1) Jushin Liger v. Norio Honaga (02/08/92- IWGP Jr. Title vs. WCW Lightheavyweight Title)- 4
2) Jushin Liger v. El Samurai (04/30/92- Top of the Super Juniors Tourney Finals)- 9
3) Jushin Liger v. Chris Benoit (02/10/92- IWGP/ WCW Jr. Title Match)- 7
4) Jushin Liger/ Koji Kanemoto v. Ultimo Dragon/ Masao Orihara (12/11/92)- 8
Title unification match takes place with Liger repping Atlanta's version of the belt. Honaga doesn't look as greased down as in their other encounter but all his aggressiveness has faded with the hair gel. This match was given appropriate time, i think near 16 minutes or so and most of the action was fine, as far as the slow pace, most moves coming off right and solid work, but this match was missing a major element for me. Didn't see a lot of sequences here and Honaga's selling was nearly non-existent as if getting hit with a palm strike elicits the same reaction as when you see the Sunday paper on your porch; one of passive nature. Liger wasn't at the the top of his game either, a lot of stuff looked pretty lackadasical, like the match was going through the paces without that extra effort. This didn't do it for me.
Psychologically speaking, this match was the f'n tits! Samurai comes in and the first thing he does is rips a hole in Liger's mask. What a mental edge you'd have over your opponent. He deftly beats on Liger for the next several minutes, but nothing very major. Liger begins his comeback and he's pissed off to the max- just belting Samurai with furious palm strikes and powerbombing him repeatedly, once on the concrete. Then, he rips Samurai's mask completely off while he tries to keep it on, in futility for the next 10 minutes. Liger maintains his superiority for a while, and doesn't relent until Samurai gains the advantage back and starts wrenching in armbars, like they were taught to him, for fucking real and pull on that pickle until it breaks! Such realism with the arm locks and Liger's screaming bloody murder, like Linda Hogan at her last colon cleansing. Liger has started using the top rope frankensteiner as his finisher around this time and he hits it to perfection for the hard fought victory. Both guys selling and story telling were on par with just about anything I've seen from Japan and this was a classic.
Benoit, here sans mask, looks real motivated, like a dog in heat locked up in the basement for 8 hours. He and Liger just have IT together, there's no better way to put it. They flow together from off the ropes and into reversals so elegantly you'd have a hard time not believing this sport was just a physical opera. This is also back in Benoit's youthful days where anything goes, so he pulls out his springboard crossbody and missle dropkick from the top rope to the outside, with so much impact you could look at Flair's plane crash in '75 and scream "Fuck you!" I'm thinking Liger was also a Dynamite Kid mark because he does the swan dive a lot on this set and sells it perfectly when he misses. This was hard hitting, had substance and you could tell the comfort level was there because both men were slapping the piss out of each other. Lots of foreign fun here.
This match was a breath of fresh air. In an environemnt where current tag team wrestling is stagnant and as stale as another Hogan reality show, going back in the archives to find competitive tag action feels wonderful. It's New Japan v. War and the battle lines are drawn. Orihara (who looks strangely like the guy from Vanishing Son) is New Japan's bitch here, getting absolutely pieced around by Kanemoto with straight slaps and kicks to the face. Liger wants in on the action and doles out a healthy dose of "Shut the hell up" in the form of his five straightened fingers. They punish him mercifully with hard shots and power moves. Dragon gets none of that treatment, but also can't dish it out like the NJ boys can. He's trying to win the match with technical wrestling and some cool high flying stuff. There's an awesome dive sequence that doesn't feel recycled from 100 other matches and is actually high impact. The crowd gets most excited to see Liger and Ultimo lock up and it's a treat, but Kanemoto shows he's a rising star in this match by pulling off some amazing sequences with Dragon and exchanging martial arts kicks that would make Steven Segal admit he's always been a fraud, you know like that guy that runs the country right now. The finish is a frenetic race to get the pinfall, almost like a marathon where people are pushing themselves to make it to the end first, with the WAR boys coming from behind to pick up the win. New Japan does tag wrestling right, well at least they did back in this day.
I'm halfway through this extraordinary journey of the foremost pioneer of Juniors wrestling in the history of this business and i'm loving every second of it.