review by Jason Manning
Date: July 21st, 2003
Location: Tsukisamu Green Dome
The last big show of New Japan’s summer tour was a live PPV on July 21st, 2003. Basically every match is notable so I won’t waste time going over ‘em and we’ll get right to the wrestling...
Koji Kanemoto vs. Minoru Suzuki
“You are my BITCH today!” proclaims Suzuki and this match is all about Koji being outwrestled, outclassed, and outPUNK’D by this outside shooter. Things seems kinda’ rushed at times but I guess they gotta’ put over this here Minoru guy so I have no problems with it. He totally owns Koji in some shoot-style matwork where Kanemoto struggles to find an opening because it’s shoot-style and Kanemoto likes to do that crazy thing called wrestling. They exchange strikes and are really into trying to rip each other’s head off. Suzuki slapping Kanemoto around is a wonderous thing and you know all the young junior heavyweights backstage are cheering him on. Kanemoto manages to dropkick Suzuki’s face into the corner and follows it up with the boot scrapes and the crowd is into his comeback HUGE. HUGE, I say. He misses a moonsault however and Suzuki clamps on the stunned Koji with a sleeper but Koji finds his way to the ropes and slaps on the heel hold in neat fashion. Suzuki however finds his way to the ropes as well and begins punching Koji’s face in before he applies another sleeper (complete with a takeover that sees the side of Koji’s face have a passionate moment of love with the mat) and the referee must stop the match (6:18). Seeing Koji being punked out = F-U-N!
G1 Climax Entrance Match
Yutaka Yoshie vs. Shinya Makabe
With Tenzan suffering from a case of I Need To Reinvent Myself and Nakanishi suffering from a case of I Just Got Knocked The Fuck Out, your obligatory RAAAAA STRONG STYLE! match makes an appearance on the undercard. It’s kinda’ OK as the Battle of Two Midcarders Who Aren’t Afraid To Cave Each Other’s Face In but fails to consistently interest me (nor the crowd) all that much and damnit, I want to be interested. Them fumbling for “technical” sequences sure ain’t pretty, either. It goes back-and-forth enough to be a perfectly acceptable little match though with a few fine pick-up points, and Makabe threatening referee Black Cat early on because Cat beat him in some obscure opening match a few years ago (my guess, at least) is quite cool. Makabe begins to control a little later on because he actually isn’t afraid to stiff Yoshie with his lariat and Yoshie mounts a comeback, but Makabe tries to kill him by giving him a freaking brainbuster (well, the effort called for a superplex...) from the top. Then they slap the shit out of each other and Yoshie eventually lands a backfist for the win (11:32). Solid, acceptable undercard wrestling.
Osamu Nishimura vs. Mike Barton
We can all thank Mike Barton for having the most unintimidating wrestling theme song ever in Puddle of Mudd’s “Control”. Seriously - “I love the way you look at me / I feel the pain you place inside / lock me up inside ya’ dirty cage / when I’m alone inside my mind / I like to teach you all the rules / I'd get to see them set in stone / I like it when you chain me to the bed / There ya secrets never shone / I need to feel you / You need to feel me / I can't control you / You're not the one for me, no”. YEAH BABY. Fear the monster American who likes it when you chain him to the bed. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid. I really question Nishimura hearing this music and then taking Mikey to the mat. I am afraid. Very afraid. The match is quite the fun little batch of wrestling though as Nishimura knows that Barton IS the monster American who wants him to chain him to the bed, so Nish does the always-great and reliable MUGA~!~~!!~!~ matwork and it’s great and reliable. Seeing Barton struggling to gain any control is great, too. Not so reliable, but still great. Nish gets the most he can out of a side headlock as he refuses to let go for a while and that is also great. Barton manages to suplex Nishimura from the apron and begins controlling with your typical power guy offense and he even does a CANADIAN BACKBREAKER! Mike Barton can bore me all he wants with his offense if he’s going to do a Canadian backbreaker. Nish rolls outside and Mike Barton is feeling it tonight in Tsukisamu as hits a PLANCHA and I am enjoying watching Bart Gunn wrestling on my television. Now all he needs to do is a ‘rana or something and I am SET. Nishimura tries to come back with a sunset flip but Barton lariats him down and goes for a pumphandle slam but Nishimura counters with a Japanese leg roll clutch and the crowd cares about the various near falls. Nishimura soon brings some quickie leg work to the table until Barton realizes that cradles are cool and he inside cradles Nish to avoid a figure-four and that gets a near fall and the crowd still cares. Barton tries to control with more power offense again but Nishimura does not want to and then they reverse pinfalls until Nishimura gets the 3 count (13:00). Barton offers a handshake post-match and Nishimura accepts and that makes me cry because I want to see Barton go wild and lariat Nishimura’s face off and then German suplex him twenty feet in the air. But all we get is this buddy-buddy bullshit. Fuck, that was a good match though.
