review by Phil Clark
A note to begin: I’m not going to be using the star system as I don’t like putting star ratings on matches and would rather just lay out my opinions on the match. I do like to see what other people put down for star ratings so let it be known that I’m not discouraging that type of reviewing. I will however put the snowflakes down for any matches getting five stars and will put down in bold when it’s a match of the year candidate.
This is a tape that I purchased on e-Bay one or two years ago and finally I have a chance to watch it the whole way through.
This was one of the many New Japan supershows of the 1990’s. At this point, New Japan was entering its golden period as a healthy influx of young talent, which included Chono, Mutoh, Hashimoto, Sasaki, Hase, etc. along with older talent, and gaijin (foreign) talent equaled a kind of variety that was too hard to resist for Japanese wrestling fans. This show, like many others for New Japan, was sell-out as 18,000 packed Yokohama Arena to watch a card that looked particularly weak compared to other New Japan cards at the time.
Riki Choshu comes out for the standard “Japanese wrestling fed figurehead opening.” I only have one thing to say: sandals? I know you’re the booker man at this point Riki, but really, sandals?
A video package highlighting the show (this is the commercial release by the way) officially opens things up
Satoshi Kojima, Dean Malenko, & Shinjiro Ohtani Vs. Yuji Nagata, El Samurai, & Tatsuhito Takaiwa
Can you imagine how good of a six-man this would’ve been a few years later? Despite the fact that five of the six guys here are still early in their careers (Ohtani’s barely a year in), it’s quite interesting to watch considering what the native talent made out of their careers. Also, Ohtani thin, Takaiwa with hair, Kojima wrestling in green tights; for long-time New Japan fans this match (the five minutes that they show) is quite interesting. Overall, not much since it’s just the last five minutes. Looked like it could’ve been pretty good if the whole thing was shown.
Brutus Beefcake Vs. Black Cat
Want to guess how good this was? To his credit, Black Cat at least tried to incorporate some wrestling into this one, but at just under four minutes, what was it going to accomplish? I honestly believe that since Beefcake won the match anyway that this should’ve ended up as a complete squash in his favor considering the massive time constraint. Then again, maybe it was better that Black Cat got some offense in as Beefcake was completely gone as a wrestler by this point and made no attempt to prove that statement wrong.
Black Tiger (Eddie Guerrero) Vs. Tiger Mask III (Koji Kanemoto)
Considering it was Kanemoto at the beginning of his career, it’s not surprising that he was a bit sloppy; considering it was Guerrero six years into his career, it’s really surprising that he was sloppy. This match could’ve been really good had they just stuck more to the mat (like the original two would’ve) than with the high-flying spots. The reason the original Tiger Mask (Satoru Sayama) and the original Black Tiger’s matches against each other were so good was not just because they were ahead of their time, but because they didn’t just do spot, spot, spot, they set up these spots with great mat work and storytelling.
Luckily for all of us, both men became really good at both and considering that Guerrero would be recognized as one of the world’s best by the next year, I’m guessing he either phoned it in or it was just a bad night. Either way, this isn’t either man’s finest hour.
Scott Norton & Hercules Hernandez Vs. Takayuki Iizuka & Akira Nogami
Welcome to squash city. The Jurassic Powers (Norton & Hercules’ team name) absolutely murder Iizuka & Nogami (The Jumping Jacks) with a variety of clotheslines and suplexes while Iizuka & Nogami comeback with a double-dropkick just about every time. No real imagination in terms of the moves used, but it was short, it was a squash and my god did Hercules bulk up in-between his last WWF appearance (Royal Rumble 92) and this match. I’m not starting rumors, but I don’t think you have to be Einstein to figure out how he did it.
Hiromichi Fuyuki & Koki Kitahara Vs. Masahiro Chono & Manabu Nakanishi
Another in a long line of poorly executed matches on this show. In this case it was expected by me because Fuyuki’s never been any good, I’ve never seen Kitahara, and Nakanishi is still very green in this match. My point is this: Chono wasn’t in this match nearly long enough. The majority of this match was the WAR boys beating on Nakanishi getting pretty good heel heat from the crowd. I can understand that, as that is part of the tag-team match formula. However, how good a tag match is when that is being employed depends on how well the heels beat on the face in peril. In this case, there were some decent double-teams, but it still looked pretty weak and sloppy, plus a slow pace has no place when it’s two guys beating on one. It is interesting, however, to know that even before Chono was more about brawling than wrestling that he was all about the Shining Yakuza Kick.
Shinya Hashimoto Vs. Jake Roberts
This match was very peculiar. First off, who thought Jake Roberts would be a good foreign opponent for Hashimoto? To this day I still don’t know who thought of that one. Anyway, Jake did a great job of keeping the crowd into this match, as the match itself wasn’t that good. However, Jake’s heel tactics are just superb; the “trust me” cross over his chest, doing jumping jacks after faking a knee injury mid-match, and playing dumb when getting caught red-handed by the ref going for his cobra Lucifer. That last one was eerily similar to Eddie Guerrero’s “lie, cheat, and steal” bit where he’d go for a weapon or something and play dumb on the occasions when he’d get caught.
The match is peculiar mainly due to its structure. Hashimoto won the IWGP Title from Muta three days before this show. The fact that he was the IWGP champ would indicate that he would be booked to look strong in his first match of his first reign as champ. However, Jake would end up getting the majority of the offense leading to Hash’s big comeback and win; the standard heel-face formula. In this case though, the formula shouldn’t be in place because as champion, Hash should be booked strong because he’s supposed to be the top guy. Plus, Jake’s limitations as a performer at this point in his career would prevent him from even having a chance at putting on a good match when he’s given control of the match. In this case he was, and it wasn’t good. Had Hash been in control and gotten most of the offense would it have been better? Probably not.
