The mid-90s was a great time period for puroresu. You had Michinoku Pro going strong, All Japan was tearing it up with the likes of Williams, Hansen, Misawa, Kawada, and Kobashi, and New Japan was dominated by the Three Musketeers, Inoki, Choshu, and a host of other wrestlers. Since I have already done events from Michinoku Pro and All Japan from this time period, it only seemed fair to do one from New Japan as well. It won't be just one though, as I am also reviewing the May Fukuoka Dome Show from 1995 in a few days. Here we will see a very young Kojima and Nagata in the opening match, the return of the original Tiger Mask, and the first match of Inoki's countdown to retirement. The full card (well, what was released on DVD) is as follows:
- Satoshi Kojima vs. Yuji Nagata
- El Samurai and Tokimitsu Ishizawa vs. Shinjiro Otani and Tatsuhito Takaiwa
- Osamu Kido, Takayuki Iizuka, and Nogami vs. Tatsutoshi Goto, Akitoshi Saito, and Ohara
- Hiro Saito, Nakano, and Norio Honaga vs. Kengo Kimura, Great Kabuki, and Kobayashi
- El Gigante vs. Tadao Yasuda
- Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Satoru Sayama
- Shiro Koshinaka vs. Yoshiaki Yatsu
- WCW International Championship: Sting vs. Rick Rude
- Masahiro Chono vs. Yoshiaki Fujiwara
- Hiroshi Hase vs. Riki Choshu
- IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Shinya Hashimoto
As New Japan does sometimes, this is a two disk set with the matches split on the two disks with each disk having a main event. So Fujinami/Hashimoto ends one disk, and Sting/Rude ends the other disk (Great Muta/Inoki and the Tag Team Championship match were not on the official release). All the other matches are out of order as well. To simplify things I am just going to put the matches in the order that they were seen for the live crowd.
Satoshi Kojima vs. Yuji Nagata
They circle each other to start, tie-up, side headlock by Nagata, Kojima Irish whips out of it, but Nagata shoulderblocks him down. Kojima quickly gets back to his feet, single-leg takedown by Nagata, but Kojima manages to get back to his feet. They jockey for position and Kojima gets Nagata to the mat before applying a leg lock, but Nagata gets out of it and both men are back on their feet again. Kick to the leg by Nagata, he applies an arm wringer, but Kojima reverses it and sweeps Nagata to the mat. A leg lock is applied by Kojima and he slaps Nagata before getting up and stomping him in the head. Nagata gets back to his feet fired up, and hits a jumping forearm. Snapmare by Nagata and he kicks Kojima hard in the back. Kick to the chest by Nagata and he applies a reverse chinlock. Kojima gets out of it, but Nagata applies an armbar while sitting on Kojima’s back. Hammerlock by Nagata and he stomps on Kojima’s arm. Elbow to the arm by Nagata and he hits an armbreaker. Back to the armbar by Nagata, Kojima gets back to his feet and reverses it with a scoop slam. Kojima goes for a single leg crab hold and eventually locks it in, but Nagata reverses it and applies a grounded ankle lock. Kojima gets a hand on the bottom rope after a moment and Nagata releases the hold. Armbreaker by Nagata to the arm of Kojima and he locks in an armbar on the mat. Back up, Kojima sweeps Nagata to the mat and applies a leg lock. Kojima drops an elbow on Nagata’s leg, but Nagata reverses it into a cross armbreaker. Kojima quickly gets a foot on the ropes and Nagata stomps on Kojima’s arm. Elbow strikes by Nagata to Kojima’s arm and he drops him back down to the mat. Nagata continues working on Kojima’s arm and kicks Kojima repeatedly in the chest. After absorbing a few blows, Kojima catches one of Nagata’s kicks and knocks him to the mat. Irish whip by Kojima and he elbows Nagata in the face. Kojima goes off the ropes and drops an elbow on Nagata, cover, but Nagata gets a foot on the ropes. Kojima takes Nagata back to the middle of the ring, but Nagata quickly applies the Nagata Lock II. Kojima somehow gets to the ropes, so Nagata kicks him more in the chest. Nagata goes for a German suplex, but Kojima elbows out of it. Kojima goes off the ropes, but Nagata ducks the lariat and drops Kojima on his head with a release German suplex. Cover by Nagata, but Kojima kicks out at two. Nagata kicks Kojima in the chest, picks him up, and applies the cross-face chickenwing before Kojima gets a hand on the ropes. Nagata picks up Kojima again and kicks him back into the corner. Irish whip by Nagata from the corner, but Kojima avoids the jumping knee. Irish whip by Kojima from the corner and he hits the diving elbow strike followed by the elbow drop from the turnbuckle. Kojima hits Nagata with a pair of jumping elbow strikes, takes him down with a leg and neck hold and keeps the move applied until Nagata taps out! Your winner: Satoshi Kojima
Match Thoughts: For an opener, this was a pretty good match. Hindsight is 20/20, and it makes it worse since I didn't watch puroresu back then, but from watching this match I am not surprised that both men "made it." Kojima showed a lot of fire and Nagata was dead-on with his kicks as he has been for the last 12 years. There were a few psychology issues (Nagata going for the leg after working over Kojima's arm for most the match and Kojima's arm being fine after Nagata had done moves on it for seven minutes), but those types of things are expected when wrestlers are still finding their groove. Aside from his one slip Nagata had a consistent game plan and both wrestlers had the crowd behind them. Score: 6.0
