The SmarK Rant for Best of Japan 2001: Volume 2
– Okay, continuing on after a bit of a break, we get into part 2 of this series from goldenboytapes.com, who have generously provided this set for me to review.
– Triple Crown: Genichiro Tenryu v. Taiyo Kea. Tenryu overpowers Kea, and shrugs off a high kick. Test of strength turns into a pinfall reversal sequence. They work off a headlock for a bit, and Kea gets a high kick to send Tenryu scurrying. Back in, Tenryu starts chopping, but that just fires Taiyo up. A rana is stopped, however, and Tenryu gets a lariat for two. Enzuigiri and corner clothesline turn the tide Tenryu’s way, and he gets a top rope elbow for two. Charge misses and Kea dropkicks him, and gets that rana for two. Superkick and Tenryu gets hung in the Tree ofWoe, where Kea dropkicks the knee. Dragon-screw continues that line of thinking, and it’s figure-four time. Tenryu makes the ropes. High kicks and Kea dropkicks the knee for two. Powerbomb is reversed by Tenryu, but Kea keeps stomping the knee. Second try at the powerbomb gets two. Kea goes high kick, low kick, enzuigiri and Hawaiian Crusher, but it only gets two. Kea goes up, but misses. Tenryu with a lariat for two. Powerbomb gets two. Another one gets two. Double-hook submission, but Kea knees out of it. Now he’s all fired up. Slugfest, won by Tenryu, and he gets a suplex for two. Tenryu seems disoriented. So do Kea, so Tenryu covers for two. Crafty old guy. Lariat gets two, and another finishes at 15:22. Pretty slow, but otherwise solid. *** I’m liking Taiyo Kea, although not in a “future of All JapanÃ¢â‚¬Â type of way or anything.
– Taiyo Kea v. Johnny Smith. Headlock sequence to start, and it’s a push. Clipped a bit to Smith working the arm with a hammerlock slam for two. Snapmare and crucifix pin gets two. Kea tosses him and they brawl, which Kea wins because he’s a big nasty Hawaiian son of a bitch. He injures Smith’s leg on the railing and works on it back in the ring. Submission hold, but Smith makes the ropes. Kneebreaker and kneebar keep the pain going and Kea turns it into an STF. Smith makes the ropes. Johnny comes back with a backdrop for two. He goes up and gets a missile dropkick, but his knee hurts too much to kip up like a proper Hart trainee. Lariat gets two, though. Charge hits foot, but he gets a Northern Lights Bomb for two. Kea blocks a monkey flip and goes back to the leg with a figure-four. Johnny makes the ropes and suddenly grabs a hammerlock out of nowhere and keys the lock. Kea makes the ropes. Smith piledrives him for two. Crossface chickenwing, but Kea escapes, only to get backslid for two. Kea’s rana gets two. They fight over a suplex before Kea gets a Northern lights suplex for two. Russian legsweep sets up a pump splash, which misses. Smith tries a death valley driver, but Kea reverses. Smith then tries a german suplex, which Smith reverses to a Stunner, and the Hawaiian Crusher finishes at 13:15. Good effort here, if a bit nondescript. ***
– Genichiro Tenryu v. Taiyo Kea. This is the Champion Carnival finals. JIP with Kea kicking arm, but Tenyru gets a lariat for two. Kneedrop and Tenryu hammers away, but Kea gets an enzuigiri to put him down. It gets two. He stomps away on the dazed Tenryu, and piledrives him for two. Kea dropkicks the knee and gets a figure-four, and Tenryu is fading. Kea won’t let him roll to the ropes. Finally he does get there, but Kea goes back to it. Tenryu punches out of it, but gets flattened with kicks. Tornado DDT, and a regular DDT get two. Taiyo goes up to finish and misses, and Tenryu lariats him for two. Another one is no-sold, so a third is needed for two. Brainbuster gets two. Lariat finishes at 7:34. Not enough to rate with absolute certainty, but it seemed about **3/4
