The SmarK Rant For Best Of Japan 2001 – Volume 4


The SmarK Rant for the Best of Japan 2001 – Tape 4

– Okay, bit of a change this time as I’m doing a “live” rant via the TV tuner card on my computer. You probably won’t notice a difference, but this way I can bug Justin real-time via AIM if need be.

– Magnum Tokyo v. CIMA. This JIP as Magnum gets a missile dropkick and CIMA bails, only to be baseball slid. Magnum with the quebrada and both are down and out. Back in, Magnum with a brainbuster for two. CIMA tries a headscissor but gets dumped on his head. They head up and CIMA is dead weight, but he manages to block a rana and gets a sunset flip for two. Magnum backslide is reversed to a sunset flip which turns into a SWANK pinning reversal sequence for various two-counts. They exchange fakeouts and Magnum gets a majastral cradle for two. Magnum tries a Lionsault, but gets dropkicked out. CIMA follows with a tope suicida, and both guys are down and out again. Back in, CIMA tries a springboard in, but Magnum dropkicks him to block. Magnum tries the same, and CIMA blocks the same way and Lionsaults him for two. Nice. To the top again, Iconoclasm sets up a frog splash, but it misses. Magnum with the pumphandle powerbomb for two. Another try is reversed to a dragon sleeper by CIMA, and that turns into a russian legsweep. OUCH. CIMA puts him on top again for another Iconoclasm, but Magnum keeps blocking. Finally he reverses to a uranage for two. Enzuigiri , but CIMA piledrives him for two. Both guys are out. Reversal sequence leads to Magnum trying his pumphandle again, but CIMA reverses to a Snow Plow and they slug it out with kicks. Both go for a dropkick and miss. CIMA superkicks him and gets a running knee in the corner, and back up they go, and this time Magnum can’t block the Iconoclasm. Frog splash gets two. Damn, thought that was the finish. Okay then, all bets are off. Back up again, another frog splash is enough at 10:00. The graphic says that the full match was 25:06, leaving me wishing I had seen the rest. Super-hot action here all the way through. ***1/2

– GHC Junior title: Juventud Guerrera v. Yoshinobu Kanemaru. Juvy’s pre-match interview is pretty funny. “Well, he sucks. I don’t know if you know what that means, but that’s what I think of him.” Juvy tapes pictures of his family to the ringpost, for that personal touch. Slugfest to start, and Juvy gives him the old double-bird. He clotheslines him from behind and chops away, and gets an elbow. They bridge out of each others snapmares and criss-cross, which leads to Juvy getting a leg lariat. Both guys tumble out and Juvy does the Rube Goldberg bulldog on the ramp. Back in, suplex gets two. He hits the chinlock, and switches to a headlock, which Kanemaru powers out of via a wristlock. They trade hammerlocks and Juvy turns his into a pinning combo for two. Kanemaru dropkicks him out and follows with a headscissors off the apron. Didn’t look too good. They brawl and Kanemaru hits the railing, but Juvy charges and misses, and Kanemaru basically jumps on his neck while he’s laying on the railing. Pretty nasty spot. Back in, Kanemaru DDT gets two. Back to the chinlock. Juvy makes the ropes. Kanemaru puts him in the Tree of Woe and dropkicks him, and back out they go again. Kanemaru follows with a pescado and stomps away. They slug it out on the floor, and Juvy necksnaps him on the railing and puts him back in. Dropkick puts him out again, and now Juvy hits the pescado. Back in, slingshot legdrop gets two for the Juice. Back to the chinlock. To the top, where a rana gets two for Juvy. They slug it out again and Kanemaru dropkicks him for two. He goes to the Boston Crab, but Juvy makes the ropes. Kanemaru misses a charge and tries a headscissors, but gets dumped on his face and the Juice gets a forward Electric Chair for two. Juice Bottom gets two. Vicious one, too. Powerbomb is blocked and reversed, but they go into a pinfall reversal sequence and Kanemaru’s powerbomb attempt is ultimately turned into a hurricane DDT. Juicy powerbomb and he goes up, but gets crotched back down. Kanemaru gets a moonsault for two. Another one misses, but he goes low and tries a Lionsault, which Juvy stops by CATCHING him and hits a Drunk Driver for two. Rydien Bomb and the JUICY ELBOW~!…misses. He opts for a powerbomb instead. Crowd actually pops like nuts for the elbow. Go fig. Juvy dumps him and follows with a springboard bodyblock to the ramp, and then he makes the big run from the end of the ramp and headscissors Kanemaru back into the ring. He heads up to finish, but gets dropkicked in mid-air. Back up again they go, and Juvy fights him off and follows with a 450, but misses. Brainbuster by Kanemaru, but Juvy goldbricks and cradles for two. That sneaky Juice. Rollup gets two. Kanemaru faceplants him for two. Brainbuster sets up another moonsault, which finishes at 17:17 to give him the title. Slow start, but Juvy built that sucker with STYLE. **** I like the change of pace from the usual submission-based junior stuff that dominated thanks to Minoru Tanaka, too.