El Samurai and Tokimitsu Ishizawa vs. Shinjiro Otani and Tatsuhito Takaiwa
El Samurai and Otani start things off. Tie-up, waistlock by Otani, El Samurai reverses it with an arm wringer, but Otani rolls out of it and takes El Samurai to the mat. El Samurai kicks himself out of the hold and both men are back on their feet. Takedown by Otani, snapmare, and he applies a reverse chinlock. El Samurai hits a jawbreaker to get out of it, but Otani sweeps El Samurai to the mat and tags in Takaiwa. Takaiwa stomps El Samurai in the back, scoop slam, and he applies an elevated single leg crab hold. El Samurai makes it to the ropes, Takaiwa picks him back up, snapmare, and he elbows El Samurai in the head. He picks up El Samurai again, sweeps him to the mat and starts working over his left leg. El Samurai gets out of it and applies a reverse chinlock, but Takaiwa gets to the ropes. El Samurai tags in Ishizawa, snapmare by Ishizawa and he applies his own reverse chinlock. Takaiwa gets to his feet and the two struggle for position. Arm wringer by Ishizawa and he applies an ankle lock to Takaiwa. Takaiwa gets to the ropes, so Ishizawa drags him back in the middle of the ring and applies a single leg crab hold. Takaiwa makes it to the ropes again and Ishizawa tags in El Samurai. El Samurai kicks Takaiwa in his injured leg and dropkicks him in the knee. Stomps by El Samurai, Takaiwa tries to fight back, but El Samurai dropkicks him in the knee again. El Samurai tags in Ishizawa and applies a leg lock, but Takaiwa punches his way out of it and tags in Otani. Snapmare by Otani and he applies a reverse chinlock to Ishizawa. Ishizawa gets to his feet, they exchange reversals, and both men are back up again. Fireman's carry takeover by Otani and he applies an armlock. Drop toehold by Otani, but Ishizawa makes it to his corner and tags in El Samurai. El Samurai stomps on Otani and chokes him with his boot. Irish whip by Otani, and he drops El Samurai with a dropkick. Irish whip by Otani from the corner, reversed, and El Samurai hits a running strike. Irish whip by El Samurai, but Otani flips out to the apron and nails a springboard missile dropkick. El Samurai rolls out of the ring and Otani sails out after him with a springboard plancha suicida. Otani throws El Samurai back into the ring and stomps him in the corner before tagging in Takaiwa. Sidewalk slam by Takaiwa, cover, but it gets a two count. Scoop slam by Takaiwa and he applies a crab hold on El Samurai. El Samurai makes it to the ropes and Takaiwa kicks El Samurai repeatedly in the back.
Scoop slam by Takaiwa, he hits a leg drop, cover, but it gets another two count. Side headlock by Takaiwa, but El Samurai gets out of it with a backdrop suplex and tags in Ishizawa. Ishizawa slaps Takaiwa to the mat and applies a single leg crab hold. Otani eventually breaks it up, but Ishizawa continues stomping on Takaiwa and applies an armlock. Takaiwa rolls out of it and applies a side headlock, Ishizawa Irish whips out of it, but Takaiwa shoulderblocks him down. Takaiwa tags in Otani, scoop slam by Otani and he kicks Ishizawa while he is down. Single leg crab hold by Otani, but Ishizawa makes it to the ropes. Waistlock by Ishizawa and he quickly drops Otani with a release German suplex. Neckbreaker by Ishizawa and he gives Otani the 'ol Oklahoma Roll until it is broken up by Takaiwa. Irish whip by Ishizawa, but Otani connects with a spinning heel kick and tags in Takaiwa. Takaiwa punches Ishizawa back into the corner, Irish whip, and he nails a jumping strike. Scoop slam by Takaiwa and he drops a knee across Ishizawa's neck. Cover, but it gets a two count. Side Russian leg sweep by Takaiwa into a submission hold, but El Samurai breaks it up and kicks Takaiwa until the referee gets him out of the ring. Reverse DDT by Ishizawa and he tags in El Samurai. El Samurai charges Takaiwa, but Takaiwa catches him and drops him with a Death Valley Bomb. Takaiwa picks up El Samurai, Irish whip, and Takaiwa hits an exploder suplex hold for a two count. Takaiwa picks up El Samurai, Irish whip, he goes for another Death Valley Bomb, but El Samurai gets out of it and rolls him up for a quick two count. Irish whip by Takaiwa, but El Samurai rolls through his legs and hits a clothesline. El Samurai goes up to the top turnbuckle and delivers the diving headbutt, cover, but Otani breaks it up. Ishizawa takes care of Otani, while El Samurai picks up Takaiwa and goes for a suplex. Takaiwa manages to reverse it, but El Samurai lands on his feet and hits a German suplex for a close two count. El Samurai picks up Takaiwa, Irish whip, reversed, but El Samurai catches him with a powerbomb. Cover, and he picks up the three count pinfall! Your winners: El Samurai and Tokimitsu Ishizawa
Match Thoughts: A pretty good match, more then I was expecting. Takaiwa and Otani were still relatively new wrestlers at this point, and it was fun watching them early in their careers (they would later split off to help form Zero-One). El Samurai is solid of course and Ishizawa looked good as well. Takaiwa was the one that stood out here, however, as he hit all his moves well and also took a lot of offense. Takaiwa was one of the first wrestlers to use the Death Valley Driver as a finishing maneuver and it caught me a little off-guard when he used it. Overall not too bad, it lacked some substance and had a lot of repeated holds but was perfectly entertaining for a lower card Jr. Heavyweight match. Score: 6.0