– Takao Omori v. Jun Akiyama. And back to NOAH we go. I vaguely recall Omori making an appearance at the Royal Rumble a few years back. Omori pisses Jun off right away and gets speared. He tries a headlock and holds on through a suplex. Akiyama tries a high knee, but gets blocked, only to immediately headfake Omori and get an Exploider. Heh. Omori tries a lariat, but gets taken down in an armbar and bails. They brawl and Omori hits the post, and Jun proceeds to yank on his arm it’s nearly out of the socket. Back in, Akiyama goes to town on the arm as the crowd rallies behind Omori. Neat mat sequence sees Jun turn Omori’s attempt to escape a short-arm scissors into a crossface. High knee puts Omori on the floor, and Jun keeps on the arm, stomping it into the railing. Back in, Akiyama gets bumped into the railing off the apron, and Omori follows him down with a clothesline. They head to the ramp, where Akiyama takes his insane DDT bump on the ramp. Back in, Omori drops a knee and starts on the neck. Into a camel clutch. He stays on the neck, dropping knees on it for two. Smart strategy considering all the head-dropping. Piledriver gets two. Another try is reversed, and Omori misses a charge so melodramatic that he probably would have killed the guy had it hit. Brawl outside again, and Omori’s arm gets the worst of things. Back in, Jun goes back to the arm, and gets a northern lights suplex for two. To the top for a flying knee to the shoulder. Ouch. Exploider! Exploider! It’s gets two. They head to the top, but Jun can’t get the Super Killer Exploider and they tumble down. Omori can’t flex the arm enough for a full-nelson, but eventually gets a rolling DRAGON suplex for two. Damn, Benoit should swipe that one. Lariat gets two. Another is blocked with an Exploider for two. Okay, Jun, you like that move, we get it already. Scissors choke out of nowhere, but Jun breaks and gets another (wait for it) Exploider to finish at 22:45. The idea of working on the arm to set up a million Exploiders seems a tad counter-intuitive to me, but I might be missing some history or something. ***1/2
– Mitsuhara Misawa v. Jun Akiyama. Now we’re talking. Jun goes for the arm right away and they slug it out. Misawa dropkicks him out and dives, but Jun dodges and uses the momentum to send him to the floor. He drops him on the railing for good measure. Misawa forearms Jun into the crowd in response. Back in, Misawa pounds him with forearms for two. He hits the chinlock. They battle for a suplex, and Jun gets a DDT out of it. High knee and Misawa takes a breather. Akiyama rides him down into the railing as a result. D’oh. Back in, it gets two. Akiyama hammers away on the shoulder, but Misawa blocks a high knee and gets the spinning elbow, for two. Neck vice, but Jun makes the ropes. Back to it, it gets two. Misawa goes up with a splash for two. Tiger Driver is blocked, as is the Exploider, and Misawa settles for a butterfly suplex, followed by a german. Tiger Driver gets two. Nice sequence there. Elbow is blocked and reversed into two Exploiders, but Misawa does the traditional “Excuse me, I’d be happy to sell your devastating finisher, but first allow me to give you this lariat and there we areÃ¢â‚¬Â selling job. Jun dropkicks him out on general principles. They brawl and Misawa gives him a Tiger Driver on the floor. Jun won’t stay down and responds with an Exploider on the floor. Oh, TAG. It’s a DCOR at 13:35. Say WHAT? The crowd completely turns on that idea, rightly so. So they do the cheesy restart, and Jun gets a quick brainbuster for two, into the guillotine choke. Misawa rolls out. Jun runs into an elbow, and they do a pinfall reversal sequence that ends with Misawa on top at 1:24. That was pretty strange. ***
– GHC tournament final: Mitsuhara Misawa v. Yoshihiro Takayama. I don’t even know Takayama, but he looks like Terry Gordy had a kid while on tour of Japan. Takayama wrestles Misawa down into a headlock. Test of strength turns into a suplex for Takayama, and gets two. He gets a chinlock, and that goes on a while. It gets two. He stomps away, and then slugs it out with Misawa, getting hit with a running elbow that knocks him onto the floor. Note to aspiring wrestlers: Don’t get into a slugfest with Misawa. He follows with a tope suicida, and back in he runs right into a knee and bails. Takayama baseball slides him and suplexes him onto a nearby table. Back in, he gets two. They over a cross-armbreaker, and Takayama kicks him down. High knee and into a facelock, but Misawa elbow out and gets dumped to the ramp. Backdrop out there sets up one of those insane 400-foot running kneelifts that the Japanese love so much, and it gets two back in the ring. Back to the chinlock. Legdrop gets two, brother. They slug it out, again, and Misawa wins, again. That boy don’t learn too fast. Spinkick is blocked, but Misawa