– Dragon Kid, Ryo Saito and Ricky Marvin vs. Susumu Mochizuki, Yasushi Kanda and Darkness Dragon. Ah, more junior goodness. Ryo Saito rides a bike down to ringside. Not like Undertaker, but an actual bicycle, complete with helmet and bicycle shorts. Well, that’s certainly a unique entrance. The heels top that by riding scooters to the ring. You just don’t get that sort of thing in America anymore. Big brawl to start and Darkness Dragon hammers on Dragon Kid, and a triple-team on him follows. They do a Kaientai-style muscle pose and beat him down. Darkness Dragon gets an elbow for two. Kid responds with a dropkick and Saito comes in and grabs a headlock, into a pinning reversal sequence and an armbar takedown. Ricky Marvin hits Kanda with a handspring and a nice rana, then fakes a highspot. Dragon Kid reverses a tilt-a-whirl from Mochizuki, but walks into another one. He comes back with a headscissors that puts him on the floor, and a big brawl erupts. Darkness suplexes the Kid for two. The heels work him over in the corner, and Saito comes in and doesn’t fare much better. Mochizuki gives him a knee and Kanda comes off the top with an elbow. Quick tags and slams keep Saito in the corner, as they just keep tagging in, slamming him, and tagging out. Mochizuki even tries to convince the referee to have a go. Funny stuff. Kanda works the leg and grabs a half-crab. They all trade off on that for a bit, and Dragon & Mochizuki get a form of the Hart Attack for two. Dragon Kid & Marvin charge in to help, but all three babyfaces get DDTd and put into submission moves. Marvin & Kid get tossed, and the heels go back to Saito again. They go for a triple-powerbomb, but the other faces regroup and Dragon Kid gets the most complex headscissors I’ve ever seen, with about 10 rotations on it, and then they start busting out the highspots in rapid succession until everyone is lying on the floor like it was Gone With the Wind or something. Ricky and Mochizuki head back in, but Marvin’s handspring is blocked. Mochizuki goes low and gets a Dominator for two. Kanda and Saito go next, and Saito hits a pair of spinkicks and a rolling fisherman’s buster. Yikes. That gets two. He goes up with a missile dropkick and Tequila Sunrise, but Darkness Dragon breaks it up. Saito blocks a charge from Kanda, but gets hit with a Rock Bottom. Kanda goes up and gets dropkicked off by the Kid, and now Darkness and Dragon Kid go. Darkness tries a suplex, but it’s turned into a jawbreaker on the way down. Cool. That gets two. Dragon with a majistral cradle for two. Brainbuster gets two. Everyone else is brawling outside. Charge hits boot and the Kid gets a wild spinning submission move, but the other heels break it up. Mochizuki and Dragon hit front-and-back clotheslines on Kid at the same time, and they get a triple powerbomb for two. Mochizuki’s powerbomb is reversed by the Kid, and he gets a hurricane DDT and a Rey Mysterio rana for two. To the top, but Darkness hits him with a drink tray and Mochizuki and Kanda double-team him. Darkness gets a Northern Lights bomb for two. All hell breaks loose as the faces save, and it’s down to Marvin & Mochizuki now. Mochizuki gets a Michinoku Driver for two, but Marvin hits a quebrada for two. Mochizuki with the lariat for two. He goes up, but Saito pushes him off into a Marvin rana. Now Marvin goes up, and a twisting splash finishes at 16:35. Kind of anticlimactic. ***1/2

