Otani or anyone else you want to name. He was getting both the big stuff like the spectacular offense to wow the crowd right, and the small stuff like pulling back the ropes when Takaiwa was trying to reach them and keeping the match on their side of the ring. I always enjoy juniors matches on these shows because they all face the same challenge in terms of getting a reaction. I've seen many approaches and some have worked but most haven't. This has been the most successful effort I've seen, and I think that's because they wrestled like heavyweights. They turned the stiffness up to eleven, they kept it thematically simple -- in order for Otani-Takaiwa to win, they had to find a way to neutralize that damn cross armbreaker that kept sinking them -- and they didn't do much in the way of high flying. You could argue that doing this style every night wouldn't be best because other than the faster pacing, they aren't distinguished enough from the heavyweights and that would probably be correct, but on this particular night, it was the right choice. I think one reason I really got into this so much is because we've seen years and years of failed attempts from great juniors to win over these tough Tokyo Dome crowds that haven't worked for the most part. This did, and it was earned. ****1/4

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This match did not do much from me, though as Ohtani is the only guy in this match I really like that was not that surprising.

- Tanaka is a guy who can do really complicated stuff and make it look easy, though in what I have seen from him he hardly ever managed to put it together into a great match.

- Kashin I have seen too little of to have a strong opinion about. I think in stick-heavy matches with clear heel-face structure he can be a real asset (on the first NOAH dome show there was a junior tag, Sugiura & Kashin vs. Marufuji & KENTA, that was built that way and he looked really good).

- Takaiwa has some good power offense but not much else.

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I enjoyed this match and thought it was fun. Minoru Tanaka looked so smooth in this match. I loved his transitions into leg locks. Otani looked good as always and helped stick this match together. I was never a fan of Kashin and thought he was the weak link in this one as the match was much better when Tanaka was in there. Things kind of fell apart in the end here with Kashin and Takaiwa having a big miscommunication at the finish.

 

***1/4

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I really enjoyed this one. I liked Otani's repeated kip ups out of the firemans carry from Kashin at the start, as well as his general dickishness about the opening match handshakes. As many have mentioned, love how the flash submissions were really put over as a great equaliser and they got increasingly over with the crowd. Tanaka is such a smooth worker, he shined in this setting. Would like to see Tanaka with another partner against Otani and Takaiwa, as while Kashin wasn't bad in this match, it felt like he was the noticably weakest worker of the four in the ring.

 

***1/2

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Tanaka and Kashin having the cross-armbreaker as their answer to everything was cool, especially with how they were able to grab it from almost anywhere, but my favourite parts of this were the bits where Tanaka or Kashin would get fed up being treated like scrubs and just smack someone. Tanaka's flurry of kicks that ended with Takaiwa selling almost being KO'd was a great response to that monster lariat. Ohtani doing the facewash bit only for Kashin to grab his leg and chuck him dismissively across the ring was cool, too. I wasn't super high on this as a whole, but I did like some of what they were doing and if nothing else they certainly laid into each other.

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Oh man this might be my favorite match of the month so far. It took a bit to heat up but when it did it got good. It also felt like it a match that built and progressively amped up as opposed to something that just meandered or went too long.

 

To start, the cross armbreaker spots were so geniusly integrated. The move itself is not even something I care for but it was used in such a valuable way here, the ace in the hole for the Tanaka and Kashin team. So it created this feeling that even defense is a dangerous offense.

 

Instead of deviating from the plan Takaiwa just lariats everyone to death and Ohtani comes out on top in his exchanges, adding some dickish behavior as he does it. I adored Takaiwa getting caught by a flash head kick from Tanaka to end a big strike exchange in the body of the match. Tanaka did indeed look solid here if unspectacular.

 

The finish did not bother me much because although they got lost for a moment they just followed it up with a brutal spike right on Kashin's head and erased any awkwardness right away. This was really excellent. For comparison's sake I watched this right after Delphin vs. Togo from Osaka Pro and I preferred this. I thought the build was better, less needless kickouts and extra nearfalls, and just more interesting work.

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This was okay. Ohtani was the best thing in it by far and still looked like one of the best wrestlers in the world. Both his offense and ability to engage the crowd were on a different level. Neither Kashin nor Tanaka brought a lot to the table, though their stereo flying armbreaker spot looked pretty cool. Hard for this to stand out on a stacked card, and it didn't.

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Was that the jacket that the great Ohtani's Jacket is named after?

 

This was a good, fast paced tag. Otani looked great as usual, and Takaiwa's clotheslines were really devastating. I liked Kashin's counters into the armbar. The last sequence falling apart was unfortunate.

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Takaiwa going for the lariat early and Tanaka responding with a dropkick to the bicep was a nice touch. I really liked the contrast of Takaiwa and Ohtani as the bruising juniors against Tanaka and Ka Shin who had to break into submissions to even the game. Tanaka’s transitioning into the submissions was much smoother than that of Ka Shin. Takaiwa had a nice finishing stretch with the repeated powerbombs and though it got awkward for a second there with Ka Shin Takaiwa pulled out a nice jumping tombstone for the win. Good match.

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Great match. I liked the way Ohtani and Takaiwa tried to stay out of too much matwork. Takaiwa's lariats were sick. And this match made me remember how good Ohtani was. Good matchbuilding too.

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Man, it's been so long since I watched a Takaiwa match. As cliche as it is for someone my age to say, watching GIFs of him destroying Marufuji and Hoshikawa on early Z1 shows is one of the things that first got me into Japanese wrestling. I had flashbacks around the 5 minute mark of the clip when he nuked Tanaka with a lariat. Ohtani too, one of the first Japanese tapes I ever got was an Ohtani comp with some 96-97 matches on it. When I was thirteen, I had the pleasure of seeing him and Masato Tanaka live at an ROH show in 2002. Still one of my favorite live wrestling experiences.

 

Anyways, I also enjoyed how the bruisers tried to keep this one as a stand up fight. It speaks to how much the bookers loved Minoru (and to his abilities as well) that he is allowed to go toe-to-toe with anyone and everyone in any situation, whether it be on the ground or on their feet. And LOL, right as I say that, Takaiwa with another lariat. OHTANI BOOTSCRAPES. My favorite spot in all of wrestling, somehow not completely overused and ruined by US indie workers in the next 15 years. God, Kashin is such a scrub, but Tanaka does all the work here and completely makes this match. I'm looking forward to re-evaluating him during this project. I wonder how many HEAT matches will make the cut.

 

Really enjoyed this, even though Kashin appeared to forget the climax of what could have been a great finishing stretch. Watching this made me excited for more NJ Jr Tag stuff in 2000, which I've seen very little of. If I remember correctly, don't we get a nice Dr Wagner Jr and Silver King run in there at some point?

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I know I'm only 4 days in, but this is my match of the month. Tanaka's ringwork was awesome. The match never dragged, and I think everybody did good. Wish they didn't have that confusion bit at the finish, but other then that great match.

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Ohtani is awesome. He puts on a one-man show here while the others bumble about lost in the moment. You can only imagine how bad this would have been without him. Hell, you can see for yourself when he leaves the juniors division later in the year. In retrospect, every great performance he has in 2000 is a last hurrah. A winding down of his juniors career. And we're worse for it. But at least he confirmed his status as juniors legend and not some flash in the pan that peaked incredibly high. He was more of a tag specialist in the waning years of his juniors career but you won't find a better one. Salut, Ohtani. 

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This was really awesome. Everyone really looked great here. I'm a big fan of Tanaka but haven't seen anything by him this early in his career and he so easily stands toe to toe with Ohtani as being the stars of this match. Really cool match. 

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