goes for the leg as a result. Takayama knees him down and a roundhouse kick gets two. German suplex gets two. Another one gets two. He lays in the kicks for two. Cross-armbreaker, but Misawa is in the ropes and bleeding healthy amounts of plasma. He punches Takayama down for two. Well, THAT’S right to the point. Armbar, but Takayama is in the ropes. Cross-armbreaker, again in the ropes. Again, but he powers out with a slick move. Again, in the ropes again. Geez, give it up, man. Elbows knock Takayama down, Tiger Driver gets two. Again, but Takayama reverses and gets a Tiger Suplex for two. I’d be pissed if I was Misawa. And indeed, he simply smacks the shit out of Takayama for stealing his move, and a running elbow gets a close two. Emerald Frozen (or Erosion or whatever the hell it’s called this week) finishes at 21:14. Experience and ugly green tights beat youth and power every time. That was quite the war of attrition at the end, though. Having never seen another Takayama match, I can still safely call this his best ever, I’d bet. ****
– Toshiaki Kawada v. Mitsuya Nagai. Whoo-hoo, more Kawada! Nagai starts with the bone-jarring kicks, and Kawada is on his ass. Kawada fires back and you can smell the testosterone. Or maybe that’s just Scotsman. Big boot puts Nagai down. What an insanely stiff start. Kawada kicks him while he’s down (literally) and drops a knee for two. Stretch Plum, but Nagai stubbornly makes the ropes. Back to it, but Nagai keeps fighting out. Axe kick and high kicks, but Nagai is getting pissed. They take it to the mat, and Nagai works for an armbreaker. Kawada makes the ropes. Slugfest and Nagai VICIOUSLY attacks the leg with kicks so hard that my thigh bruises up in sympathy, as does Kawada, and they just start HAMMERING each other with them until one of them drops, in this case Nagai. Oh, man, this shit is SICK. I LOVE IT. Nagai appears to be in some pain, but they keep slugging it out because they’re both REAL MEN, DADDY. Nagai goes down first again and this time, he’s out. But Kawada is a sick f*ck, so he picks him up and kicks him back down again, then gets a half-crab. Nagai escapes, so Kawada makes him his bitch with more kicks and goes back to it. Nagai makes the ropes, but he’s still Kawada’s bitch last I checked, so down he goes again. Nagai, having been beaten senseless, is just too stupid to know when to give it up, so Kawada takes the decision out of his hands by putting him back in the crab until he taps at 11:25. As far as being an in-ring classic, forget it, but for a brutal display of manliness with the PHAT psychology, this was textbook. ****
– Toshiaki Kawada v. Keiji Muto. Ah, the reason I got this set: To see the big f*cking deal about Muto. He actually looks like a cross between Saturn & Rick Steiner with the bald head and beard now. Nice to see he’s finally come to grips with his own hair-loss, though. That bald spot was getting embarrassing for a while there. Long feeling-out process to begin, and Muto goes to a kneebar. Kawada kicks out and we begin again. Muto bars the arm, but Kawada counters and Muto bails, just to be safe. Back in, Kawada starts pounding, but Muto drops an elbow. I still mark for that elbowdrop. Muto hits the chinlock, and goes to a side headlock. Kawada backdrops out of it. Kneedrop and they head out to the ramp, where Kawada slaps the bald off him and follows with a running high knee. Back in, Kawada goes to a headscissors and pounds away. Back kick gets two. They brawl out and Muto gets the better of things. Back in, Muto starts a fight he can’t finish, as Kawada kicks him down. Several times in fact. Geez, didn’t Muto read the last match recap? It’s only one paragraph up! Muto suddenly grows a set, however, and fires back, so Kawada puts him back down and drops a knee. Powerbomb is blocked, but Kawada gets a lariat and BIG BAD HIGH KICK. Powerbomb gets two. High kick sends Muto to the floor, but the ref won’t let him grab a chair. Back in, he blocks an enzuigiri and dropkicks the arm. The tide has turned. Dragon-screw, but Kawada blocks another one with an enzuigiri. Muto gets a figure-four, however. They fight over the reversal until both finally throw in the towel and head to the ropes. Muto is right back to it, however, as he dropkicks the knee and gets another dragon-screw. He