The SmarK Rant for the Best of Japan 2002 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Volume 2.
– Yup, we’re FINALLY back to this again, as I delve back into Golden Boy Tapes’ 6-volume compilation of the best Japan had to offer last year. My review of volume 1 from ages ago is here. And you will, of course, pop over to www.goldenboytapes.com after you’ve read this and order the entire set, on VHS for $60 or DVD for $80. Well, what are you waiting for? Get moving!
– Mitsuhara Misawa & Kenta Kobashi v. Yuji Nagata & Jun Akiyama. (NOAH, 02/17/02) Now there’s a tag match you don’t see every day. Nagata starts with Misawa and they work the mat, reversing off a hammerlock for a bit until Misawa makes the ropes. Nagata kicks him down and grabs a kneebar. Misawa escapes and gets a flying elbow, and they tag out. Kobashi and Akiyama have a showdown to see who can look more surly, and they exchange blows on the ropes. Akiyama grabs a headlock and goes for the leg, but Kobashi makes the ropes before any Exploiders can be seen. They try the test of strength and then opt to slug it out again, and no one is budging. Jun finally takes him down with a dragon-screw, and Kenta is all “Fuck you! Bring it on!Ã¢â‚¬Â and we’re back where we started again. Kobashi spinkicks him in the corner and lays in the chops, and that seems to turn the tide for the moment. Delayed vertical suplex gets two. Misawa pounds him down and they trade forearm shots, but Misawa goes down first. That just annoys him, and he drops Akiyama with his own and lets him tag Nagata in. Yuji works the arm, so Kobashi comes back in. Man, is that guy surly or what? I’m just glad he ditched the orange tights for good. He gives Nagata a lovetap in the corner and mocks him, and Nagata returns with the same in the other corner. Well, you know that’s not gonna end well, so Kobashi just bitchslaps him into jello in the corner and gets the running knees and Russian legsweep for two. Abdominal stretch follows, but Nagata hiptosses out. He starts dropping UFC-ish knees to the neck, and Kobashi responds by further pounding him on the mat. A suplex is blocked by Nagata, and they trade chops. Nagata kicks him in the bad knee to win that battle. Kobashi, despite the setback, remains surly. Akiyama comes in with a high knee for two. Boston crab, but Kobashi uses his SURLINESS to power to the ropes. Akiyama gives him some insulting kicks on the mat to get him up again, as Kobashi HULKS UP and gets into a slugfest, and no-sells a high knee. Akiyama takes him down with a crossface, however. Misawa breaks it up. Nagata batters the leg with kicks for two. They slug it out, chops v. high kicks, and Nagata opts for an overhead suplex and drags Kobashi back to the corner for the NagataLock. Akiyama prevents Misawa from interfering. Kobashi’s so damn surly, though, that he crawls to the ropes himself. Akiyama stays on the leg in the corner and fires off a running elbow, but a suplex attempt is blocked with a facelock by Kobashi! He turns it into a suplex and makes the hot tag to Misawa. He dodges a high knee and elbows Akiyama down, and follows with a suicide dive. They brawl outside and Misawa kicks some ass, and he comes in via the top rope with a shoulderblock. To the top, but Jun tries to powerbomb him off, which Misawa reverses to a rana. Akiyama suplexes him, however, and Nagata comes in and dodges an elbow off the top. High kicks and an enzuigiri set up a northern lights suplex for two, as Misawa is in trouble again. Crossface is broken up by Kobashi, and the brawl is on. Roaring Elbow and Tiger Driver get two on Nagata. Kobashi comes back in and fights off both guys, and a half-nelson suplex gets two on Nagata. Powerbomb is blocked with a triangle choke by Nagata, but Kobashi makes the ropes. Nagata with the overhead suplex and Akiyama comes in, but walks into a sleeper and a SICK suplex right on his head. That gets two. Orange Crush and a flying splash from Misawa get two. Nagata kicks him in the leg to break up a powerbomb, and Akiyama disposes of Misawa, but Kobashi hits him with a lariat for two. Guillotine choke from Akiyama while Nagata takes Misawa down with a crossface, but Akiyama chooses to go for the pin instead, getting two. Kobashi fights them both off, but gets kicked down by Nagata and the Exploider from Akiyama gets NOTHING, as Kobashi kicks out with prejudice. He keeps fighting, but Misawa is gone. Another Exploider gets two for Akiyama. Kobashi won’t quit, so Jun gives him another one and that’s enough for the pin at 26:47. **** A bit slow, but that’s Kobashi & Misawa these days for you.
