This was a random comp I picked up in a bulk order a year or so ago, thought it was time to revisit that glorious year.
1) Ryuji Ito/ Shadow WX v. Kintaro Kanemura/ Iakashi Sasaki (Barb Wire Death Match)- 4
2) Hiroshi Tanahashi v. Shinsuke Nakamura (U-30 Title Match)- 7
3) Mitsuharu Misawa/ Takeshi Rikio v. Genichiro Tenryu/ Shiro Koshinaka- 5
4) Kenta Kobashi v. Minoru Suzuki (GHC Heavyweight Title Match)- 6
5) Katsuhiko Nakajima/ Taiji Ishimori/ Shanao v. Los Salseros Japonesas- 5
6) Masato Tanaka v. Super Crazy v. Ikuto Hidaka v. Minoru Fujita- 3
Apparently the eve of 1999 is still dawning in Japan in early '05. This opening hardcore match feels plucked right out of a time warp. Long, wandering crowd brawl, Balcony dives, opponents huddled together all waiting for a suicide dive, it's all here. The younger guys were freakishly scarred up, ensuring me the death match practice will always be carried on by some misled youths and giving me that warm feeling inside. Kanemura, or "Dough Boy" as Eric "Goo Goo" Gellar used to call him is always fun to watch, dude will take big bumps and loves falling on painful objects. WX, while sans face paint and expensive Urban apparel, the years had not been kind. He's the least factor in this match, his only highlight being the willing victim of a strange contraption in the corner, that almost works like a guillotine, when you hit it, you trigger a large wooden switch to come down into you with barb wire wrapped around it. It was utterly ridiculous but i still got a kick out of it.
Our 2nd bout is for one of the alternate heavyweight Belts New Japan was using at the time. These 2 men know each other really well and I've found myself developing quite a boner for Nakamura's work. This has the feel of a big time match and MMA fight all rolled into one with the sheer amount of submission attempts (Nakamura's game) and brutal strikes. They used close tap outs as their near falls and Tanahashi, who is suspect to me sometimes, was right there in this. This was so good I could have watched it again right after my first viewing.
This NOAH tag offering featured one thing of interest and that was seeing two battle tested veterans go at it, speaking of course of Misawa and Tenryu. Both guys at this time, while getting older could still strike with the best of them, Misawa's elbows were like balloons popping every time he threw one. While the match didn't have a lot to offer besides those exchanges, I saw some potential in Rikio's work, who was being built up at the time, as a strong brute with some dynamic power offense, but he needed a direction in which to point this in. Koshinaka's hip and butt attacks don't do shit for me.
An interesting concept of a World Title match here, this was during Kobashi's amazing 2 year run as the greatest wrestler in the world. The basic plot of this match is Suzuki can't win against Kobashi, only chance he has is to hurt him and use his quickness and submission skills. If he can't do that, he won't win. And they play that out to perfection, amazing arm work and really fluid motion from Suzuki, I was impressed. It was only when Suzuki's pride took over and he started slapping the champ around when he got schooled, there were long periods of wear down holds and such, and Kobashi didn't really get to pour it on until near the end, but once he hit a few suplexes Suzuki was finished. They played it off so well that the challenger wasn't in the champ's league and to do that with little to no ego is a hard thing to do so story had a lot to do with this match's grade.
I've seen the Salseros before and I'm dying for them to play a wedding reception, get everyone squirrel crazy drunk, then toss their mariachi guise away and start hitting double powerbombs on annoying aunts and uncles. They have a great gimmick and here they get to work with some of Japan's youngest and best talent. Ishimori was the leader for his team and pulled off some fresh moves. This kept a great pace and was fun the whole way through; really reminded me of all those tasty 3 Count v. Jung Dragon matches from WCW Saturday Night in it's dying days.
Our final bout was much like the first but even more patently insulting. First off, only guy of the 4 to work this kind of match consistently is Tanaka and here he looks like he has more important things on his mind, like what kind of takeout to get after the show. He's just going through the motions, fight in the crowd, okay, did that, now just put myself on this table for balcony spot, did that, now back to the ring, do some sloppy 3 way stuff like back in Philly and call it a night. Crazy was the only bright spot, one moment sticks out to me, he's on a bleacher with Hidaka who is ramming his head into a flourescent advertisement on the wall and Crazy is just limp as a wet noodle and allowing himself to be brutally thrust into this wall over and over again. The finish stumped me even more, after all this sloppy fighting Hidaka wraps up a knee bar and gets a tapout? Didn't have any place in the kind of match they had setup for the last 20 minutes at all.
Be Back with Volume 2 soon!