Osamu Kido, Takayuki Iizuka, and Nogami vs. Tatsutoshi Goto, Akitoshi Saito, and Ohara
They brawl on the ramp to start the match, with Goto bringing Iizuka into the ring. Goto nails a backdrop suplex immediately, cover with one foot, but Iizuka kicks out of it. Saito works over Iizuka as the referee gets things under control. Kick to the chest by Saito and he hits a back heel kick. Cover, but it gets a two count. Saito tags in Ohara, Irish whip, and Ohara hits a running kick to Iizuka’s knee. Goto is tagged back in, he picks up Iizuka, Irish whip, and he hits a lariat. Cover, but it gets a two count. Iizuka manages to tag in Nogami, scoop slam by Nogami and he drops a leg on Goto. Cover, but it gets a one count. Goto tags in Saito, who punches Nogami repeatedly in the stomach. Nogami fights back and the two exchange blows. Kick to the chest by Saito and he tags in Ohara. Ohara kicks Nogami in the corner and applies a side headlock, but Nogami gets to his corner and tags in Iizuka. Nogami sends Ohara for a ride, leapfrogs over him, and Iizuka hits an elbow strike. More double team work by Iizuka and Nogami, Irish whip by Iizuka and he dropkicks Ohara in the face. Cover, but it gets a two count. Kido is tagged in, snapmare by Kido, but Ohara delivers a single-leg takedown and tags in Saito. Irish whip by Saito and he punches Kido in the stomach. Kido takes down Saito with an armbar, but it is broken up by his teammates. Kido tags in Iizuka, who kicks Saito down in the corner. Scoop slam by Iizuka and he applies a single leg crab hold. Saito muscles out of it and hits Iizuka with a series of kicks to the chest. Vertical suplex by Saito, cover, but it gets a two count. Saito tags in Goto, but Iizuka greets him with a series of punches and tags in Nogami. Nogami comes off the top with a double ax-handle and both Nogami and Iizuka hit repeated elbow drops on Goto. Nogami kicks Goto in the chest and tags in Kido. Kicks by Kido, and he stomps Goto while he lies on the mat. Kido picks up Goto and hits a swinging neckbreaker, cover, but it gets a two count. Kido punches Goto in the corner and tags in Iizuka. Iizuka continues the stomping of Goto and hits a backbreaker. Cover, but it barely gets a two count. Goto starts absorbing blows and gets back to his feet, and in the process manages to tag in Ohara. Ohara and Iizuka trade chops, but Iizuka hits a dropkick. Backdrop suplex by Iizuka and he tags in Nogami.
Ohara throws Nogami into the corner and tags in Saito. Saito punches and chops on Nogami until Nogami falls down to the mat. Kick to the chest by Saito, but Nogami catches one and tags in Kido. Kick to the chest by Kido and he hits a European uppercut. A single leg grab hold is applied by Kido, but Saito gets a hand on the bottom ropes. Kido tags in Iizuka, who quickly applies a grounded ankle lock on Saito until Saito gets to the ropes. Kicks by Iizuka, but Saito fights back and tags in Ohara. Irish whip by Ohara and he hits a jumping clothesline. Cover, but it gets a two count. Ohara goes off the ropes, but Iizuka catches him with an uranage. Iizuka tags in Nogami, Nogami goes to the top turnbuckle and hits a missile dropkick. Nogami gives dropkicks to everyone that runs in the ring, hits a scoop slam on Goto followed by a jumping clothesline. Cover, but it gets a two count. Nogami tags in Iizuka, and both men hit strikes in the corner on Goto. Scoop slam by Nogami on Goto, Iizuka comes off the top with an elbow drop, cover, but it gets a two count. Iizuka picks Goto off the mat and delivers the Blizzard Suplex before tagging in Nogami. Double Irish whip on Goto and they hit a double facecrusher. Nogami goes to the top turnbuckle and comes off with a diving body press. Cover, but the pin attempt is broken up. Nogami picks up Goto, but Goto suddenly catches him with a backdrop suplex and tags in Ohara. Ohara hits a chokeslam on Nogami, cover, but it is broken up. Scoop slam by Ohara and he hits a pair of elbow drops. Saito comes in the ring and helps Ohara hits a powerbomb on Nogami. While Ohara is making the cover, Iizuka comes in the ring and gives Saito an uranage. Iizuka knocks back Ohara as Nogami makes the tag to Kido. Kido hits a lariat on Ohara, cover, but it only gets a two count. Saito picks up Kido, throws him to Ohara who goes for a chokeslam, but Kido gets out of it and slaps on an armbar. It is broken up, and J-J-Jacks run in the ring to knock Saito and Goto out of the ring. Inside the ring, Kido quickly applies the Kido clutch and picks up the three count pinfall! Your winners: Osamu Kido, Takayuki Iizuka, and Akira Nogami
Match Thoughts: Some of you newer puroresu fans might know Akira Nogami better as AKIRA, the name he has been wrestling under for several years. This is typically the kind of match that I don't really like.... random carnage that doesn't amount to anything until the end comes. The first 3/4 of this match fits that mold and was plodding along at a slow pace, but the end of the match did pick things up a bit. Iizuka and Nogami worked well as a pair, and Saito is great in multi-tag matches as his kicks look convincing but it doesn't get old since he is in and out of the ring too much. Overall it was somewhat watchable, although mostly just for J-J-Jacks. Score: 4.0