– Genichiro Tenryu v. Satoshi Kojima. (AJPW 02/24/02). Lockup battle to start, and Kojima gives him a clean break. Another go, and this time Tenryu gives the break and then chops the shit out of him. He grabs a headlock and overpowers Kojima, and chops him down, but Kojima returns fire with elbows and the old guy is forced to bail. Kojima follows with a tope suicida, and they head back in, where he stomps away and drops an elbow. Now Kojima overpowers him and gets a senton, and we hit the chinlock. He turns it into a headscissors and cranks on that, but Tenryu escapes and gets his own senton. And now Kojima bails to the ramp, prompting Tenryu to follow with a running lariat. I never got the Japanese fascination with those long running moves on the ramp. Back in, Kojima tries the headlock again, but gets suplexed. A vertical suplex gets two for Tenryu. Back to the chops and a corner clothesline, and more chops that put Flair to shame these days. And they’re the same age! Lariat misses and the Koji Kutter results. Tenryu bails to the apron and Kojima follows him out for a Koji Kutter off that apron! He follows with a pescado, but it misses and Tenryu chops him and tries something off the apron, only to get clipped by Kojima. Back in, he dropkicks the knee, having found his target, and starts chopping in the corner. Running elbow in the corner and flying elbow get two. He walks into a chop, however, and Tenryu gets an enzuigiri and a lariat for two. Kneedrop and he hooks a double-arm submission, but Kojima kicks out of it. Tenryu casually kicks him down again and drops an elbow, setting up a sleeper on the mat, which is kind of a combination of a sleeper and a top wristlock. That’s unique. Kojima kicks out of it again, but Tenryu uses CLUBBING FOREARMS~! in the corner and they go up for a superplex, with Tenryu hooking his legs on the ropes to stay upright after releasing, and then following him down with an elbow for two. He smacks Kojima around in really disrespectful manner, so Kojima gets pissed and hits a Michinoku Driver for two. Neckbreaker gets two. Lariat is blocked, and Tenryu gets a brainbuster and both are out. Kojima recovers first and wins the lariat duel, and gets two. Another lariat gets two. They slug it out and Tenryu wins with another insanely stiff chop, and then he lays in MORE of them! Kojima goes down again, and then Tenryu powerbombs him for two. And now Kojima’s pissed but not enough to remain upright. Another brainbuster finishes him at 17:52. Well, he put up a good fight. ***1/2
– Triple Crown title: Keiji Mutoh v. Toshiaki Kawada (AJPW 02/24/02). I’ve heard lots of good about this one. Kawada takes Mutoh to the mat to start, and they head to the ropes for the break. Kawada goes for the arm next, and gets taken down. He goes for the leg as Mutoh turtles on the mat, and tries for a rear naked choke instead. Mutoh reverses to a wristlock and a short-arm scissors, but Kawada turns it into a leglock and a bow-and-arrow, which Mutoh quickly escapes. Back in, Kawada dodges a dropkick and they fight over a kneebar, which goes Kawada’s way. He kicks Mutoh’s head in a few times and overpowers him, and they fight over a german suplex, which Kawada wins with an enzuigiri. Mutoh immediately gets pissed and fires off a ShiningWizard, which Kawada cheerfully no-sells. Mutoh hits him with a handspring elbow and bulldog, and power elbow. Kawada blocks a suplex attempt and gets his own, but Mutoh gets another Shining Wizard, and Kawada does a bizarre sell where he gets up and walks out of the ring before collapsing. Outside, Mutoh grabs a chair, but is prevented from using it by The Man. Back in, he dropkicks the knee a few times, and of course it’s dragon-screw and figure-four time soon after. Kawada keeps fighting back with a high kick and an enzuigiri, and a backdrop suplex. Another high kick in the corner really breaks up Mutoh’s pattern, and another backdrop driver gets two. Mutoh snaps off a rana for two. Back to the knee and they exchange chops, and Kawada gets REALLY pissed. Koppo Kick puts Mutoh down and he pounds away, but Mutoh shoots off a knee to the face to slow him down. Mutoh gets his own kick and back to the knee with the dragon-screwing and dropkicking and NICE LADY, but Kawada won’t drop to one knee. Figure-four (ON THE CORRECT LEG!) but Kawada even then is a bastard who keeps blocking it. Kawada’s so badass that he reverses it by sheer force of grumpiness, but Mutoh hangs on. They make the ropes for the break on both ends. And now Kawada goes to the knee, going knee-for-knee with Mutoh. This is some really interesting psychology. A back kick drops Mutoh and Kawada tries another backdrop, but Mutoh falls on him for one and then pops up with another Shining Wizard. That gets two. Back to the knee, dropkick dropkick dropkick dropkick but Kawada won’t drop. Again, and he finally goes down. Shining Wizard gets two. Kawada kicks the crap out of him, but Mutoh dropkicks the knee again, another Shining Wizard follows. Kawada is dazed but not down. Mutoh adds a moonsault for two. Another Shining Wizard, but Kawada is all “f*ck thisÃ¢â‚¬Â and comes back with a brainbuster for two. Powerbomb is blocked by Mutoh, and he blocks a pair of enzuigiris, but falls victim to a lariat. Powerbomb gets two. Another one is blocked, so Kawada kicks him down and tries again. Mutoh kicks him in the head on the way up to block, so Kawada uses another high kick and a vicious backdrop driver, and Mutoh does the All Japan delayed sell of it, hitting a Shining Wizard before dying. Crowd eats all of it up. Kawada gets an enzuigiri and now he means business. Another powerbomb is nearly turned into a Ganso Bomb as Mutoh gets dropped on his head. Dunno if that was intended or what. Enzuigiri and Mutoh does a SPITTAKE before selling, and Kawada finishes him with a powerbomb to win the Triple Crown at 27:37. What a great match. A much different dynamic than Mutoh’s usual lather-rinse-Shining Wizard matches, and it was all about who was gonna wear who down first. Plus I love Kawada. In a manly way, of course. ****3/4