After the match, Jake spooks the crowd by teasing chucking the snake into the crowd.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title Match: Jushin Liger Vs. Masao Orihara
Finally something good. Liger was entering month nine in his IWGP Jr. Title reign after beating Ultimo Dragon at the 1/4/93 Tokyo Dome show; did anybody really think that a relatively unknown outsider was going to be the one to get the title win? That is where the magic of Liger comes into play. Long before he went to a more mat-based approach, Liger was able to formulate a great match without resorting to a spot, spot, spot approach.
The leg psychology was really great, especially on this card so far. Liger absolutely destroys Orihara’s leg during the majority of this match with a variety of different moves thus letting the audience in on what he’s doing and keeping it interesting at the same time. However, all praise doesn’t go to Liger as the one receiving the punishment has to sell the damage for it to be effective and Orihara did just that. Orihara sold the legwork throughout not doing too many moves that required his left leg (the one being damaged) after the legwork began. A nice little touch was Orihara kicking Liger with his right leg after getting the advantage on Liger for just a moment. It’s those little things that I look for.
The main reason I say this is another example of the “magic of Liger” is based on what I said earlier about nobody really giving Orihara a chance going in. It’s obvious that Orihara isn’t walking out with the gold, but making the people believe that he might is how you create an enjoyable match and not a 20-minute squash. Having Orihara kick out of not one, but two straight Liger bombs is a great start; giving Orihara several big moves including a moonsault on the outside and several close two counts solidifies the notion that Orihara is putting up a good fight and may just pull out the big upset. This notion proves so convincing in this match that the fans are chanting for Orihara by the end of this match. That’s effectiveness and a great match. Then again, what did you expect when Liger is involved?
To add to my enjoyment, Guerrero cuts a heel promo plugging a match between the two that occurred a few days (I believe) after this show.
Tatsumi Fujinami & Tokimitsu Ishizawa Vs. Yoshiaki Fujiwara & Yuki Ishikawa
The problem with mat wrestling is simple: if it’s good, the crowd likes it, but if it’s bad, the crowd will or won’t (however you describe it) let you know. But for sprint, I can’t really complain about too much. That’s exactly what this match was: a sprint. All four came in, did their stuff on the mat, Fujiwara tried and succeeded in getting the armbar on someone, Fujinami tried and succeeded in getting his dragon sleeper on someone and that’s it. Hey I did a play-by-play. How about that?
The Great Muta & Hulk Hogan Vs. The Hellraisers (Road Warrior Hawk & Kensuke Sasaki (Power Warrior))
I’m not going to complain too much about this. In reality, it wasn’t the worst match these four could’ve had, but it wasn’t that great either. I will say that I hate watching Hogan matches from Japan because he always tries to get down on the mat and it never turns out any good. Other than that, the match really didn’t have that much as it came down to all four doing their signature stuff or power moves. Not much else I can say about it.
Genichiro Tenryu Vs. Hiroshi Hase
This main-event provides another example to my theory that Tenryu’s sole purpose during the 90’s was providing other fed’s with dream matches. Think about it: In New Japan he faced Choshu (1/4/93), Inoki (1/4/94), Sasaki (10/11/99), and Fujinami (4/29/96) at Tokyo Dome shows, in FMW he faced Onita in a barbed-wire cage at Kawasaki stadium (5/5/94), in UWFi he faced Takada at Jingu Stadium (9/11/96), and he faced Hashimoto in a number of New Japan Sumo Hall shows. Plus, we have this one.
The difference between this and most dream matches is that most dream matches will have the wrestlers involved pull out all their signature moves and that’s it. In this case, the two decided just to put on a good match that incorporated their signature stuff. Hase got in his suplexes (minus the Northern Lights) and the Giant Swing all the while wearing Tenryu down so when he got those big moves near the end, it looked like Hase was going for the kill. Tenryu on the other hand worked Hase’s chest and shoulders the entire match with a simple approach using only a few moves (clotheslines, chops, his enziguri many times) that led towards him pulling out the WAR Special. I saw this as a very exciting, yet smartly laid out match that lived up to the hype that a lot of dream matches don’t.
MVP: Jushin Liger
As I mentioned above, the goal of a mismatched title match or mismatched match period is to make the weaker guy look credible, especially in a title match. Liger not only did that, he was able to make Orihara look so convincing that the crowd got on his side and wanted to see him beat Liger! Despite the fact that Tenryu and Hase pulled out great performances, I’d still give Liger the MVP for this show because he had to make his opponent look good, Hase and Tenryu didn’t have that assignment to make their match good.
Match of the Night: Tenryu Vs. Hase
Despite Liger’s match turning out to be really good, how could I go against this one? In a time when most main-events to big shows fail to steal the show or even gain match of the night honors, it’s nice to watch a show with a great main-event. These guys are two of my favorites, they put on a great match, and considering that the rest of the card only contained one match worthy of competing with this one I didn’t think it was a hard choice.
Bottom Line: New Japan was Japan’s #1 promotion in 1993. They offered more diversity than All Japan, FMW, and UWFi combined. They had great wrestlers who put on great matches and were able to get the best outsiders who would give New Japan their money’s worth (especially Tenryu). However, this isn’t a good example of how great New Japan was at their peak. Every tag match on this card was weak and offered very little, and that’s coming from a guy who loves tag-team wrestling. I’m pretty sure you can find Tenryu/Hase and Liger/Orihara on compilations. I’d go that route instead of getting this show.
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