– Great Sasuke, Tiger Mask IV and Gran Hamada vs. CIMA, SUWA and Big Fuji. This would be Michinoku Pro v. Toryumon. CIMA tosses flowers at the faces and we’re underway. The heels toss Hamada into the corner and hit him with a series of lariats, and Fuji backdrops him. Sasuke comes in and legdrops CIMA for two, however. Criss-cross and CIMA goes deep on the armdrag, then headscissors Sasuke into the turnbuckles. Sasuke kicks him out and holds off the heels, and Tiger Mask comes off the top with a bodypress onto SUWA that gets two. He walks into a tilt-a-whirl, however, and SUWA pounds him down. Flying lariat and Tiger bails. Hamada tries and shakes off some offense, then comes back with an armdrag and Herb Kunze armbar. He slugs away on Big Fuji and sends him into enemy territory, where the faces hammer away on him. SUWA comes in and blows a suplex on Sasuke, and Tiger Mask dropkicks him out. CIMA takes his place, but Sasuke & Tiger double-team him with kicks and Sasuke gets the rear chinlock. Suplex gets two. Hamada with another wicked lariat and a tornado DDT and they go up, but Fuji knocks Hamada off and the heels work him over. TM gets cornered by the heels and worked over as well. CIMA dropkicks him in the corner and SUWA slingshots in with an elbowdrop. Fuji gets into a slugfest and loses, and TM with the standing moonsault for two. Hamada starts slugging again and they hammer each other until Hamada wins with a headbutt. Sasuke goes to a hammerlock, but CIMA breaks it up and tries to rip the mask off. Fiend. CIMA comes in with an atomic drop and a dropkick that sends Sasuke flying back into the corner like he was attached to a stuntman harness or something. Wild. CIMA & SUWA double-team Sasuke, as CIMA necksnaps him into a SUWA front powerbomb that gets two. Hamada comes back in, but gets hit with a senton by CIMA and worked over by the heels. They turn him upside-down and Fuji hits the most blatant ballshot in the history of wrestling. Hart Attack and CIMA quebrada set up a SUWA flying elbow that gets two. Awesome sequence. Hamada dodges a charge, however, and fights off the other two heels to allow Tiger Mask and Sasuke to hit stereo missile dropkicks and then bust out the jaw-dropping highspots. Back in, Sasuke with the quebrada on CIMA, and Tiger Mask works him over with kicks and tosses him. Fuji charges in with a lariat on TM that gets two. Chokeslam is reversed to a tombstone, which is reversed again, but Tiger gets the eventual move. He heads up with a flying kneedrop that gets two. Fuji tries a suplex, but Tiger flips out of it, and CIMA hits his own partner by mistake. Tiger grabs a jujigitame, but SUWA breaks it up and goes with Hamada. Hamada grabs a standing armbar, but walks into a flapjack that gets two. SUWA’s suplex is reversed into a DDT for two. Sasuke heads up, but CIMA knocks him down and dropkicks Hamada before hitting Sasuke with the Iconoclasm and frog splash. Tiger hits him with a knee to the back, however, and Sasuke suplexes him for two. Vicious spinkick from Sasuke sets up the Fire Thunder Bomb for two, as the ref gets punked out. Ref bumped, and Dick Togo runs in, turns on Sasuke, and hits him with a Pedigree to set up the senton bomb! Ref is up, and CIMA gets the pin at 16:11. Very WWE-like finish, but it worked. ****