– Naohiro Hoshikawa v. Naomichi Marufuji. (Zero-One 03/02/02) Hoshikawa starts with a high kick in the corner, and they reverse on the mat and get nowhere. Hoshikawa goes for the arm and Marufuji does a Bulldog reversal out of it. Hoshikawa takes him down for a seated kicked, but gets dropkicked. They head out and Hoshikawa blocks a highspot by yanking him into the apron, and back in he gets an enzuigiri to send Marufuji out. He follows with a tope suicida. Back in, Marufuji ducks a charge and flattens him with a tope con hilo. They brawl outside and Marufuji eludes a german suplex on the floor and hits him with Sliced Bread #2 off the railing. Back in, Hoshikawa collapses off an irish whip and bails again. Back in, Marufuji goes up with a frog splash for two. We hit the chinlock, but Hoshikawa makes the ropes. A handspring elbow with insane hangtime gets two. Marufuji goes to a headscissors, but he makes the ropes. Hoshikawa’s high kicks are turned into a capture suplex, and Marufuji goes up, but gets dropkicked coming down. Seated dropkick and then another version where he runs the ropes three times. That’s nasty. Hoshikawa goes up with a missile seated dropkick, for two. He works an armbar submission and starts kicking the highlights out of his hair, and an enzuigiri gets two. He goes up with a flying enzuigiri and a Shining Black gets two. To the top, and Marufuji escapes a superplex and gets Sliced Bread #2 for two. He hooks a dragon sleeper, but Hoshikawa makes the ropes. Rana is blocked with a Boston Crab, but Marufuji reverses for two. They do a reversal sequence and Marufuji gets a sunset flip for two. Superkick and they exchange kicks, and Marufuji dragon-screws him and a superkick gets two. Hoshikawa gets hung in the Tree of Woe, and Marufuji hits him with a Van Terminator! To the top, and a Super Sliced Bread #2 finishes at 17:03. Never really got going, but there was tons of crazy stuff here. ***3/4
– Jushin Liger, Minoru Tanaka, El Samurai, Masayuki Naruse & Masahito Kakihara v. Koji Kanemoto, Black Tiger, Eddie Guerrero, Gedo & Jado. (NJPW, 03/14/02). Gedo starts with Tanaka and gets kicked in the head and taken down with an armbar for the submission at 0:44. OKAY THEN. I consider our eternal feud now settled. This is 2/3 falls, by the way. Second fall: Gedo hammers on Tanaka, but Koji comes in and gets manhandled by Team Liger and dumped. Back in, Samurai elbows him down and Kakihara triesa suplex, but Black Tiger breaks it up and Eddie slingshots in, and then Tiger follows with another one, for two. They work him over in the corner and Gedo stomps a mudhole, but Kakihara reverses a suplex and Naruse comes in and steps on Gedo’s face. He gets brought back to the heel corner and worked over. Kanemoto gives him some knees in the corner and Gedo comes in, but gets taken into the face corner and bitchslapped. Liger takes him down into a camel clutch, and Samurai dropkicks him. Then Tanaka does. Kakihara tries a Sharpshooter, but it’s broken up, and Jado comes in to pound on him. Eddie elbows him down and works the double-team with Black Tiger. That’s kinda surreal. Tiger dropkicks the knee and goes up, but misses a moonsault. He recovers with a superkick and tries a powerslam, but gets DDTd instead and taken back to the face corner. Liger misses a dropkick and Koji snaps off an overhead suplex on him, allowing some abuse in the heel corner. Jado posts him to injure the knee, and Koji starts pounding it with kicks. Eddie slingshots out onto the apron to really kill it, and then tags in for a figure-four. The heels hold off the charging faces by surrounding the ring, but manage to sneak through and assist Liger in making the ropes. Tiger comes in with a kneebar, and Liger again makes the ropes. Kanemoto chokes away while Eddie argues with the referee and the front row, and Liger comes back with a palmstrike in the corner. Black Tiger cuts off any tag, however, and they keep working the knee. Liger fights back, but Koji reverses a suplex and knees him down. Moonsault misses, and Liger strikes him down again, hot tag Samurai. He comes off the top with a shoulderblock on Koji, but Tiger DDTs him. They exchange chops and Tiger gets DDTd, but catches Samurai coming off the top with a dropkick. Drop toehold and 619 gets two. So Rey stole the move from him. Huh. So much for his story about inventing it. A triple-team powerbomb gets two for Eddie. Brainbuster and he goes up, but misses the frog splash. Kakihara comes in, but Eddie suplexes him onto his head. Another try is reversed to a heel hook, but Eddie makes the ropes. He clips Kakihara and grabs a leglock, but ropes are made. Leg lariat gets two for Kakihara. Tanaka comes in with a dropkick on Jado and a missile dropkick for two. Armlock is quickly broken up, but he takes Jado down with a heel hook. It’s BONZO GONZO and Jado reverses to a crossface, but Liger breaks it up and everyone brawls out. Jado superplexes