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[2000-05-11-BattlARTS] Minoru Tanaka vs Katsumi Usuda

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I am still waiting on that Tanaka match that blows me away although this came the closest . I have found this series to be good matches as a ceiling but also matches that are dry as a bone. To me it is night and day the transitions and intensity exhibited here compared to the Taira vs Otsuka match. It is really starting to formulate the opinion to me that Minoru Tanaka was just pegged as the next big shoot style guy and that combined with him in NJ raised his notrierty even if it wasn’t earned. The opening of this feels like a sparring practice session and was extremely dull. The head kick Tanaka gives around eight minutes in spices things up but my annoyment level had already been raised by that point. The minute Usuda goes after the leg, that raises the stakes again and we get some urgency from him that helps move things along. The final 7-8 minutes are really good and this is probably a match that would look great in JIP form. Usuda is able to kick out of a couple of huge leg kicks and avoid the arm submissions just enough. He finally grasps on a leg lock that Minoru can’t escape from and we have a new champion with a pretty surprised Korakuen looking on. ***1/2

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This match had a pretty solid story to it with Tanaka utilizing a lot of kicks so Usuda logically goes after his leg. However, in execution this one seemed to fall a little flat with these guys seeming to go to the same spot multiple times through out the match where Tanaka repeatedly throwing head kicks that are blocked and eventually countered into a leg lock.

 

***1/2

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The first half was felt kinda flat as it was just a filler until things got good in the second half. The second half of this was really strong however -- everything from the kneebar onward. Minoru's stumbling to get back to his feet and then ultimately crumbling back down due to the pain he's experienced from the kneebar was excellent. Usuda going after the bummed knee with back kicks to escape the back takes for the initial throw was great. Kinda bummed the selling of it wasn't as extensive as Minoru then began cruising to rolling kneebars, flying armbars, suplexes and head kicks, but ultimately it fell back to that during the drama of the finish which I thought was a nice finishing touch.

 

***

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There were some cool moments in this but it felt like they stayed in first gear way too long. The kicks were snug and the matwork pretty straightforward, with Minoru going after the arm and Usuda the leg. I like that Minoru looked a little meaner on the ground, rubbing the wrist tape across Usuda's face at one point to try and break the arm for the jujigatame. Really great dragon screw legwhip from Usuda to set-up the figure-four leglock and of course, Minoru's dragon suplex throw always looks scary. I thought they did a good job of building toward the submission finish and the danger of the armbar/leglock, and Minoru's selling was subtle but better than his usual fare. The finish was also pretty cool, with Minoru fighting against the leglock but when Usuda gets the full extension, he immediately taps out.

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Sort of a slow beginning to this one and not very exciting for the first half. Usuda gets the figure four and it sounded like the Japanese commentator was saying Ric Flair. I liked that Tanaka's bad strategy of continuing with kicks even though he had a hurt leg cost him in the end.

 

***

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This is for Tanaka’s Independent Junior Heavyweight Championship.

This is boring as sin up until Tanaka started headkicking Usuda into the shadow realm. Usuda logically responds by targeting Tanaka’s leg and the match started to trend upwards, but quickly tails off once they start repeating the same sequences over and over again.

Stray Observations:

  • Usuda takes some gnarly head bumps off of Tanaka’s suplexes. I liked him a lot here; Tanaka … not so much.
  • Tanaka has no ring IQ. Your opponent is very obviously adjusting to your headkicks, and also actively trying to weaken them by targeting your leg, so your response is to spam them more … why?

Rating: < ***

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