– Magnum Tokyo v. Masaaki Mochizuki. I’ll go with Mochizuki’s nickname – M2K – because it’s easier to type. This would be the “sequel” to the Tokyo-CIMA match that opened this tape. Magnum’s entrance, complete with elaborate dance number and Magnum Tokyo Dancers, is truly something to behold. It still amazes me that WCW couldn’t get him over as anything more than Disco Inferno’s wacky sidekick. Cautious exchange of low kicks to start, and then M2K starts kneeing away. Tokyo rides him down and they exchange mat stuff before heading back to square one. Magnum starts unloading the high kicks and gets a dropkick. Standing moonsault gets two. M2K kicks him down again and starts hammering in the corner to put Tokyo down. Gutbuster and he stomps away. The dreaded stomach claw is pulled out of the mothballs in Fritz Von Erich’s closet and used, but Magnum fights up and starts working on the arm. High kick to the shoulder, but M2K kicks him down and out. Another gutbuster and M2K goes up with a flying stomp to the gut. Camel clutch stretches the abs further. Interesting choice of a body part. Magnum makes the ropes, so M2K hangs him in the Tree of Woe and kicks the shit out of his stomach. Baseball slide misses and Tokyo DDTs him onto the apron, and they both go crashing out. Back in, Tokyo works on the arm, but gets hit in the gut again. Tokyo comes back with a bulldog and goes up with a missile dropkick that puts Mochizuki on the floor. Quebrada takes out FOUR people hanging around ringside. Now THAT’S hangtime. Back in, Rube Goldberg bulldog and they head up, where Tokyo gets a rana for two. He can’t get a suplex, and one of the heels outside hits him in the stomach with a drink tray to put him down again. They go up again, and this time Mochizuki reverses the rana into a facebuster and kicks the hell out of Tokyo back on the mat. Enzuigiri takes out the ref as well as Tokyo, and the Mochizuki brothers team up on Tokyo, helped by Kando, and get two. Masaaki distracts the ref, and a big brawl erupts until a guy in a suit runs off the heels. Back to the match, Tokyo with the enzuigiri to set up a pumphandle driver for two. Tokyo heads up, but the heels swarm him again and Mochizuki follows him up. He gets a superplex, and a german suplex gets two. High kicks send Tokyo into La-La Land, and an enzuigiri gets two. Brainbuster gets two. A CLOSE two. That drink tray gets involved again, but this time Mochizuki gets it upside the head, and they slug it out. Tokyo gets a jumping backflip kick and another enzuigiri, once again setting up the pumphandle driver for two. Lariat and Tokyo goes up for the Shooting Star Press to win at 17:54. Too much sportz entertainment for my liking, but the work was solid. ***3/4

– All-Japan Unified Tag Team title: Johnny Smith & Taiyo Kea. v. Genichiro Tenryu & Yoji Anjoh. Clipped to Johnny and Anjoh slugging it out, and Anjoh winning that battle. Johnny fights back with forearms, but Tenryu cheapshots him from the outside and Anjoh works on the knee. Anjoh & Tenryu work him over in the corner, and Tenryu gets the enzuigiri for two. Small package gets two. Weird to hear the Japanese commentators call it that. Backslide gets two, but Johnny reverses to a Herb Kunze armbar. Tenyu calmly high-kicks him down and Anjoh forearms him. Tenryu comes in and KOs him with a right, and Johnny is dead weight. Ref won’t count because it was a closed fist. So Tenryu picks him up and punches him into a pulp in the corner without going for the pin. He goes up with a flying elbow for two. Lariat is blocked by Smith, and he finally tags Kea. High kicks and enzuigiri put Tenryu down, and Smith comes back in to assist with a top rope inverted DDT. Kea heads up in turn with a flying splash that gets two. It’s BONZO GONZO and Kea slugs the hell out of Tenryu, but gets it right back. Anjoh kicks him down and hooks a reverse figure-four, while Tenryu takes care of Johnny. Kea makes the ropes, however. Anjoh with the german suplex for two. Kea gets his own, and Smith comes in with a missile dropkick and running lariat for two. Powerbomb gets two. German suplex gets two. Tenryu stops another powerbomb, and it breaks loose in Tulsa again. Anjoh gets a spinebuster for the pin and the titles at 22:58 (12:43 shown). Kinda slow, I thought. **3/4