Tanaka, but Liger drops him with the palm, and Tanaka dropkicks Gedo out of the ring, only to walk into another crossface from Jado for the submission at 22:38. So we’re tied up. Third fall: The heels beat the shit out of Tanaka right away and Gedo kicks him down, but Tanaka tags Liger in, who misses a charge. He comes back with a backbreaker on Gedo, and another on Eddie. And one for Tiger. Back to Gedo, as Naruse comes in and Gedo sneaks out, allowing Jado to pound him down and follow with a corner clothesline. Vertical suplex gets two. Koji comes in with a high knee in the corner and a high kick, but Naruse uses stiff shots to pound him down. Cross armlock is broken up by the ropes. T-Bone suplex gets two. A wicked double-kick spot sees both guys doing down, and Kanemoto recovers first with a Boston crab. Naruse makes the ropes. Koji moonsault gets two. Tanaka finally gets back in with a release german on Gedo, but Gedo goes low and takes him down for two. The heels tee off on Tanaka in the corner and hit him with a triple-team superbomb for two. Jado powerbombs him into a pair of frog splashes from Eddie & Gedo, and the comeback is complete at 29:28. About as fun as you’d expect. ****1/2
– Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Masa Chono v. Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata. (NJPW, 03/24/02). This for the IWGP tag titles, which are vacant apparently at this point. Tenzan starts with Nakanishi and they fight over a wristlock, which Tenzan wins. They slug it out with forearms and Nakanishi goes down first. Next up, test of strength, which goes to Nakanishi. Chono comes in for a go against Nagata, who quickly takes him down to the mat. Chono goes to the side headlock and they fight over a wristlock, and Nagata takes him down with a kneebar. Chono makes the ropes and bails. Tenzan gives it another go and slugs Nagata down, but Yuji is game. He stands his ground and brings Nakanishi back in, who lays in the chops. Elbowdrop gets two. Swinging cobra clutch and legdrop get two. Nagata lays in the high kicks, but Tenzan opts for brute force and headbutts the knee to take him down, allowing Chono to go to work on the knee. Hey, if it works, it works. Chono works the knee over and stomps him down, and Team 2000 works it over in the corner. Tenzan dragon-screws the knee and gets two. Half-crab is next. Nakanishi bursts in for the brawl and everyone fights outside, but that ends badly for Nagata and he ends up back in a figure-four courtesy Chono when they return to the ring. Tenzan comes in and pounds him down, but Nagata fires off an Exploider. A frustrated Nakanishi comes back in again and cleans house, but Tenzan takes him down with the sleeper while Chono uses the STF on Nagata. Yuji makes the ropes. Chono goes up but gets caught with a superplex, and Nakanishi is finally tagged in legally. Double-arm suplex for Tenzan, but Chono kicks him in the head coming off the ropes. So Nagata returns the favor on Tenzan. Nakanishi with the torture rack into a gutbuster, which gets two. Chono foils a german suplex with a Yakuza kick, but gets clotheslined with he tags in. It’s another donnybrook, and Nagata gets dumped, allowing a double-team on Nakanishi. Tenzan gets the diving headbutt, and Chono clamps the STF on, but Nagata fights in and breaks it up. Nakanishi takes Chono down with a spear, but Chono rolls through into a sleeper, which Nakanishi fights out of. But Chono holds on. He fights up again, and suplexes out of the move to bring Nagata back in. Enzuigiri and northern lights suplex get two on Chono. He slugs away in the corner , but walks into an atomic drop. Nakanishi comes in and cleans house for fun, as Nagata takes Chono down with an STF of his own, and Nakanishi uses the abdominal stretch on Tenzan. What’s with Nakanishi and the lame 80s submission moves? Nagata kicks at Tenzan, but charges into a northern lights suplex. He tries an Exploider, but Tenzan slugs back. Nagata kicks him down, but Chono kicks HIM down, and Nakanishi spears everyone for fun. Crazy sequence. Nagata is first up and he fires off kicks on Tenzan, but gets caught with a Tenzan Driver for two. Tenzan goes up with a moonsault (!!!) for the pin and the titles at 23:16. Yeah, that’s what I’m talking Ã¢â‚¬Ëœbout! The last 10 minutes or so were crazy stuff, going back and forth with false finishes galore. ****1/4
– IWGP title: Tadao Yasuda v. Yuji Nagata (NJPW, 04/05/2002). I’m assuming the Tadao Yasuda era passed me by completely, because I’m not familiar with him, but I’m assuming it’s another crazy attempt by Inoki to make a shootfighter into a box office draw in pro wrestling. Nagata pounds on him in the corner to start, but gets caught in a facelock and stomped down. Back to the center, and Yasuda takes him down and goes for a choke, which Nagata fights out of. Nagata takes him down and goes for the arm, but Yasuda goes to the guard. Nagata with the cross-armlock, but Yasuda makes the ropes. Back to the guard, with Yasuda on top this time, and he tries for a neck crank. This is exactly why I don’t recap Pride or UFC. Nagata makes the ropes. He snaps off a guillotine choke, but Yasuda reverses out of it and knees away on the mat. Back up again, and Yasuda hooks the arms in a submission move, but gets suplexed. Nagata goes back to the arm, but Yasuda tries the choke again. I just can’t get into this fake-shoot stuff, because they’re doing stuff that would never happen in a real MMA match. Yasuda charges with a corner splash and a