Hiro Saito, Nakano, and Norio Honaga vs. Kengo Kimura, Great Kabuki, and Kobayashi
The match starts with a crazy brawl, but eventually settles down with Great Kabuki being beat up by Saito and Nakano. Honaga stays in the ring and punches Great Kabuki to the mat before choking him. Punch to the head by Honaga and he tags in Saito. Saito and Honaga stomp Great Kabuki in the corner and Saito elbows Great Kabuki repeatedly in the head. Nakano is tagged in, double Irish whip, and they hit a double shoulderblock. Cover by Nakano but it gets a two count. Reverse chinlock by Nakano and he tags in Honaga. Honaga slaps Great Kabuki, but Great Kabuki fires back and tags in his partner. Kobayashi forearms Honaga in the head and throws him out of the ring. Baseball slide by Kobayashi and he brawls with Honaga outside the ring. Honaga punches Kobayashi and gets back in the ring, so Kobayashi tags in Kimura. Tie-up, Honaga drives Kimura back to his corner and tags in Saito. Kimura is temporarily triple-teamed in the corner before Saito is tagged in. DDT by Saito and he hits a senton. Cover, but it gets a two count. Kimura tags in Great Kabuki, Irish whip by Great Kabuki and he hits a lariat. Cover, but it only gets two. Great Kabuki tags in Kobayashi, who throws Saito into his corner so that Great Kabuki could help him double team Saito. Knee to the chest by Kobayashi, Irish whip, but Saito catches him and delivers a DDT. Piledriver by Saito and he tags in Nakano. Nakano holds Kobayashi for Honaga, who comes off the top turnbuckle with an elbow drop. Cover by Nakano, but it gets a two count. Nakano picks up Kobayashi and hits a vertical suplex. A crab hold is applied by Nakano, but Kimura runs in and breaks it up. Kobayashi tags in Great Kabuki, but Nakano gets him back to his corner and tags in Saito. Kicks by Saito from the corner, Irish whip, but Great Kabuki kicks him when he charges in and hits a clothesline. Kobayashi is tagged in, he goes for an Irish whip, it is reversed, but Kobayashi gets the better of it with a back kick and hooks the fisherman's suplex for a two count. Kobayashi goes for a powerbomb, but Nakano runs in before he can even attempt the move. Kobayashi tags in Kimura as Nakano is tagged in as well, and Nakano delivers an enzigieri. Irish whip by Nakano and he catches Kimura with a powerslam. Cover, but it gets a two count. Nakano tags in Honaga, who comes off the top turnbuckle with a clothesline. Cover, but again it gets two. Saito comes in to try to help, but Kimura avoids his strike and dropkicks Honaga. Carnage ensues, Kimura hits Honaga with a clothesline and follows it with a powerbomb. Cover by Kimura and he picks up the three count pinfall! Your winners: Kengo Kimura, Great Kabuki, and Kuniaki Kobayashi
Match Thoughts: They were intense, but it wasn't a real great match. Most of it was punch/kick, and neither team had much of a chance to get any team work or rhythm going before the match was suddenly over. It was hard to even judge the wrestlers individually as they were not in the ring for very long and did not get much of a chance to show their skills. Probably used more as a way to extend the storyline then anything else as the in-ring action was short and not quite as good as the matches around it. Score: 4.0
El Gigante vs. Tadao Yasuda
They tie-up to start, and El Gigante throws Yasuda to the mat. Tie-up again, and again Yasuda is tossed to the mat like a little toy. A third tie-up, and it has the same result. Yasuda seems fired up now, and he slaps El Gigante back towards the corner, but El Gigante clubs him repeatedly in the back. Chop to the back of the head by El Gigante and he applies a bearhug. After struggling for a moment, Yasuda rakes El Gigante in the eyes twice to get out of the hold. Side headlock by Yasuda, El Gigante Irish whips out of it, and Yasuda runs into El Gigante trying to knock him down. Yasuda runs into El Gigante twice more, knocking El Gigante back into the corner, but when Yasuda charges again he eats a boot to the face. El Gigante picks up Yasuda, Irish whip, and he applies The Claw! El Gigante gets Yasuda to the mat while maintaining the hold and Yasuda has no choice but to submit! Your winner: El Gigante
Match Thoughts: What did Yasuda do? That's all I could think while I watched this match. For anyone that has not had the pleasure of watching El Gigante, he wrestled in WCW (under the same name) and in the WWF as Giant Gonzalez. He is really tall and has absolutely no wrestling ability whatsoever. There really isn't much else to say.... this was rough and the New Japan fans knew it. Score: 2.5
Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Satoru Sayama
For the live crowd, this match was a 10 minute draw... on the DVD it is clipped to only 30 seconds. Why, you ask? I have seen the full match, and the reason is that nothing happened in the match. This was Sayama's first professional wrestling match in a good while (he is the original Tiger Mask), and the match was billed as more of an exhibition then anything else. He and Liger mostly circled each other and occasionally connected with strikes, I think in this 30 second clipped version every offensive move was shown (Liger Kick!). So as long as you know what it is before you order the event, its fine, but don't expect to see a 10 minute classic Liger/Original Tiger Mask encounter.