– AJPW Triple Crown: Keiji Muto v. Steve Williams. JIP as Williams lays out Muto and gorilla slams him for two. He grabs an armbar on the mat and starts slugging away, but Muto dragon-screws him. Dropkick to the knee, dragon-screw, figure-four, but Doc blocks. SHINING WIZARD, but Muto can’t cover. He bails because his knee is messed up, and heads back in and out again to break the count. Jinsei Shinzaki (Hakushi) is hanging out at ringside for Muto’s benefit for some reason. Williams follows him out, but gets sent into the post. Muta tries to head back in, but Williams hits the knee and he collapses to the floor again. Back in, Williams starts dropkicking the knee ala Muto, but Muto blocks the backdrop driver. Steve goes back to the knee with headbutts, and hooks a half-crab after some trash-talking. Release tiger suplex gets two. Doctorbomb is reversed to a rana for two, but Muto’s leg is still hurt, so Williams hits a running lariat for two. Backdrop driver, but Muto bails. Smart move. Williams stalls and poses instead of going after him, and when he finally does chase Muto has recovered enough to block a suplex on the floor, and both guys are down. Back in, they exchange double-birds, and Doc gets a powerbomb for two. Muto slugs away, but it’s Dr. Death, so forget that. A rolling kick puts him down, however. Muto returns that “f*ck you” and goes up with the moonsault for two. He heads back up again, but Doc stops him and suplexes him off. He charges with a lariat in the corner and follows with a belly-to-belly for two. German suplex series gets two. Backdrop driver is countered for two. Steve suckers him into trying the Shining Wizard, and shifts his weight so that Muto goes tumbling into the ropes. Another try, and Williams shifts his weight again and drops Muto facefirst. Steve tries another suplex, but Muto flips out of it and dropkicks the knee, and the SHINING WIZARD gets two. Again and Williams is staggering. Muto slams him, unsure of what to try next, and when Steve gets up he hits a third Wizard, for two. SHINING WIZARD number four gets the pin at 18:52 (14:45 shown). Slow start, but it turned into quite a good power match due to Williams’ stubborn refusal to go down. ***1/4

– Gedo & Jado v. Jushin Liger & El Samurai. Ah, my old enemy, we meet again. Gedo has at least shaved his head and ditched the pajamas. Liger overpowers him and dumps him, and Samurai adds some punishment outside. Back in, Liger hammers away for good people everywhere and stomps the ugly out of him. Samurai hangs him in the Tree of Woe and baseball slides him. He chokes away with help from Liger and hits the chinlock. Liger comes in for the double-team and they continue to choke him out in the corner, but I can forgive them. Jado comes in and chokes away on Samurai. CHEATING BASTARDS! He chops away on Samurai, and they fight over a suplex, which is won by Samurai. Liger comes back in and they double-team Jado as Liger gets a camel clutch and Samurai dropkicks him. Liger works on the back and Samurai assists, and they go back to the choking. Samurai hammers away in the corner, but gets hit with a jawbreaker and Gedo comes back in, probably with an illegal tag. They brawl out and Gedo sends him into the post and they fight onto the ramp, where Gedo suplexes him. Back in, Gedo hammers away with blatantly illegal closed fists and they work him over in the corner. Double-team elbow and they steal Liger’s camel-clutch/kick double-team. Double-shoulderblock gets two for Gedo. Fistdrop and Jado gets a backdrop suplex for two. Gedo gets his crappy double-underhook submission, but since Samurai is still breathing, it’s easy to break. Gedo slugs away, but gets hit with a lariat, and Liger tags in with another lariat. I could watch that all day. Shote in the corner for Gedo, and another one for Jado, set up the Ligerbomb for two. Liger goes up with a frog splash for two. Liger DDTs both at once and Samurai hits Gedo with a missile dropkick and DDTs Jado. Corner clothesline and they head up, where Samurai gets a rana for two. Diving headbutt misses and Jado has the GALL to use a crossface on Samurai. Liger breaks that up on general principles. Samurai with the inverted DDT, but Jado & Gedo double-team him with a superbomb that gets two. They dump Liger and Jado goes back to his ILL-BEGOTTEN crossface on Samurai, but he makes the ropes. They slug it out and clothesline each other, and tags abound. Gedo dropkicks Liger’s knee and rolls him up for two. Liger elbows him for two. Liger whips Samurai out of the ring, onto Jado, and hits Gedo with a brainbuster. Of course, that requires a brain to work, so it only gets two. Jado trips him up and necksnaps him, but Samurai trips up Gedo. Samurai comes back in, but Gedo goes low and Jado comes in. He misses a charge and Samurai gets a tornado DDT and diving headbutt for two. Hammerlock and Jado has nowhere to go. Gedo finally breaks, cheat that he is. Flatliner and Jado puts Samurai on top for a backdrop suplex that sets up yet another crossface for the submission at 19:45. They probably bribed the ref. Slow start and it never really got going like you’d expect a Liger match to. ***