butterfly suplex (case in point), but Nagata hits him with a leg lariat. He kicks him down and goes for the leg, setting up the Nagatalock. Yasuda fights to the ropes. Nagata slugs away with high kicks, but Yasuda pounds him down. Tiger Driver gets two. He goes for the choke again, but Nagata makes the ropes. He goes for a sleeper instead, but Nagata makes the ropes again. Nagata takes him down with a crossface off another sleeper attempt, but Yasuda makes the ropes. Everyone’s out. Yasuda no-sells a high kick and dropkicks him down, and another Tiger Driver gets two. Nagata fights back with a release german and a pair of enzuigiris, but Yasuda won’t go down. An Exploider puts him down, however, and another crossface finishes at 15:02 to give the title back to Nagata. Couldn’t get into it, and I’ve really gotta question the point of even including this on here. This Yasuda guy seems like a fairly competent worker, but he’s not World champion level and it showed because Yuji Nagata, who IS a World champion level worker, was obviously carrying him every step of the way, and was the only guy the fans were buying into. ** 3/4
– Jushin Liger & Minoru Tanaka v. Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru (NOAH Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 04/07/02). Now THIS is more up my alley. Liger lays out Kikuchi on the ramp with a shote right away, sending the crowd into fits of rage. They brawl and the faces get hammered, as Tanaka starts with Kikuchi and gets wrapped up on the mat with a submission move. Liger immediately breaks it up as the crowd is going CRAZY for everything and Tanaka makes the ropes. Kikuchi stomps away on Tanaka, but he sneaks off and tags in Liger, who blasts Kikuchi with another shote and then BLOWS THE SMOKE OFF HIS HAND. That’s awesome. I think the palmstrike is retarded but that’s such an arrogant move. Liger takes him down with a cross-armlock and Tanaka holds off Kanemaru, but Kikuchi makes the ropes and Liger makes the ref physically pull him off before breaking, and even then he gets in his face afterwards. Armbreaker on Kikuchi and Tanaka comes in with the high dropkick and a middle finger for Kanemaru. Now there’s a guy having fun with his job. He works on the arm with a kind of smarmy prancing in between moves, and Liger comes in for more damage. Kikuchi gets to meet the post up close and personal, and back in Liger casually steps on the arm. Tanaka drops a knee on it and kicks away, but Kikuchi basically tells him to shove it up his ass. At least I assume. So Tanaka kicks him in the face to shut him up, and does the one-foot cover for two. La Resistance needs to watch these guys and learn. Tanaka sandpapers his forearm on Kikuchi’s face in the corner, but Liger’s powerbomb attempt is reversed, and Kanemaru comes in and cleans house. That can’t be the hot tag yet. Liger misses a shote, but hits a low blow, which works just as well and pisses of the crowd even more. Then he STRUTS to really egg on the fans. Ligerbomb and Tanaka comes in and dropkicks him into the corner and goes low again on him while the ref gets sent to deal with Kikuchi’s phantom transgressions. Kanemaru fights back, but gets kicked in the back by Tanaka while going after Liger, and a snap suplex and kneedrop get two. They exchange chops and Kanemaru gets a dropkick, and now Kikuchi comes back in and he’s all pissed. Spear and ground-n-pound on Tanaka, and more of the same for Liger. He hammers on Tanaka with forearms in the corner and chokes him out, allowing Kanemaru to come back in with a missed Lionsault. Liger comes in for the double-team, and Kanemaru foils it by dropping Liger’s head onto Tanaka’s crotch. He gets pissed and tries to rip Liger’s mask off for good measure, but the ref prevents it. Liger retaliates with a blatant choke, and Kanemaru goes for the mask again as things get UGLY. To the top, moonsault gets one and Liger is HULKING UP. They trade palms, and Kanemaru goes down for one. They fight over a suplex, and Kanemaru gets a brainbuster, but so does Liger. And now both are out. Tags on both sides, and Tanaka comes in with the dropkick on Kikuchi and a heel hook out of the corner. Kanemaru breaks it up. Kikuchi comes back with rolling germans, but Liger pounds him and Tanaka gets his own. He hits Kikuchi with a pair of kicks, but he won’t go down, so he tries an armbar instead, and Kikuchi makes the ropes. Liger piledrives Kanemaru on the concrete to get rid of him, while Tanaka talks some shit to Kikuchi and gets a high kick for two. Another armbar in the middle, while Liger holds off Kanemaru, and he’s got nowhere to go and taps at 16:42. Too short! Me want more! ****1/4
– Keiji Mutoh v. Satoshi Kojima (AJPW Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 04/10/02). This is the Champions Carnival semi-finals. Looks like it was taped in a high school gym, too. They work the mat to start, and get nowhere. Kojima grabs a headlock on the mat and works a wristlock, but Mutoh takes him down with a kneebar. For some odd reason, Kojima’s tights mirror Mutoh’s usual crazy graffiti, but in orange and white. The hold is broken and everyone backs off. Kojima overpowers him, but Mutoh dropkicks him and gets a quick Shining Wizard, which only grazes him. Kojima recovers and pounds him down, starting on the knee. He stomps on it and dragon-screws the leg and drops some elbows on it. He chops away in the corner and goes up with a flying elbow for two. They slug it out, but Mutoh you guessed it dropkicks the knee