Shiro Koshinaka vs. Yoshiaki Yatsu
Irish whip by Koshinaka to start the match and he quickly hits a hip attack. Yatsu rolls out of the ring, but comes back in on his own power. Koshinaka kicks him as soon as he enters and hits a series of hip attacks. Yatsu gets Koshinaka to the mat with a takedown, but Koshinaka slaps his way out of it and both men are back on their feet. Dropkick to the knee by Yatsu and he kicks Koshinaka in the leg until he falls to the mat. Leg lock by Yatsu and he slams Koshinaka while he lays on the mat. Koshinaka pushes him off and slaps him back, and the two trade blows. Yatsu grabs Koshinaka's leg and hits a headbutt followed by more slaps. Yatsu kicks Koshinaka across the ring and applies a reverse crab hold. He releases the hold on Koshinaka and slaps on the figure four leg lock. Koshinaka eventually makes it to the ropes and Yatsu releases the hold. Yatsu yanks on Koshinaka's leg and slaps him back into the corner. Yatsu twists Koshinaka's leg around the bottom rope to apply pressure to it, pulls Koshinaka back in the middle of the ring and applies a leg lock. Again Koshinaka makes it to the ropes and Yatsu has to break the hold. Elbow drop by Yatsu, he picks up Koshinaka and goes for a kneebreaker, but Koshinaka reverses it and lands on top of Yatsu. Irish whip by Koshinaka and he goes for a hip attack, but Yatsu avoids it and hits a bulldog. Chops by Yatsu in the corner and he hits another running bulldog. Koshinaka bounces to his feet though, grabs Yatsu and goes for a bulldog, but Yatsu reverses it with a backdrop suplex. Yatsu picks up Koshinaka and hits another backdrop suplex. Stomp by Yatsu, he drags Koshinaka to his feet and puts him on the top turnbuckle. Yatsu joins him up top and hits an avalanche-style belly to belly suplex. Cover, but it gets a two count. Elbow drop by Yatsu, he hits another one, and then a third. Yatsu picks up Koshinaka and nails a powerbomb. He then goes up to the top turnbuckle and delivers an elbow drop. Cover, but it only gets a two count. Back up, Yatsu goes for a vertical suplex, but Koshinaka lands on his feet and applies the sleeperhold with a body scissors. Koshinaka changes the hold to a reverse chinlock, picks up Yatsu, scoop slam, and he hits a double stomp from the top turnbuckle. Koshinaka picks up Yatsu and goes back to the sleeperhold with the bodyscissors. Koshinaka releases the hold, goes to the top turnbuckle and goes for a hip attack, but Yatsu catches him and hits a German suplex for a two count. Yatsu grabs Koshinaka again, Koshinaka elbows out of it and goes off the ropes, but Yatsu catches him and slams him over his head. Both men slowly get up, Koshinaka hits a dropkick and goes off the ropes, but Yatsu catches him with a powerslam. Cover, but it gets a two count. Yatsu goes up to the top turnbuckle, but Koshinaka is up in time and joins him. Koshinaka goes for the superplex, Yatsu resists, and he eventually slaps Koshinaka off. Yatsu comes off the top, but Koshinaka steps out of the way. Running hip attack by Koshinaka, he nails the powerbomb, but Yatsu kicks out at two. Koshinaka goes to the top turnbuckle and hits a missile dropkick on Yatsu. He picks up Yatsu again, hits another powerbomb, cover, and this time he picks up the three count pinfall! Your winner: Shiro Koshinaka
Match Thoughts: A decent match, although nothing that will blow you away on any level. I am not a big fan of submission holds that end up meaning absolutely nothing (Koshinaka's leg in this case), but both men did hit a variety of power moves and the crowd was extremely into the match. Koshinaka has a big following, and while I admit I don't really see it, there is no denying that it is there. They both hit their moves well and performed top rope moves as if they were Jr. heavyweights. So while I didn't love it, it wasn't bad. Score: 5.5
(c) Sting vs. Rick Rude
This match is for the WCW International Championship. Tie-up to start the match, Sting gets Rude into the corner and he gives a clean break as Rude yells at Sting. Tie-up again, side headlock by Sting, and he takes Rude down to the mat. Rude struggles to his feet and muscles out of the hold, Irish whip by Rude, and he clotheslines Sting to the mat before doing his pose. Back on their feet, clubs to the back by Rude, Irish whip, he goes for a hiptoss, but Sting clotheslines him down. Scoop slam by Sting and he hits a jumping elbow drop. Another elbow drop by Sting, and he drops a third on Rude. Rude rolls out of the ring to collect his thoughts as Sting gets on the top turnbuckle and does the Rude hip pivot. Back in the ring, Sting connects with a few strikes, Irish whip, and he hits a back bodydrop. Sting applies a chinlock to Rude on the mat, Sting breaks it for a moment to taunt Rude before locking it back on (Sting to Rude: "Not so ravishing now, are ya?"). After a few moments Sting releases the hold and kicks Rude in the ribs before re-applying the hold. Rude finally manages to make it to the ropes, and after the hold is released he rolls out of the ring. As Rude is standing on the outside, Sting comes flying out of the ring with a plancha suicida, landing on top of Rude and breaking his back in the process (this would be the move that would end Rick Rude's in-ring wrestling career). The referee and Rude's girl check on Rude, but Sting goes over to him and drags him to his feet. Sting takes Rude over by the ramp and hits a vertical suplex up onto the rampway. Sting then gets back into the ring, goes up to the top turnbuckle and hits a flying clothesline on Rude. Sting walks all the way back up the rampway (ala Muta, except slower), and hits a running clothesline on Rude back towards the ring. Scoop slam by Sting, he walks back up the ramp again, and again nails a clothesline on Rude. Rude crawls around outside the ring, but Sting eventually goes out to get him. Sting goes for the Stinger Splash while Rude is against the railing, but Rude moves and Sting goes crashing into the steel.