– GHC title: Mitsuhara Misawa v. Jun Akiyama. They slug it out with forearms and work the mat, which is a stalemate. They slug it out again with elbow strikes, and Jun dropkicks him, but Misawa no-sells and Jun bails. Misawa fakes a highspot to play some mindgames, and we’re back to square one. They do some more mat-wrestling and Akiyama starts on a hammerlock, but gets elbowed down by Misawa. Running forearm and Misawa hits the chinlock. Misawa slugs away, but Akiyama gets pissed and hits his own elbow, only to run into a really nasty one from Misawa. Down he goes, and Misawa gets a senton for two. Back to the chinlock. Misawa hammers away in the corner, but goes up and gets dropkicked to the floor by Akiyama. Jun rides him into the steel railing with a knee to the back, and back in he stomps away. Bigtime high knee sets up a tombstone for two. Jun hits the chinlock and adds a twist, then goes into a headscissors instead. That goes on for a while. Running elbow into the corner and Akiyama chokes away, but Misawa is all “Okay, I’ve had it with you” and they start exchanging jaw-breaking elbows. Misawa wins that battle, but keeps pouring it on to be a jerk, and now Akiyama is pissed. They just hammer the shit out of each other until Akiyama goes down and stays down. Misawa with the spinning lariat and twisting chinlock, but Akiyama makes the ropes. Misawa pulls him back and twists it in again, and gets two. Misawa goes to the middle, but Akiyama tries to powerbomb him off, and Misawa reverses to a rana. Akiyama bails and Misawa follows with a suicide dive that puts both guys down and out on the floor. Back in, Misawa gets a diving elbow off the top, for two. Tiger Driver is blocked, so he gets a butterfly suplex instead, but Akiyama reverses the pinfall attempt to a crossface. Akiyama is cool, so I’ll allow him to steal it from Benoit. Jun gets the high knee and brings Misawa out to the ramp for a DDT, and then tries an exploider OFF the ramp, but Misawa blocks. Man, the crowd nearly had a coronary there. They fight to the floor and Jun gets an exploider on the floor. Back in, high knee into an exploider gets two. He heads back up, but Misawa follows him up. They fight over a superplex, and Misawa gets a TIGER DRIVER off the top. Holy crap! Akiyama is DEAD. Call the paramedics, it’s OVER. Misawa takes too long, and only gets two, however. So what else, but another Tiger Driver? Akiyama blocks, however, so Misawa elbows him into a quivering heap of jelly and gets two. Tiger Driver gets two. How is he alive? Akiyama reverses a suplex into an exploider, then another one, and both guys are out. Akiyama with the high knee and a brainbuster for two. Inverted dragon sleeper turns into a guillotine choke and Misawa is fading fast. Jun decides to cover for two. The ropes save Misawa’s title. Exploider gets two. Thought that was it. Another go at it, and Jun Akiyama wins the GHC title at 24:11. Great, satisfying build and win for Jun. Must-see stuff here. ****1/2