Wataru Inoue Return Match
Tiger Mask 4 vs. Wataru Inoue
Oh, shit, it’s Wataru Inoue! Where has Wataru been? It seems he’s actually got some weight on his chest finally but along with that comes the stupidest mask in the universe. It’s like an orange face protector or something. Ouch. And he’s got shiny blue pants, too. I feel bad for young Wataru. But I am STOKED to see what he can do in his return match against Tiger. He’s all ready to show us all the new wrestler in him at the start so he begins to lay an assbeating on Tiger Mask and looks pretty fine doing it, busting out a bunch of new moves including a chair catapult knee strike from the crowd to ringside. Looks kinda’ off with some on some stuff though, but it’s his first match in like nine months so he is forgiven. Tiger sells for the young chap and makes him a believable threat and that is something I like. Most of the match is Tiger trying comebacks and Wataru continuing his laying down of the law. Wataru does a STOMACH CLUTCH and I love it. Wataru delivers a brainbuster and sells a previous kick from Tiger to the head and I love it, too Then he applies the Triangle Lancer and Tiger struggles out and I have just realized that the crowd has seized to care about this little match. Tiger almost gains back the offense so Wataru drops him on his head again with a brainbuster but Tiger comes back again and this time he’s sick of this youngin’ making him look bad so he delivers the Millennium suplex followed by a Tiger suplex hold for the win (9:39). Hey now, that was OK. A decent little junior sprint. Would’ve liked to see a better finish for a match that was supposedly there to put Wataru over, though. He’s got a little ring rust and Tiger didn’t look exactly fired up, AAAAND the crowd was dead, but it still managed to be a solid match.
Losing Captain in a Doghouse Elimination Match
Takashi Iizuka, Hiro Saito, Tatsutoshi Goto & Michiyoshi Ohara (c) vs. Tadao Yasuda (c), Ryushi Yanagisawa, Makai #1 & Makai #5
I DO NOT like the Makai Club. Never have, never will. These matches can be fine when they go below a minute and I don’t mind Hiro and Goto on the undercard, but fuck, this baby is going fifteen and a half minutes and I am not exactly excited. It starts out with Iizuka and Nagai so maybe there is hope and then Iizuka jobs to a kick to the head less than a minute in. So now we’ve got Hiro, Goto, and Ohara to carry a fourteen minute match. Horray. Makai tries to isolate Ohara so the Dogs reply by isolating Yasuda and I can dig that. Yasuda hot tags Hirata and he looks fine running around and beating the fuck out of Hiro. And then Makai isolates Hiro and the match starts its plodding. Lots and lots of plodding. I am not a fan of plodding, and the match plods, so I am not a fan of the match nor the match’s plodding. Hirata comes in and does a senton on Hiro and I can’t really care anymore even though I want to. All I want to know is when more guys are going to be eliminated. And then Hiro’s thrown outside. A pin drops in the third row upstairs and it is heard by all. More plodding begins and then an Ohara chairshot leads to a Goto lariat on Hirata for another elimination. Yanagisawa quickly kicks Goto’s head off and Goto is gone. Ohara then handles himself pretty well for a couple minutes before a Yasuda half-assed Tiger Driver wins Makai the match (15:27). That was SOOOOOOO much better than it had any right to be. And it still kinda’ sucked.
We go to intermission and get a little recap of the previous matches and then some Chono/Takayama hype. The fast forward button on my remote is broken and I am too lazy to travel to my VCR right now so I must sit through Chono’s eternal interview. Yep. Yessir. Yes I must. Yes I do. Yes, Chono’s interview. I sit through it because I must. I have to. Yes I do. Hey, someone IMed me. Interesting conversation. Yes, I still must sit through this. Yes, yes I do. I do. OK, it’s over.
Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Heat
Hey, Heat’s back from Mexico. I am getting bored already. Oooh, but he’s wrestling LIGER! Maybe good ol’ Jushin can get something good outta’ him. Heat seems ANGRY and his ANGER sees him totally outwrestle Liger and then his ANGER forces him to bust out a HUUUUGE tope con giro. Back inside he outdoes Liger some more and eventually ANGRILY kicks him in the head and revives the Minoru Special for the win (2:35). Liger was not afraid to put Heat over huge and this was fun for the two and a half minutes it lasted with Heat totally outclassing Liger in every way possible. Minoru seems to have more of a rudo persona now too thanks to the excursion and bringing back the tope con giro and Minoru Special is a very good thing. Just get the mask and silly costume off of him and you have something.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kazunari Murakami
Murakami makes it clear right away that he can beat the fuck out of Nakamura but Nakamura retaliates by making it clear that he can beat the fuck out of Murakami, too. Then they take it to the mat and have like six minutes of fucking great matwork with a buncha’ neat counters and whatnot and it’s all even and shit. I’m waiting and waiting for Murakami to snap and just tear Nakamura to shreds but he keeps things grounded. Nakamura then gets in a couple nice near falls and I’m still waiting for Murakami to snap but as Nakamura tries to elbow him into a jujigatame (I guess), Murakami lets Nakamura realize that he’s still not even a year into the biz and just takes him down into a juji of his own for the flash tap (8:13). Murakami offers a handshake (!!!!!!!!!!!!!! x426) post-match revealing why he never snapped and this match makes a whole lot of sense now. This was a fun batch of wrestling that I really dug. It was simple yet really smart. And matches like that rule the world. Fucking awesome.
U-30 Openweight Title
Hiroshi Tanahashi [c] vs. Katsuyori Shibata
Tanahashi takes Shibata to the mat at the start with some leglocking and chinlocking and then he loses Shibata on a bodyslam and drops him on his head, so Shibata no-sells the Muto elbow drop and slaps him right in the face and kicks him in the spine a few times to make sure he won’t do it again. Shibata gets his turn on offense and instead of taking Tanahashi to the mat he just kinda’ kicks him around and the crowd seems to enjoy it. Tanahashi does a fine struggle up while absorbing a load of kicks and then he tries to match blows with the more experienced striker in Shibata, so after a heated exchange of slaps and punches, Shibata expectedly wins after Tanahashi shows a lot of fight and this is going along fine. Tanahashi is quickly revealed to be busted open from the forehead and he struggles to gain control of the match but Shibata keeps on STOing away his chances. Tanahashi however uses an pretty sloppy jumping front kick to counter a Shibata wheel kick and then he hits an enzuigiri. A German suplex hold gets two and he tries a Dragon suplex, but settles for a Japanese leg roll clutch hold instead for the win (9:07). Shibata ATTACKS! after the match. New Japan can suck mah’ dick for still being afraid to give their young guys more time. These two, like Tanahashi and Makabe back in April, showed that they probably could put on a pretty good match already, but they had to rush it and it came out just decent. The crowd really should’ve responded to the definite future of New Japan more too, but what can you do. Shibata definitely showed more than Tanahashi and got more heat because of it. Finish really sucked. Solid match though, just not as good as it probably could’ve been.
Strongest Foreigner Decision Match - Different Style Fight
Josh Barnett vs. Scott Norton
This is kind of the template of the current American heavy match that you want to see with both guys sprinting and beating the crap out of each other and working a simple but smart story around it. Norton is fucking awesome here, not afraid to sell for and put over the man who’s about to take over his spot in Josh. He’s also running around like he’s 20-years old and playing to the crowd and everybody loves him. It’s great. He annihilates Josh at the start with his assorted signature offense and Barnett bumps huge for it all, but he won’t stay down for the 10 counts. You know however that Norton could pin him if this wasn’t a Different Style Fight. Barnett transitions to offense by countering a nodowa with a jujigatame and controls the match with some submissions, making this power vs. submission. Norton also takes a big Captured buster and this man can do no wrong anymore. Norton eventually avoids a wheel kick and demolishes Josh with a lariat and soon both guys are on the outside punching each other in the face and I love it. Back inside Barnett manages the wheel kick and hooks on a front sleeper. He notices that Norton is fading so he does a takeover that lands Norton right on his head and then re-applies it for the win (8:05). Non-stop action from two big American heavyweights, a simple-but-smart story of power vs. technique, and a finish that made Barnett look dominant and put him over really well. That’s what I like in professional wrestling. Who woulda’ thought Josh’s best match would be with Scotty Norton? God bless you, Scott, for realizing that your career is winding down and busting out one last run of greatness for us to remember you by. This match ruled the world.
Yuji Nagata vs. Enson Inoue
Enson gets in some lame offense and then they trade... stuff for a bit and it is not very entertaining. Enson does a nice jujigatame takedown. There is your highlight. Nagata manages a backdrop suplex hold out of nowhere to win (4:48). S-U-C-K! Onto the main...