sure seems to like that move. Kawada kicks him down and gets the enzuigiri for two. Stretch Plum gets two. Kneedrop misses (which, let’s face it, was a dumb move to try in the first place) and Muto goes back to the arm and to a cross-armbreaker. I’m not getting this psychology. Kawada makes the ropes and Muto keeps dropkicking the arm, having apparently abandoned the whole knee idea. Kawada suddenly reverses to his own armbreaker, but Muto makes the ropes. Lariat! LARIAT! LAAAARRRIAT! That gets two. Muto blocks a high kick with a dragon-screw, and knees him in the head. Kawada seems disproportionately unconscious, which would lead me to believe that it was the dreaded Shining Wizard that all the kids are talking about these days. Another one confirms my suspicions, as it gets the pin at 24:50. So that’s the big finisher, eh? Well, they said the People’s Elbow wouldn’t get over, either. Opinions on this match seem to vary wildly, to say the least, but I thought the effort was great even if the arm-leg-arm-leg psychology was a bit weird. I mean, geez, pick a body part, dude. ***3/4
– Daijiro Matsui v. Ikuto Hidaka. This is shootstyle stuff, so I’m not even touching it, sorry. If the match is gonna consist of two guys in the guard for 15 minutes, they should at least have the decency for it not to be a worked match.
– Naomichi Marufuji v. Tatsuhito Takaiwa. Stalemate to start. Takaiwa overpowers him, however. They get all up in each other’s area, and Marufuji slugs him down and grabs an arm. Takaiwa counterwrestles him down and they work off a headlock. Marufuji works the arm, but Takaiwa goes back to the headlock. Marufuji with a nice dropkick and standing frog splash for two. Back to the arm with a short-arm scissors, and they end up in the ropes. Wristlock sequence is right out of the Tom Billington playbook, but Takaiwa sideslams him to take over. Big chop is the punk is REELING. A mudhole is stomped, and back to the headlock. Powerslam, but a powerbomb is reversed by Marufuji and they tumble out. Marufuji follows with a QUEBRADA AND CHEESE. Holy crap, he got game! Of course, I’m white, Canadian and never watch basketball so I could be using that in the wrong context, but I’m willing to take that chance. Back in, missile dropkick gets two. Back to the arm, but Takaiwa makes the ropes and bails. Marufuji follows with a pescado, but misses. Back in, AWESOME reversal sequence gets two for Marufuji. Rollup gets two. Takaiwa catches a Death Valley Driver and only gets two. Marufuji reverses a powerbomb into a double knee, and gets a frog splash for two. Corner elbow and they go up, but Takaiwa powerbombs him off the top! Fuck! Marufuji nails him and tries an Acid drop, but Takaiwa turns it into a tombstone in mid-move and KILLS Marufuji dead. The poor kid’s body doesn’t know it’s dead, though, so Takaiwa goes through the formality of destroying him with a vicious lariat and gets the pin at 13:02. This kid is MONEY. ****1/4
– Keiji Muto v. Jushin Liger. Rather subdued look for Liger. Last time I saw these two go at it, they were blowing mist at each other and bleeding all over the place. Bit of mat wrestling to start sees Muto going for the leg, and switching to the arm. Liger goes to the leg himself. Muto gets the power elbow for two. Back to the arm. Liger powers into a rear chinlock and goes for the arm himself, but Muto twists the knee and goes to work. Liger gets a hiptoss and senton, and back into a headscissors. Muto goes to a full nelson, which Liger reverses into a side headlock. Muto dropkicks the knee, however, and goes back to work. Dragon-screw into the figure-four, but Liger makes the ropes. He fights back with the PALM STRIKE OF DEATH, but the knee is bad. Powerbomb gets two, though. Muta dropkicks the knee again to cut off Liger’s offense. Thank god, I hate those stupid palm strikes. Another dragon-screw to figure-four follows, but Liger eventually makes the ropes. He comes back with a rolling heel kick and palm strike, and goes up for a frog splash that gets two. Cross-armbreaker, but Muta makes the ropes. Brainbuster gets two, and Liger gets a powerbomb but doesn’t get enough to prevent Muto from dragon-screwing the knee again and finishing with the Shining Wizard at 16:36. Real slow. **1/2 I’m not liking the new Muto so much.
