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[2003-05-02-NJPW-Ultimate Crush] Kenta Kobashi vs Masa Chono

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By this point, Chono is Mr. Puroresu and he's a legend. And he's also washed up. Like, really washed up. So, what does Kenta Kobashi do to make this match at the Tokyo Dome as compelling as it can be without compromising himself (that is, without making himself look like a completely washed up guy can actually take him down) ?


First : work the first part of the match like Dory Funk Jr. would. Stretch job reversals, work a solid headlock spot that is part of your repertoire anyway; stuff that Chono can do and can eat up some minutes building the tension while doing not so much in term of spots and physicality (which Chono can't do).


Second : find a cool transition for the washed up guy to do : Chono actually reverses a powerbomb doing doing some ugly hurricanrana on the ramp.


Third : find a way to give your opponent some kind of offense that looks like it affects you to some degree. This is where Kobashi has to go overboard, as Chono's backrop just look weak as fuck. So Kob litteraly does a bunch of twists with his body to throw himself on his head, of sorts. Which, yeah, is goofy, but is right out of Ric Flair "please back body drop me / please throw me off the tope rope / please reverse my figure four" playbook. Because really, apart from no-selling a few chops, Chono has nothing he can do to make himself look slightly menacing.


Four : sell the STF spot like it's really hurting you and could end the match....eventually. Nobody's gonna buy it, but give it your best.


Five : since there's no way anyone actually thinks Chono can takes you down, to make it a Tokyo Dome spectacle, make it about how Chono is too washed up, too weak but shows a bit too much heart so you drop him on his head several times. They know he ain't coming back up. Be a dick, kinda. And then Tenzan is almost wanting to throw the towel because everyone understand you're murdering the guy now. Have Chono kinda, almost, try to do a delayed no sell on the latest head-drop, but actually barely making it to his knees before beheading (well, not really considering the tired bumps Chono takes) the guy. That's the final drama time. Not a bunch of stupid trading nearfalls that would make no sense. Something that makes sense, that doesn't need the audience to think you can actually loose (which they would not anyway), but still feels big.


So yeah. That's NOAH Ace Kobashi vs washed up dream match worker Masa Chono. It's a good match, all things considered (meaning : considering Chono had really almost nothing left and looked like a relic from a removed era). Kobashi was a great, great pro-wrestler.

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Chono is broken down and looks gassed-up by the time this match is reaching its conclusion, but he has unlimited charisma and he's more than happy to take every big move that Kobashi throws at him. They tried to make this a slow burner of the match by having them work a lot of holds and headlocks and make this feel like a big-time heavyweight clash. Truth be told, I found this a lot more entertaining when they were throwing strikes instead of working holds. Chono kicking Kobashi in the face is always going to be entertaining and Kobashi sold his beating well. Some of the bumps these guys took were insane, with Kobashi spiking himself on his head three times after a trio of backdrops by Chono. Chono eats an excessive amount of half-nelson suplexes before Kobashi finally puts him away with the lariat. Chono was so exhausted by the end, that he wasn't able to bump well enough of Kobashi's lariat, so Kobashi picks him up and makes sure that he sells his finish properly. This would have been much better if they didn't go overboard with the finish and trim 5-10 minutes off the total match time, as even though I can recognize that there is some good stuff here, parts of this felt like a chore to get through. ★★½

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