Rude picks up Sting and drops him neck-first over the guardrail before sliding him back into the ring. Rude goes to the top turnbuckle and comes off with a diving clothesline. Cover by Rude but it gets a two count. Again Rude goes to the top turnbuckle and he clubs Sting in the head. Rude locks on a reverse chinlock (as Sting had done to him), and after a moment he releases the hold and goes up to the top turnbuckle. Sting gets up in time however, joins Rude up top, and nails the superplex. Sting goes for a running splash, but Rude gets his knees up to block the move. Rude picks up Sting and punches him twice in the ribs before spitting on Sting. He picks up Sting again and applies a side bearhug. Sting eventually elbows out of it, but Rude punches him repeatedly in the ribs. Irish whip by Rude, but Sting kicks him in the head when he goes for a back bodydrop. Sting goes for a suplex, but Rude reverses it and drops Sting onto the ropes before kicking him out of the ring. Rude joins Sting on the outside and hits a vertical suplex (not on the mat, but on the stage). Rude slides Sting back into the ring, but Sting hulks up and gets back to his feet. Punches and chops by Sting, Irish whip, reversed, and Rude applies the sleeperhold. Sting drops to his knees and to the mat, but after a few minutes he struggles back to his feet and hits a jawbreaker. Punches to the face by Rude, but Sting fires back with his own punches and hits an inverted atomic drop followed by a regular one. Series of clotheslines by Sting, Irish whip, and he tosses Rude up into the air. Military press by Sting and he dumps Rude out of the ring. Rude grabs the belt and goes to hit Sting with it, but he struggles with the referee and Sting dropkicks Rude in the back. Sting clothesline Rude out onto the rampway, goes up top, but Rude puts his valet in front of him so Sting jumps down. Sting gets her out of the way, but Rude clocks him with the belt and quickly throws him back into he ring. Cover by Rude, but it gets a two count. Back in the middle of the ring, piledriver by Rude, cover, but again Sting somehow kicks out. Rude climbs up to the top turnbuckle and drills Sting with a knee drop. Cover, and Rude picks up the three count pinfall! Your winner and new champion: Rick Rude
Backstage, Rude is limping around as he goes to the interview room. All he says is that he hit his head on the concrete, which would have happened on the same move he hurt his back (his head did hit pretty hard as well). Sting complains that it was not a fair win and that is why he did not shake Rude's hand afterwards.
Match Thoughts: Similar to the Dynamite Kid match at "These Days," it is hard for me to objectively rate a match when one of my favorite wrestlers from the early 90s gets a career ending injury in the match. While Rude wasn't necessarily the best worker of his era, he was a terrific heel that had quality matches with a wide range of wrestlers in his career. And to think that he wrestled 15 minutes with a broken back is simply unreal, although obviously they didn't know how serious it was at the time. This match was pretty fun, even though it did have a lot of rest holds, that is understandable under the circumstances. The ending was hot, and it was smart not to end the match on the belt-shot since the Japanese crowd would not have liked that one bit. Perfectly enjoyable, and I think the late Rick Rude must have been satisfied with this being the final match of his career considering what he accomplished while obviously hurting. Score: 7.0
Masahiro Chono vs. Yoshiaki Fujiwara
Chono charges Fujiwara to start the match with a kick before the bell rings, he hits a scoop slam, but Fujiwara quickly applies the armbar before Chono finally wiggles out of it. Now the bell rings, tie-up, and Fujiwara punches Chono in the corner. Kick to the back by Fujiwara and he backs off, telling Chono to bring it. Tie-up, side headlock by Fujiwara, but Chono gets out of it with a backdrop suplex. Kick to the head by Chono, he picks up Fujiwara and slaps him in the chest. Fujiwara returns fire and knocks down Chono with a headbutt. Chono gets back to his feet, tie-up, and Chono clubs Fujiwara in the back. Headbutt by Chono and they trade headbutts to the midsection. Fujiwara goes for a suplex, but Chono reverses it and puts Fujiwara up on the top turnbuckle. Chono then joins him up top, but Fujiwara blocks the superplex. They trade blows, and Fujiwara eventually headbutts Chono off and jumps down. Fujiwara throws Chono out of the ring, gets a running start, but slams on the breaks and does the Rick Rude hip pivot instead of a dive. Chono eventually gets back in the ring, tie-up, waistlock by Chono and he gets Fujiwara to the mat. Chono applies a front facelock, Fujiwara rolls out of it and applies a hammerlock, but Chono is in the ropes. Back to their feet, tie-up, and Chono hits an armdrag takedown. Fujiwara manages to re-apply the armbar, but Chono quickly gets to the ropes. Both men get back to their feet and Chono punches Fujiwara back into the corner. Stomp by Chono, snapmare, and he applies a reverse chinlock. Fujiwara slowly gets to his feet, gets out of the hold, and snapmares Chono to the mat. Choke by Fujiwara and he kicks Chono in the chest. Chono gets back up, kick to the stomach by Chono, he goes for an Irish whip, but Fujiwara grabs the top rope. Kicks by Chono, he goes for another Irish whip, but Fujiwara grabs his arm and applies the armbar. Luckily for Chono he is close to the ropes and manages to make it before he has to submit. Chono kicks Fujiwara from behind when he gets back up and hits a back bodydrop on Fujiwara. Enzigieri by Chono, he goes for another one, but Fujiwara ducks. Fujiwara grabs his leg, but Chono kicks him off and applies the STF. After being in the hold for a moment, Fujiwara has no choice but to submit! Your winner: Masahiro Chono