– Osamu Nishimura v. Satoshi Kojima. Osamu works the arm to start, and they do a test of strength. Kojima gets two off that, but Nishimura bridges out, into a suplex. Kojima takes him down into an STF and into a chinlock, then overpowers him. He walks into an armdrag, however, and bails. Back in, Nishimura works a headlock, but Kojima reverses. Nishimura does the old handstand spot to break. Osamu starts kicking the leg and grabs a legbar, and they both make the ropes. Neither guy wants to break, however, and they tumble to the floor, both holding the legbar, until the referee forcibly pulls them apart. Back in, Kojima pounds away with chops and puts the boots to him, and Nishimura bails again. Back in, the beating continues in the corner, but Nishimura suplexes out of it for two. He hammers away in the corner, but Kojima powerbombs him for two. Running elbow and he goes up for a flying version that gets two. They slug it out, and both get pretty fired up. They elbow each other down until Kojima is the last one standing, and he gets a sideslam that sets up a running powerslam for two. Nishimura clips him, however, and kicks away at the leg until he drops. Indian deathlock with a bridge, but he can’t hold it long enough for Kojima to submit, and he’s forced to break. Osamu goes up and drops a knee on Kojima’s knee, and then goes to a spinning toehold. Man, this guy is old-school. Kojima makes the ropes, but back up Nishimura goes, and this time Kojima dodges him. He dropkicks Osamu’s knee and dragon-screws it a few times, obviously having learned something from his matches with Muto. Clip to the knee and Kojima hooks a half-crab. Nishimura makes the ropes. They head up, where Kojima gets a top-rope Koji Kutter for two. Lariat misses and Nishimura hooks a sleeper, which sets the crowd off. He releases and heads up for a missile dropkick, which is gleefully no-sold by Kojima. Nishimura with the abdominal stretch, into the Octopus, but Kojima hiptosses out. He slugs back and gets another Koji Kutter for two. Michinoku Driver and lariat to the back of the head set up the front version, and Nishimura is out. Kojima takes too long and only gets two. He pulls off the elbowpad, so now he means business, but walks into a rolling cradle and gets pinned at 19:22. Whoops. Fun, old-school psychology here. ***1/2

– Osamu Nishimura v. Hiroyoshi Tenzan. Okay, let’s see how the other half of Tenzima handles this guy. Long lockup battle to start and Tenzan works a headlock, but gets nowhere. Test of strength is won by Tenzan, but Osamu bridges into a Northern Lights suplex for one. Tenzan knees away at him and stomps him down, and he bails. Back in, Tenzan keeps up the pounding, but Osamu works the arm. Vicious armbar submission, but Tenzan fights desperately for the ropes and makes it. He bails to regain the feeling in his arm, and heads back in, only to get caught with a short-arm scissors. Whoa, haven’t seen one of those in a while. Tenzan rakes the eyes to break, which is an effective, if inelegant, solution. Tenzan starts pounding him again and hits the DOUBLE CHOP OF DOOM, but Nishimura is nonplussed by his bully act. He goes right back to the arm and sits on the shoulder with a standing armbar, and Tenzan is forced to retreat again. This is becoming too much for his ego to stand, especially when Nishimura takes him down and keys the lock in the middle of the ring. Tenzan headbutts out of that, but Nishimura just adjusts his position and goes to the cross-armbreaker instead. Tenzan blocks, so Nishimura changes back to the short-arm scissors. This is some sweet counter-wrestling. Back to square one, and Tenzan does what he knows best: Stomping and choking. The frustration is evident. Nishimura takes a timeout and lets him stew, then heads back in and falls victim to more headbutts in the corner. They actually exchange headbutts, with both guys knocking each other silly, and Tenzan keeps stomping away. Boston Crab attempt, but Nishimura won’t go with it. He finally flips Tenzan over and backs off again. Tenzan keeps stomping away in the corner, but Nishimura blocks the double-chop and slugs away himself. Tenzan stomps him down again, but gets hit with a butterfly suplex for two. Sleeper, but Tenzan sends him crashing over the top to break it up. They brawl on the floor and Tenzan hits him with a clothesline. Back in, Nishimura gets a german suplex for two. Abdominal stretch, but Tenzan makes the ropes. They slug it out again, which Nishimura shouldn’t be doing, and in fact he walks into a samoan drop. Tenzan with a chokehold of sorts, but Osamu makes the ropes. Tenzan with the double-chop , but a lariat is reversed to a rolling reverse cradle for two. Tenzan keeps pounding away, and misses another lariat. Backslide gets two for Nishimura. He’s getting closer. Octopus , but Tenzan shifts his center of gravity and breaks the move. Tenzan goes up with the knee to the head, but hurts his own knee in the process and can’t cover. He gets a leg lariat for two, though. To the top again, but the moonsault misses and Nishimura destroys the knee and gets the spinning toehold. Tenzan nails him in the head to break. He’s getting closer still, though. Tenzan hits another double-chop for two. He’s fired up now, and a Tenzan Driver gets the pin at 24:05. Man, I thought Nishimura was going to be able to pull that one out. Great match with a power v. science storyline that made it really fun to cheer for Nishimura. ****1/4