IWGP Heavyweight Title
Yoshihiro Takayama [c] vs. Masahiro Chono
Takayama overwhelms Chono with a flurry of offense at the start and it forces Chono to roll outside. Chono asks for a test of strength and he receives it and they do some armlocking and whatnot before Chono calls for another test of strength and Takayama just kicks the hell out of his bum knee. Chono stomps Takayama as if to say “Come on, kick me there some more” and is awesome as he subtly but surely sells the knee. Takayama replies by kicking the hell out of his knee some more and Chono must roll outside again. Chono gets on the apron and Takayama kicks him off, so Chono realizes that he must get aggressive and soon finds himself kneeing the hell out of Takayama in the corner and on the outside, drawing blood. He continues with the insane kneeing, drawing more and more blood, and then he takes the time to sell his knee and I faint. Chono gets ahead of himself and heads up top, and Takayama brings him down with a double underhook suplex and then Tak tears off Chono’s protective knee gear to make us all get interested in the story of Chono’s hurting knee. Takayama shows Chono how to do some real knees and makes the first cover of the match and it results in a very heated near fall. Takayama continues the onslaught on the knee with a cross knee scissors hold and some kicks before he boots Chono in the face and follows it up with the EEEEVILLLL one foot pinfall, which gets another heated near fall. Chono desperately tries to transition back on offense by catching the running Takayama with a low dropkick and then he tries to match Takayama’s game by kicking the knee a bit. Takayama replies however with a couple jumping knees that take Chono down for another very heated near fall. Takayama continues his assbeating by kicking Chono right in the chest and dropping his leg across Chono’s face for yet another great near fall. Now he is ready to go for the kill and sets up an Everest German but Chono GRABS THE REFEREE MID-AIR to soften the blow and everyone goes down, Takayama taking the hardest blow as Chono lands right on his face. Chono manages the diving shoulderblock so you know that he is ready to make a comeback and it makes sense because Takayama is bleeding and when you are bleeding, somebody landing full force on your face is going to hurt. CHONO is ready to go for the kill and applies an STF and Takayama makes a fine struggle to the ropes. Chono channels Inoki’s whole fighting spirit deal with an Octopus hold but Takayama throws out and is selling his pain like a man in pain should sell his pain. Chono hits a diving shoulderblock and then subtly sells his knee as he rises up and AMAZINGLY remembers that hot summer night when he won the G1 Climax and he gives Takayama a LOAD of Yakuza kicks for an amazing near fall. He gives Takayama a few more but Takayama still manages to kick out and both men are selling their accumulated damage wonderfully. Takayama absorbs one more Yakuza kick and Chono runs into a high kick and both men gracefully fall to the ground. They struggle their way up once more and in dramatic fashion nearly fall into each other. Takayama lets out one last burst of energy with an Everest German suplex and both are down. The ten is counted and we have ourselves a double KO (24:12).
This show, while consistently very solid, needed something great to end it with. This was great. Fuck, this surpassed great. Just some fucking awesome professional wrestling and I think it may’ve even surpassed their excellent G1 Final. Chono played the struggling old defender of New Japan to perfection and the crowd was amazingly into wanting him to win. The whole aura of all the New Japan guys surrounding the ring, hoping and praying that Chono would win, was absolute gold. The crowd really bought into Chono’s struggle and truly woke up for the first time all night. Chono brought the masterful selling of the leg and Takayama brought the absolute ONSLAUGHT for the first eighteen minutes or so before his wound caught up with him and he began some masterful selling of straight-up being hurt. I was quite disappointed when I read the finish but it worked incredibly well and perfectly set up their rematch. I loved every second of this. This is how you do professional wrestling. Terrific drama, passion, selling, and so on. This had it all. You really do want every single bit of Takayama vs. Chono 7/21. [****]
Final Analysis: You want this for the fun opener, the acceptable undercard battle in Yoshie/Makabe, the great Nish/Barton match, the solid Tiger/Wataru contest, the fun return for Heat, the simple greatness that was Murakami/Nakamura, the solid-yet-short Tanahashi/Shibata bout, the fucking awesome battle of the gaijin, and the fucking INCREDIBLE main event between Takayama and Chono. The Captain’s Fall and Nagata/Enson matches sucked, but the Captain’s Fall could’ve been worse and Nagata/Enson was too short to be offensive. So yeah - get this. Highly Recommended.
Back to New Japan Event Reviews