Match Thoughts: I can't really say I liked this match at all... it was slow, nothing really happened, and it seemed to have no direction. Fujiwara constantly went for his armbar, which makes sense, but he really never did anything else to weaken the arm. Fujiwara also was letting Chono get to his feet instead of capitalizing (I showed the last time he did it with the underline above), which if you want to win doesn't make a lot of sense. Finally, Chono wins with the STF, even though Fujiwara hardly seemed weakened at all. Throw in the fact that they were walking around like zombies, and this match had very few redeemable traits. Maybe there is a back story I don't know (besides Fujiwara being the older veteran), but I simply wasn't entertained by this match. Score: 3.5
Hiroshi Hase vs. Riki Choshu
Tie-up to start, Hase pushes Choshu against the ropes and slaps him in the face before backing off. They tie-up again, Choshu gets Hase into the corner and he pummels him with headbutts. Choshu stomps on Hase and keeps headbutting him, and then kicks Hase as he tries to get up and punches him back into the corner. Irish whip by Choshu and he knees Hase in the stomach. Vertical suplex by Choshu, he applies a side headlock, Hase Irish whips out of it, but Choshu shoulderblocks him down. Back up, waistlock by Hase, Choshu tries to reach the ropes, but Hase blocks it and hits a German suplex for a two count. Side Russian leg sweep by Hase and he gives Choshu 10 rotations in the giant swing. Hase gets back up first (barely), goes off the ropes, and hits a jumping lariat. Cover, but it gets a two count. Chops by Hase, but Choshu absorbs the blows and slaps Hase back. More slaps by Choshu and Hase falls to the mat. Choshu waits for Hase to get up, goes off the ropes, but Hase hits him with a lariat before Choshu can connect with his. Uranage by Hase, cover, but it only gets a two count. Hase picks up Choshu and nails the Northern Lights Suplex, but again he gets a two count. Hase chops Choshu when he gets up and hits a side Russian leg sweep. Hase brings Choshu in the middle of the ring and applies the STF, but Choshu reaches the bottom rope. Hase stomps Choshu while he is on the mat, picks him up, and hits another side Russian leg sweep. He goes back to the STF and turns it over into the FTS, but Choshu reaches the bottom rope again. Back up, swinging neckbreaker by Hase, and he delivers a Gotch-style piledriver. Hase goes to the top turnbuckle and hits Choshu with an elbow drop. Hase gets Choshu to his feet, puts him on his shoulders, and drops him over the top rope. Hase goes for the dragon suplex, but Choshu quickly grabs the ropes before he can hit the move. Backdrop suplex by Hase, he gets Choshu back to his feet, Irish whip, and he applies the sleeperhold. Choshu hits a backdrop suplex, but Hase keeps the hold on. Choshu gets to his feet and gives him another one, but still Hase keeps the hold on. A third time he gets back up and he nails a backdrop suplex, and this time Hase loses his hold. Both men get back up, Hase goes off the ropes, but both men clothesline each other and neither go down. Again Hase goes off the ropes with the same result, but the third time he gets leveled by a Riki Lariat. Choshu goes off the ropes and once Hase gets up he gives him another lariat. Scorpion Deathlock by Choshu in the middle of the ring and Hase has no choice but to submit! Your winner: Riki Choshu
Match Thoughts: Even though it wasn't much longer then the last match, this one was much better and shows the better way to structure a short match. Hase was the obviously underdog here and threw everything at Choshu to put him away... but it didn't work, and he was knocked loopy by two lariats before succumbing to the Scorpion Deathlock. Similar to Hashimoto, Choshu has an aura around him that tells you that he could kill you anytime he wants to. A real fun sprint that saw the crowd get solidly behind Hase before going nuts when Choshu downed Hase with the first Riki Lariat. Score: 7.0
(c) Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Shinya Hashimoto
This match is for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Hashimoto kicks Fujinami as soon as the bell rings until Fujinami falls to his knees. Fujinami fires back with his own kicks and strikes, but Hashimoto's kicks are too much and Fujinami falls back to the mat. Fujinami rolls out of the ring to the rampway, but quickly returns. Tie-up, and Hashimoto kicks Fujinami in the chest and legs. Fujinami eventually catches one however, gets Hashimoto to the mat, and applies a leg submission hold. Hashimoto crawls to the ropes and gets his hand on the bottom one, but Fujinami simply drags him back to the middle of the ring and slaps on the STF. Fujinami releases the hold and punches Hashimoto to the mat. Sleeperhold by Fujinami, and Hashimoto slowly drops to his knees until he is on the mat. Fujinami switches it after a moment to a reverse chinlock and goes for the Dragon Sleeper, but Hashimoto blocks it and hits an armbreaker. Hashimoto hits a heel kick, sending Fujinami into the corner, and then kicks Fujinami repeatedly in the chest. Judo throw by Hashimoto, he waits for Fujinami to get back up and kicks him in the head and chest until Fujinami falls back into the ropes. Hashimoto connects with another high kick and Fujinami crumbles back to the mat. Hashimoto calls for the end, drags Fujinami to his feet, and delivers the jumping DDT. Cover, and he picks up the three count pinfall! Your winner and new champion: Shinya Hashimoto
Match Thoughts: While I wish it was a little longer, at least it made sense. Hashimoto obviously was more powerful then Fujinami, with Fujinami's only chance being a quick submission. Once he didn't get it... well, there was no hope for him. Hashimoto gives off such an aura that it doesn't seem unrealistic that he could finish off the champion (who won on a fluke) in short order. So it is far from a classic but was still a pretty entertaining match. Score: 6.5
That's the end of the official release, but I have Great Muta/Antonio Inoki so I am going to review that as well.