to take Kojima down to the mat, and then goes to the arm to (I assume) neutralize the lariat. Back to the knee with a dragon-screw, and then he uses a top wristlock on the mat which threatens to become a keylock, but Kojima makes the ropes. Missile dropkick to the arm, but Kojima elbows him down and hurts his arm further. Ah, looks like it’s time to use a little STRAGETY. Mutoh rolls away from another try and dropkicks the knee, and Shining Wizard gets nothing. Kojima fires off a lariat, but that hurts him even worse. Another dropkick and they go up, as Mutoh brings him down with a rana. Kojima comes back with elbows and a Koji Kutter, and a Michinoku Driver gets two. Mutoh catches a sleeper, but Kojima flips out of it and gets the lariat. Mutoh does the delayed sell with a Shining Wizard, however. Both are up, but Mutoh catches a bodyscissors into another armbar and Kojima taps at 15:46. Fun All-Japan style stuff. ***1/2
– Arashi & Araya v. Mitsuya Nagai & Shigeo Okamura. (AJPW – 04/13/02). Arashi & Araya are two big friggin’ dudes. Araya gets a quick lariat on Okamura for two. He fights back with forearms, and gets a german suplex, but another lariat puts him down again. Okamura takes him down with a headlock, and Nagai comes in to try a test of strength. Arashi comes in and works his own headlock, and slams Nagai. They slug it out, and the big guys double-team him with a shoulderblock. Araya gets taken to the other corner and Okamura grabs a chinlock. Nagai comes in, but gets kicked down and Araya gets a half-crab. Arashi stomps away, and Nagai fires back with some pretty stiff knees. Okamura elbows away, but Arashi doesn’t appear interested in selling. Weird. HARD elbow from Arashi and Araya dropkicks him for two. Elbow gets two. Okamura goes to a hammerlock and starts jumping on Araya’s shoulder, hard, and Nagai keeps on the arm. They double-team on it and Okamura takes him down with an armbar. Araya reverses to a facelock and Arashi comes in with a dropkick and half-crab. Araya gets a stiff clothesline for two. Piledriver gets two. Heel miscommunication and Nagai tags in and goes to town on Arashi with high kicks and a snap suplex. That gets two, although Arashi didn’t actually kick out. Arashi comes back with a Diamond Cutter (the rare “Guy who never does a Diamond CutterÃ¢â‚¬Â variation of the move) and tosses Nagai. Back in, Araya takes him down with a half-assed STO for two. They slug it out and Nagai gives him stiff kicks to the leg (how stiff? Low-Ki is watching somewhere and going “Damn, dude, lay off!Ã¢â‚¬Â) and Nagai gets a flying high knee for two. Lariat gets two. Brainbuster gets two. Arashi comes in illegally and kills him with a german suplex, and then tags in and powerbombs him for two. Another one, and he goes up with a frog splash for two. This is a 300-pound guy doing that move, keep in mind. Halfway Angle Slam gets two. Araya comes in and walks into an Exploider, and Nagai gets back in with a high kick and vicious running knee to the face for two. Fisherman’s suplex gets two. He goes up with a springboard high knee for two. Arashi clotheslines Okamura out of the way and powerbombs Nagai, and Araya gets two. Nagai slugs it out with Araya and Araya just kills him with a lariat, super-stiff. That gets two. He goes up with a moonsault, and that’s GOTTA finish, but no, just two. Nagai comes back with a pair of high spinkicks and brings Okamura back in with a missile dropkick to the back of the head (how do you prep for THAT?) and a half-nelson suplex for two. Crossface as Nagai holds back Arashi with a guillotine choke, but Arashi escapes first and breaks it up. Nagai hits him with an enzuigiri, but Arashi comes back with a leg lariat, which is another thing you wouldn’t expect him to be able to throw. Araya gets his own on Okamura, and that gets two. Arashi takes Nagai down with a submission, and Araya gets a brainbuster on Okamura for two. I thought for SURE that was it. Another lariat kills him dead at 23:27. That was hellishly stiff stuff. Started slow, but man did they work their asses off and get the crowd into the near-falls. ****
– Triple Crown Decision match: Genichiro Tenryu v. Keiji Mutoh (04/13/02). I really like having Stan Hansen reading the proclamations because I can UNDERSTAND him. This is because of Kawada’s injury, which forced him to vacate the Triple Crown. Mutoh goes for the leg to start and Tenryu kicks him away while on the mat. That tactic having failed, Mutoh goes for the lockup and gives a clean break. Pussy. Tenryu grabs a wristlock, and Mutoh immediately takes him down and hooks a kneebar, which prompts Tenryu to twist his ankle until Mutoh has to make the ropes. Tenryu grabs a headlock and grinds it in on the mat, then overpowers Mutoh and gets his own Shining Wizard, which stuns Mutoh more than anything. Nice reaction from him, too, as he acts all indignant and shoots him dirty looks from the ramp. Back in, Tenryu chops away, but Mutoh dropkicks him and he bails. Mutoh follows with a pescado, and then hits a crazy Shining Wizard off the apron, into the railing. Wonder if that variation is in Smackdown. He works an armbar on the floor, and since in wrestling anything done on the floor, no matter how silly it may seem, is more painful, Tenryu immediately taps. Doesn’t count, of course, but it stresses that things done on the floor hurt more. Back in, Mutoh dropkicks the arm a couple of times, and Tenryu bails again. Back in, and it’s more dropkicks for the arm and an attempt at a keylock. He