– Keiji Muto v. Satoshi Kojima. This should be fun. Muto quickly gets a handspring elbow and bulldog, and Kojima bails. Time for Plan B. Back in, Muto frustrates him on the mat and Kojima tries to control him there in response. He hits the chinlock, but Muto makes the ropes. Muto takes him down and works the arm, then wraps him up in a crazy submission move until Kojima makes the ropes. Back up, Muto with the full-nelson and he stays on the arm. Kojima pounds back in the corner and hits a running elbow, then heads up for a flying elbow that gets two. They slug it out and Kojima gets an enzuigiri, but misses a pescado when Muto bails. He clips Muto when he climbs onto the apron, however. Sneaky. I approve. Back in, he stomps away and hangs Muto in the Tree of Woe, and dropkicks the knee there. Muto tries to stay away, but gets put into a half-crab before making the ropes. The saltiness of his language would seem to indicate pain. Kojima hits him in the knee with a missile dropkick, and stomps away on it. Legbar, but Muto breaks out and starts dropkicking the knee. Kojima is like “Turnabout is fair play” and follows suit. Soon both guys are clutching their leg in pain. Kojima’s kick is blocked with a dragon-screw, however, and Muto goes on the offense. Dropkick, dragon-screw, figure-four. Kojima makes the ropes, so Muto hits him with a missile dropkick. He hammers away in the corner and they go up, where Muto brings him down with a rana off the top. He tries to go up, but Kojima pops up with a Koji Kutter for two. Michinoku Driver gets two. Muto catches him with a rana for two. Another Kutter is blocked by Muto with a sleeper, but he makes the ropes. Muto hits him with a running elbow and a rolling kick, and follows with the SHINING WIZARD, which Kojima no-sells and comes back with two lariats for the pin at 17:30. Whoa. Well, it IS Japan, where you always have to worry about someone no-selling your finisher and hitting you with a lariat. Too much laying around by Muto. **1/2

– Hiroshi Takahashi v. El Samurai. Hmm, the matchlist says that this was supposed to be Muto v. Nagata in the G1 Climax. What up, Rob? Samurai goes for the arm to start and grabs a headlock on the mat, and they work off that for a bit. Takahashi works on the leg and controls with a chinlock, and they do some laying around off of that. Samurai pounds him down and hits his own chinlock. Oh come ON, do something. Takahashi armdrags him and tries for the cross-armlock, but Samurai rubs the forearm in his face to break. Samurai DDT and legsweep set up a headscissor/armbar submission move. Piledriver gets two. They head up, but Samurai’s rana is blocked and Takahashi stomps him coming down. Dropkick in the corner and bridged suplex get two. Takahashi goes to the Boston Crab, but Samurai makes the ropes. Samurai catches a sunset flip for two, but gets stomped again. He blocks a charge with a lariat, however, and heads up for a flying headbutt to the arm that gets two. Cross-armlock, but Takahashi headstands out of it and makes the ropes. They fight up top, and Takahashi snaps off a butterfly superplex for two. Powerslam gets two. Reversal sequence leads to Samurai getting an inverted DDT and hammerlock for the submission at 9:36. Okay then. **1/4

The Bottom Line:

Well, that tape certainly got smoking near the end, but the last couple of matches were kinda disappointing, especially the Muto-Kojima one. Definitely check out Akiyama v. Misawa and the shockingly great Tenzan v. Nishimura, though, as both are worth the 25 minutes and then some.