– Yuji Nagata, Osamu Nishimura & Takashi Iizuka v. Tenzan, Kojima & Scott Norton. Oh, goodie, NJPW heavyweights. Yuji starts with Kojima and goes to the arm. Into a rear choke, and cross-armbreaker. Kojima pounds him down (and gives a satisfied nod to the crowd as if to say “Yup, this one’s under controlÃ¢â‚¬Â) before pounding away in the corner. Nagata gives him a high kick, and he bails. Norton comes in and to no one’s shock no-sells everything while grunting a lot. Iizuka tries, and Norton won’t sell for him, either. Man, they should totally put the IWGP title back on this guy, that sure wasn’t the stupidest booking decision ever or anything. Tenzan has a go with Nishimura, and pounds him down. Nagata comes in with a belly-to-belly for two. More high kicks, but Tenzan goes low and Kojima comes in for some double-teaming. Nishimura comes back in and gets destroyed by Norton. Thrilling. Tenzan keeps on it, but Iizuka comes in to stop it. Dropkick and Exploider set up a half-crab on Tenzan. Nagata keeps working on the leg, as does Nishimura. Poor guy gets caught in the wrong corner, however, and assaulted like he’s good taste and the heels are Michael Bay’s movies. Tenzan gets two. Headbutt gets two. He goes up and misses another one, which allows the tag to Iizuka. He clean house and gets a sleeper on Tenzan, but walks into a samoan drop. Norton tries a powerbomb, but Nagata kicks him down from behind and Iizuka chokes him down. Nagata comes in for an enzuigiri and northern lights suplex, but Norton no-sells it and shoulderblocks him. Kojima pounds him down and goes up, but misses whatever. Big brawl erupts and it’s BONZO GONZO (or whatever the Japanese equivalent is) and Nagata gets triple-teamed. Kojima drops the elbow for two. 3D gets two. Michinoku Driver gets two. Lariat is blocked by a high kick and a german suplex finishes for Nagata at 18:08. Tenzan & Kojima have a weird charisma that is pretty cool, but I just HATE the NJPW heavyweight style. **
– IWGP Junior title: Minoru Tanaka v. Takehiro Murahama. Tanaka starts with some kicks, but can’t get good extension. Both try a dropkick and miss. Murahama gets a bulldog that sets up a short-arm scissors. Tanaka powerbombs out of it and drops a knee for two. Into a headscissors, but Murahama makes the ropes and gives him a short kick as a little “f*ck youÃ¢â‚¬Â. They repeat the same sequence, but switch roles. Nice touch. Murahama grabs a facelock, and into a toehold. They do some ground-and-pound stuff, and Murahama gets a half-crab, and they try to grab submission holds on each other. They regroup and start kicking, but Murahama catches a leg and turns it into an STF. Tanaka makes the ropes. He kicks Murahama down and out for good measure. Back in, Murahama comes right back with a kick that floors him, and gets two. Good sell there. He starts battering the arm and gets a cross-armbreaker, but Tanaka makes the ropes and bails. Murahama follows with a somersault plancha. Back in, he hits the chinlock, and turns it into a crossface chickenwing. Tanaka makes the ropes. More kicks and a leg lariat get two. Tanaka gets his own, and spins into an ankelock. He keeps pulling him away from the ropes, but finally Murahama fights over there. Good stuff. Murahama gets a quick rollup for two. High kick gets two. German suplex gets two. More kicks. Tanaka gets his own for two. Blood is flowing. Tanaka goes up, but gets caught, and ends up shoving him off THREE times before coming down via a missile dropkick. Release german gets two, and the cross-armbreaker gets the submission at 15:51. Too much submission stuff for my tastes, but there was some good parts here and there. **3/4
