1. Naoki Sano & Pegasus Kid vs. Jushin Liger & Akira Nogami – J: 6 A: 7
Jess: Arguably, (and someone will) these were the best of the best in the Junior division in this early 90’s period as it was becoming what it was. I don’t think this match had the particular bite of some of the classics but what it did bring was a wide spectrum of mat wrestling, hard slams and some high flying. This wasn’t a flashy match at all and not a lot of showmanship here just hard nosed grindstone work.
Adam: What you’ve got here is four legends in the Japanese junior division battling it out in a great match. I enjoyed pretty much everything I saw here with the exception of some pretty pedestrian mat work. Highlights for me in this were Pegasus nearly killing Nogami on a back suplex attempt off the top buckle and a rather malicious spike piledriver with Liger and Nogami on Sano. The last part of this was really good with these four kicking it into high gear with tons of nearfalls and a bunch of great high risk moves.
2. Tatutoshi Goto, Hiro Saito, & Norio Honaga vs. Kuniaki Kobayashi, Hiroshi Hase, & Kantaro Hoshino – A: 3 J: 2
Adam: Ok, I’m going to be honest here and say that I don’t have a single clue who anybody aside from Hase is in this match. The beefy dude with a beard on the black team (for lack of a better term) has to be Hiro Saito. So I guess that makes two people I recognize then. Hase hit a pretty nice hook kick that would make Chuck Norris jealous on a member of the opposing squadron. I dug the guy in teal with a perm on Hase’s team. He’s really got a lot of fire in him.
Jess: Probably the reason is not many of them are household names to most fans today. Honaga had a lot of great matches in this time period against guys his size. This felt like they just kept wrestling despite themselves, you know, how TNA has booked their fed the last 7 years. Totally that throwaway they slapped on the card to get these men on. Nothing stood out at all
3. Masa Saito vs. Larry Zbyszko – J: 6 A: 5
Jess: This was cool to see on here; as I always distinctly remember watching AWA when I was a kid and this title change taking place. Gives you the gravitas of it all though this being merely the 3rd match on this card. Larry was really masterful in this, taking some real nasty bumps and making every thing he did count. Saito showed off that surly attitude and beat ‘em up style he’s so widely known for and his Saito suplexes are so damn tasty you could pour them into a bowl and make 5.99 a lunch special off of them. Nice series leading to the finish as well.
Adam: Since Jess mentioned it, this was the next to last AWA World Title change as Larry Z would win it back a mere 57 days later at the final Superclash event. The thing I was really surprised about was that Larry went right in there and got after it without any of his traditional stalling tactics. The aforementioned suplexes that Jess mentioned led to a bunch of good nearfalls as well. I enjoyed this but the thing that got me was why Saito won with a roll up instead of his traditional Saito suplex.
4. Koji Kitao vs. Bam Bam Bigelow – A: 4 J: 3
Adam: On paper this sounded like a good match but in practice it turned out to be less than memorable. The only thing I remember Koji Kitao from is when he teamed with Tenryu against Demolition at WrestleMania 7. Points were earned here for Koji’s kicks were nice and the big bodyslam spot that was pretty cool. Those were pretty much the highlights. Bigelow seemed distant, as if he would rather be somewhere else and the match felt more like an exhibition of big man spots that something coherently put together.
Jess: This was a total LT match. Kiato gets a big highlight package leading up to this and he was clearly being groomed as a huge star in Japan; unfortunately for him, he never learned how to work. Never been a fan. I’ll tell you why Bigelow was distant: he’s a tremendous worker and had to lead this greenhorn through a bout and do the job. Bigelow’s selling was on, but as Adam stated, it all seemed really hollow, they were just doing moves to get through the bout. This was better than that aforementioned Demolition abortion though.
5. Takayuki Iizuka vs. Osamu Matsuda – J: 3 A: 3
Jess: I enjoyed what they did here, arm bars, armbars, and more armbars. I think this went too long because I saw the same sequence twice near the end as if they ran out of time. Iizuka broke out those kick ass T Bone suplexes he’s known for and that was the deciding factor here.
Adam: I know I’ve seen Iizuka work before but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out which one he was in this match. I saw some good mat work and everything they did was kept pretty basic. My notes said “interesting suplex variation from red guy” which must be the T-Bone suplex that Jess mentioned.