turns it into a cross-armlock, but Tenryu makes the ropes and slugs away. Mutoh dragon-screws him again and back to the keylock. Tenryu makes the ropes. Mutoh drops the power elbow and chops him, but Tenryu is a tough old guy. Handspring elbow misses and Mutoh knocks himself silly(er), and Tenryu comes back with a pair of running chops and a diving elbow for two. Powerbomb gets two. Mutoh blocks a lariat with a rana, into another cross armlock, but Tenryu is in the ropes right away. Enzuigiri puts Mutoh down and he starts with the chops again, alternating with punches, and they go up for Tenryu’s “release you but I hang onÃ¢â‚¬Â german suplex, but he misses the followup elbow and Mutoh goes back to the cross-armlock again. Tenryu makes the ropes. They slug it out, won by Tenryu, but Mutoh dropkicks that knee again. Tenryu blocks the Shining Wizard, but just barely. Another one isn’t blocked, and the third one is excessive even for Mutoh, but it only gets two. Moonsault misses, however, and Tenryu comes back with a lariat for one. Mutoh dropkicks the knee to stop another one, but Tenryu just keeps coming like a 53-year old Terminator or something, and gets two. Mutoh uses a Shining Wizard to block a suplex, and both are out. Mutoh is up first with the backflip kick, and another Shining Wizard to set up a moonsault, which misses. See, now I remember their original match where that was the finish. Nice touch. Tenryu keeps fighting, but Mutoh gets a backdrop suplex. Another moonsault (doctors, schmoctors) seems to hurt both of them, and Tenryu is hurt least and gets another lariat for two. Brainbuster gets the title at 19:38. Finish seemed a bit anticlimactic, but I guess Mutoh had to return the jobs to Tenryu at some point. ****1/4
– Jushin Liger, Minoru Tanaka, Masyuki Naruse & Masahito Kakihara v. Black Tiger, Gedo, Jado & Koji Kanemoto. (NJPW Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 04/16/02). This is elimination rules. Jado works the mat with Tanaka to start and grabs a kneebar, but Tanaka reverses to the arm, and Jado turns that into a hammerlock. Next up, Kakihara & Gedo, as Gedo tosses him and Team 2000 gets their licks in. Back in, Kanemoto hits the chinlock and Black Tiger comes in and slugs away. Moonsault misses, and Kakihara kicks at him, but gets hit with a leg lariat for two. He comes back with a swinging DDT for two and tries to keylock the arm, but Koji breaks things up. Liger comes in next and tosses Jado, and the faces get their shots in. Back in, Liger gets a Koppo Kick in the corner and the faces quadruple-team Jado in the corner. Tanaka absorbs some chops and Jado brings him to the heel corner, where Koji slugs away and kicks him down. Spinkick in the corner and the heels stomp a mudhole in the name of evil, and Tanaka is forced to bail. Back in, Tiger and Gedo take turns clotheslining him in the corner, and then set him up for a Koji missile dropkick off their shoulders. Back to the heel corner, as Tiger slingshots in with the Eddie senton and an elbowdrop variation on the 619 that gets two. He slugs away, but Tanaka gets an elbow for two. Silver King is so much cooler as Black Tiger. The heels double-team Tanaka while the faces get busy brawling with the other heels, but Tanaka gets a high kick on Tiger and dodges a charge, putting Tiger on the floor. Liger comes in for a double-team with Kakihara, and Black Tiger is gone at 9:35. The three remaining heels pound on Naruse, who spears them, but Koji kicks the SHIT out of him and goes up with a moonsault to finish him at 10:25. Obviously he doesn’t watch MXC or pay attention to the slogan. Tanaka quickly comes in with a few kicks, but gets double-teamed by Gedo & Jado into a camel clutch. Kakihara comes in with a cross-armlock on Jado, but Koji breaks it up. Jado pounds him down and they work him over in the corner, but Kakihara kicks Jado down and DDTs him for two. Fisherman’s buster gets two. Jado comes back with a superkick and Gedo holds him for Kanemoto’s kicks, as the heels clean house and hit Kakihara with a series of elbows in the corner and a superbomb that should have ended his night, but Liger saves. A tiger suplex finishes the job at 14:46. So it’s Liger’s turn next, as Kanemoto slaps on a kneebar, but he makes the ropes. The heels wrap Liger’s legs around the post in a kind of ringpost anklelock, and work the leg over in the corner. Liger fights back, but Koji dragon-screws the leg and Gedo knees the knee. Koji keeps working it over, and Jado gets a Texas Cloverleaf while Koji stomps on Liger’s head. Nice touch. Gedo keeps running interference on Tanaka, and Black Tiger sends him into the post for good measure, as Kanemoto brutalizes Liger’s knee with kicks. Straight knee to the head puts him down, and he knees away in the corner, allowing Gedo to dropkick the knee again. And again. Kanemoto gets into an argument with the ref and gets a corkscrew for two. Jado with a backdrop suplex for two. Gedo with a frog splash for two. Liger comes back with a release german and a backbreaker, and FINALLY makes the hot tag to Tanaka. Missile dropkick for Gedo & Jado and the crazy flying armbar on Gedo, but Kanemoto breaks it up before Gedo can tap in 10 seconds again. Koji kicks away at him, but can’t suplex him. So he calls in Gedo & Jado to tenderize him first, but Tanaka rolls him up for two. High kick gets him at 25:41. So it’s a tag match now, with Liger & Tanaka v. Gedo & Jado, and Koji slaps the ref around to show him who’s boss. Liger gets tossed while