Antonio Inoki vs. Great Muta
This was Inoki's First match in his Retirement Countdown. They jockey for position to start the match with Muta on top of Inoki with an armlock. Muta switches to the leg and ankle, and applies a single-leg crab hold. Inoki eventually reverses it into his own ankle lock and Muta gets to the ropes to break the hold. Muta rolls out of the ring to think things over, and decides to get a table so he can play on the ladder at ringside. Muta comes back to ringside when Inoki gets out on the apron and he looks around under the ring before finally getting back in. They circle each other, Inoki kicks Muta in the legs, but Muta replies by spitting green mist in his face twice. Muta throws Inoki out to the ramp and hits a vertical suplex before running all the way up the rampway. Muta then runs back, hitting Inoki in the back of the head with a lariat before flying over the top rope back into the ring. Muta goes back out to get Inoki and throws him into the ring. Muta gives Inoki a backdrop suplex and heaves him out of the ring to the floor. After following him, Muta throws Inoki head-first into the guardrail, gets up on a table with Inoki and piledrives Inoki into it (it doesn't break, being a strong Japanese table). Muta goes back into the ring under the referee's orders, but eventually comes back out and throws Inoki into the ring post. Again he throws Inoki into the ring post before rolling back into the ring. Inoki follows him, and Muta greets him with a series of kicks to the head. More kicks by Muta and he chokes Inoki with his knee. Inoki tries to get up, but he falls back down and Muta slaps on a sleeperhold. Muta releases the hold and hits Inoki with a back kick. Inoki rolls out of the ring and gets up on the ramp, but Muta decides to come out instead of waiting in the ring. Muta throws Inoki off the ramp and then throws him into the guardrail. While the referee argues with Muta, Inoki connects with an enzigieri to the back of Muta's head. Inoki gets back in the ring with Muta following, but Inoki greets Muta with a diving kick. Inoki punches Muta repeatedly before throwing him back out of the ring. Muta grabs Inoki while he is on the apron and takes him outside the ring area, throwing him into a railing. Muta then tries to use the ladder, but is unsuccessful so he settles with choking Inoki with it. The referee finally gets them back into the ring, and Muta connects with a series of strikes on Inoki. Inoki suddenly applies the sleeperhold on Muta, but Inoki releases the hold after a few moments. Inoki picks up Muta, but for the third time he gets the mist to the face. Muta hits a backbreaker on Inoki, goes to the top turnbuckle, and nails the moonsault. Cover, but it only gets a two count. Muta picks up Inoki again, another back breaker, and again he hits a moonsault. Cover again, but again Inoki manages to kick out at two. German suplex hold by Muta, but that also only gets a two count on Inoki. Now Muta resorts to the Dragon Suplex hold, but once again Inoki barely gets his shoulder up as the crowd continues getting louder and louder. Muta waits for Inoki to get up and goes for the handspring elbow strike, but Inoki steps out of the way. Inoki quickly applies the sleeperhold, keeps it locked on for about four seconds before releasing it, cover, and he gets the three count! Your winner: Antonio Inoki
Match Thoughts: This was a fairly decent and typical Muta match until the end, which I absolutely hated. I don't mean Inoki kicking out of everything and winning the match... he was Inoki, he did that sort of thing, and since this was the start of his retirement I fully expected him to win. But for Muta to be knocked out after being in the sleeperhold for literally less then five seconds makes no sense at all considering that Inoki had done very little damage to Muta. Why not just let Muta go to sleep all the way? I can think of 100 ways I'd rather have had Inoki win, as this way made Muta look extremely weak rather then making Inoki look really strong. Other then that the match was pretty slow until the last few minutes or so, as most the match seemed to drag along. Everyone knows I love Muta, and I still do, but this was not his best showing which is disappointing since it was his only chance at wrestling the great Antonio Inoki one on one. Score: 5.0
This wasn't as good as I was hoping although it was still a decent show. I was disappointed the Steiners match and Muta's match were left off the release, but there isn't much you can do about that. The title match was a little short, but there were a handful of matches on here that were very good. Unfortunately none were "must see" matches and I fear that just from looking at the match line-up people will be disappointed with the end result. Course watching Rude's last match was special, its a shame his career had to end so early since I am sure he had at least a few more good years left in him. Overall I would recommend this, but only for completists or hardcore New Japan fans, as the average fan will probably think the show fell short of expectations.
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