6. Brad Rheingans vs. Victor Zangiev – A: 3 J: 4
A: Surprsingly short match with the beginning looking much more akin to what you would see your two high school wrestling coaches doing as a demonstration. I’ve only seen Zangiev one other time, when he teamed with Hashimikov on Starrcade ’90 in that tag tournament. His suplexes looked really sloppy. Rheingans hit one of the wildest looking powerslams I’ve ever seen. I liked the mat work at the beginning. This was mainly a filler and nothing else.
Jess: This totally was; Zangiev got a few cracks at the NJPW title at this time, I believe. Oh yeah this was after school practice between #1 & #2 students. Neither man was giving an inch to the other for sure. Rheingans has that cred amongst real shooters as never getting a push he deserved but this was a feather in his cap. Perfect amount of time too, a skill overlooked in wrestling.
7. Steve “Dr. Death” Williams vs. Salmon Hashimikov – J: 5 A: 4
Jess: Even though I love Doc, I can’t go much higher on this one than the previous bout. But this was rough. More jockeying for position and trying to score the takedown or suplex and both these dudes were built like they love beef stew and weights. Salmon himself had a run with the IWGP belt and oh, I’m going all Mr. Knowledge here, I just read that he got the strap from Vader when Dr. Death refused to drop it to him. Interesting. These two were anything but friendly, some really stiff punches but like a lot of these bouts the finish just happens with no build.
Adam: I didn’t know that Salmon had a run with the IWGP title! Think I should probably pass my “Mr. Knowledge” title on to Jess. Salmon is recognizable to longtime WCW fans from being in the tag team tournament at Starrcade ’90. He looks like a guy who takes no shit and could probably bodyguard for the Soviet prime minister. I noticed that late in the bout Salmon had a rough time hitting the ropes and the corners. Doc really took it to him here and this was a fun little bout.
8. Vader vs. Stan Hansen – A: 7 J: 7
Adam: Now this is what I love about watching Japanese wrestling. Two big heavyweight having a wild brawl of a match and just hammering on each other from bell to bell. Actually, to be fair, they were throwing down before the opening bell even rang. Hansen got nailed good on a short-arm clothesline and had a distant look on his face for a minute or two. Vader’s eye got swollen after the first few minutes, probably due to the nasty elbows they exchanged. Hansen caught a hellacious shot when he charged Vader on the rail. Got a couple crowd brawl spots here as well, something not commonly seen in Japan, especially on big shows like this. The ribs of Hansen became a focal point for Vader’s offense after he dropped Hansen across the railing. This match was everything I have expected from these two, wild brawling, stiff strikes, and two guys just beating the shit out of each other. The only thing that perhaps kept this from getting a higher score is that the pace was a bit slower than I would have liked. Otherwise, a damn fine match.
Jess: You just won’t see a match like this anymore; there’s no two guys like these. This never stopped being great. Adam pointed out all the big storyline blows, and the action but you just can’t say enough about how fun this was. I found it humorous that one of Vader’s eyes was closed shut since Hansen is half blind. This was Potato City, for the whole thing, both men just blasting each other as hard as they could. I didn’t think the pace was very slow, and the finish was perfectly fine because neither guy seemed the superior fighter. This was totally a Hulk-Abomination battle.
9. Antonio Inoki & Seiji Sakaguchi vs. Shinya Hashimoto & Masahiro Chono (Special ref: Lou Thesz) – J: 5 A: 6
Jess: Maybe a 5 is harsh, but I guess I expected more? It had the buzz, and the right atmosphere and Seiji really stepped up being at this point probably the least known of the 4 to modern fans. I enjoyed him more than Inoki, who’s all about posturing and his rep; sure he sold because he had to but he didn’t stay down long against anyone. Hash was great here, just disrespecting both veterans with brutal kicks, slaps and takedowns. It seemed both teams were going for submission wins as they constantly just put locks on each other which in most Japanese matches you get some of but it usually dies down for the ending stuff; not here. Which really baffled me with the finish, but I guess you can say a strike in a mostly holds war would be a good avenue to go it just seemed false after the story laid out. I still enjoyed watching esp. seeing Lou Thez looking like a butler minus the jacket.
Adam: This has the feel of a huge main event and I wanted to like this a lot more than I did so I’m being generous with my score. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a Hashimoto match and I forgot just how damn big and round he was. Of everything in this match, I liked the striking the most. It was just and hard hitting and stiff as you would expect. Damn, that enziguri from Chono pretty much KO’ed Inoki! Hashimoto seemed content just to walk around the ring and beat the shit out of everyone. Thesz here was just a presence and nothing else. A fun match to close out this major event.