– GHC title: Mitsuhara Misawa v. Akira Taue. Taue blocks a wristlock and gets his own, but Misawa breaks that. Taue boots him, and they counter each other until Taue gets a backdrop and Misawa bails. Taue follows with a boot off the apron, and Misawa meets the railing in a decidedly non-social manner. To the ramp, and Taue chokeslams him off there and onto a table. Yikes. Back in, it gets two. Corner clothesline and double-underhook suplex get two. Taue hits the chinlock, but Misawa reverses a powerbomb. Taue clotheslines him for two, however. Charge hits elbow, but when Misawa tries a cross-body out of the corner Taue just swats him down. Misawa heads out and slingshots back in with an elbow, and goes up for a missile dropkick. To the top again, but it misses by a mile. Taue powerbombs him for two. To the apron, but Taue can’t do his Big Videogame Move. Back in, Taue just pounds away on the prone Misawa. Short-arm clothesline and chokeslam, but he then holds on (!) and does another one. Big boot, twice, and Misawa is on rubber legs. He comes back with a spinkick, so Taue gets a case of the limbertail. Misawa follows him with a diving elbow. Taue gets up, so Misawa does it again. To the top as Taue gets back in, and a flying elbow gets two for Misawa. Running elbow gets two. Tiger Driver gets two. Taue suddenly comes back with the Ruby Erosion (backdrop/chokeslam combo don’t ask, I don’t invent the move names) and gets two. Another chokeslam, reversed to a Tiger Driver, but he blocks. So Misawa goes to the old faithful Emerald Frozen, and another one finishes at 14:12. Seemed longer somehow. ***1/4
– Minoru Tanaka v. Shinya Makabe. Makabe gets a quick slam and rides him down with a chinlock. They exchange mat stuff for a while. Tanaka bails to regroup, and back in Makabe gets a sleeper. Tanaka starts on the leg, but Makabe reversed. We get some more mat stuff and both guys are frustrated. Slaps are traded and Tanaka goes for the leg again. Not much going on. Tanaka starts with the kicks, and back to the leg. Makabe makes the ropes. Tanaka gets a suplex and kneedrop for two. He charges and Makabe just spears the hell out of him coming out of the corner. Powerslam gets two. Suplex gets two. Half-crab, but Tanaka makes the ropes. To the top, Tanaka blocks a superplex and gets a missile dropkick for two. Cross-armbreaker, but Makabe makes the ropes. Vicious kicks, but Makabe gets a lariat for two. Northern lights suplex gets two. Makabe spears him again, but a suplex is countered with the ankelock. That’s just evil. Makabe escapes and gets a german suplex for two. Now he’s pissed. Gutbuster and two lariats get two. Rolling germans are countered with a SWANK flying cross-armbreaker, but Makabe makes the ropes, only to fall victim to ANOTHER anklelock, and he’s had enough at 16:31. Well, it was a good try. ***1/2
The Bottom Line:
Well, definitely some pleasant surprises on this volume (Nagai-Kawada to name one), although the Muto stuff has been a disappointment thus far.
You can of course pick the entire 6-volume set up at www.goldenboytapes.com, and I’ll be back soon with part three!