the Bobsey Twins beat on Tanaka, and Gedo drops an elbow for two. Gedo dropkicks the knee and hooks an armbar, but Liger breaks. Tanaka dropkicks the knee and brings Liger back in, and he palms Gedo into next week, and powerbombs him for two. He goes up with his own frog splash for two. Is everyone in Japan using frog splashes and crossfaces now? Abdominal stretches in stereo by the faces, and Liger rolls up Gedo for nothing. Suplex is blocked by Gedo, but Liger gets a brainbuster and it’s a 30:00 draw. You’ve gotta be kidding me. But apparently they’re smart and keep things going a bit later, as Liger gets the shote on Gedo for two. Double underhook submission move, but Jado breaks it up. Diving headbutt misses, but so does Gedo’s rather sad moonsault. Tags on both ends, and Tanaka gets the heel hook on Jado, and Liger kicks him in the face while he’s on the way to the ropes. Sadly, he makes it on the second go. Tanaka kicks him down and goes up, but gets caught by Jado with a superplex. Liger sneaks in with an STO and Tanaka dropkicks Gedo, and all four are out. Jado takes Tanaka down with a crossface as Gedo holds off Liger, but he makes the ropes. Gedo keeps Liger busy while Jado gets a lariat and tiger driver for two. Brainbuster gets two. Back to the crossface right away, and Tanaka taps at 5:37 of the extra frame to give the win to Team 2000. Great, great, action-packed stuff, with only a lengthy heat segment on Liger slowing it down. ****1/2
– Osamu Nishimura & Manabu Nakanishi v. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Masa Chono. (NJPW Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 04/26/02). Nishimura starts with Tenzan and gets taken down with a single-leg, but tries for the test of strength instead. With TENZAN? Is he nuts? He makes a nice move, rolling out of it, but gets kicked down for his troubles. He rides out a hammerlock, and Nakanishi comes in. Tenzan is feeling out-cooled, so he brings in Chono. Nakanishi chops him in the corner and hits the chinlock, working it dramatically. Nishimura comes in and works a headscissors and a short-arm scissors, into a hammerlock. Chono keeps headlocking him to break, and Nishimura keeps bridging up and over to hold on. That’s awesome. Chono takes him down with a chinlock, but when Tenzan gets in there, it’s armdrag-city from Nishimura and he gets nowhere. Nakanishi stays on the arm in dramatic fashion (he’s almost American in his facials and selling, not to mention his comparatively freakish build) and they slug it out, which Nakanishi wins. And he WANTS MORE. Tenzan opts for a headlock takedown to be safe and stomps him down, but Nakanishi casually trips him up and drops the leg for two. Swinging cobra and elbowdrop bring in Nishimura again, and he fires away with forearms. Neck crank, but Tenzan bridges into his own, and Nishimura bridges BACK into his first one. They fight over a suplex and Nishimura takes him down again with a sleeper and brings Nakanishi back in for more PAIN. He headbutts on Tenzan’s shoulder and sends him bailing. Back in, Tenzan goes for the cheapshot to regain control and pounds him down to the crowd’s approval. Chono assists in a beatdown in the corner, and the Yakuza kick gets one. Neckbreaker gets one. Nakanishi fights back and he wants Tenzan again, dammit. He headbutts him down like pounding a nail into plywood and chops away. Note to self: Don’t piss off Manabu Nakanishi. Torture rack is blocked, but he knees Tenzan down anyway. Pumphandle bomb gets two. Lariat sets up another torture rack, and Nishimura keeps Chono busy. He finally dumps Tenzan onto Chono, and Nishimura comes in with a missile dropkick. Tenzan smartly tags out again. Chono immediately falls victim to a sleeper, however, as the challengers keep dissecting the champions. Luckily for them it’s non-title. Chono gets a quick cradle for two. Yakuza is blocked and Nishimura takes him down with a spinning toehold and figure-four, but Tenzan breaks it up. And now it’s stereo toeholds and figure-fours. Chono makes the ropes. Nishimura hammers him with forearms, but charges and hits boot. Nishimura comes right back with the abdominal stretch, however, and Chono is forced to waste energy powering out. He gets the atomic drop and Tenzan drops in with a headbutt, and the STF leaves Nishimura with nowhere to go, but he makes the ropes. Tenzan comes in to help with a double-team, and they hang him in the Tree of Woe until Nakanishi acts as an objector. So they flapjack him. The beatdown continues in the corner as Tenzan hammers him down and gets a lariat for two. Samoan drop gets two. The Buffalo sleeper gets two. Nishimura reverses a suplex into a rollup for two. Chono whips Tenzan into him and then gets a Yakuza kick for two. Lariat gets two. Back to the Buffalo sleeper as Chono wraps up Nakanishi, but Nakanishi powers out and makes the save. Tenzan walks into an Octopus as Nakanishi holds off Chono, and rolls him up for two. Sleeper and Chono is again waylayed, but Tenzan escapes and gets a pair of lariats. But another rollup gets two for Nishimura. Small package gets two. Backslide gets two. Tenzan hits a Tenzan Driver for two. Everyone is fighting with under a minute left, and Nishimura reverses a powerbomb as everyone takes each other out with kicks and spears in a crazy sequence. And it’s a draw at 30:00. RE-MATCH! RE-MATCH! ****3/4 Team Gotch wants five more minutes, so we’re BACK ON. Nakanishi pounds on Tenzan and gets a belly to belly for two. Chono and Nishimura come in, and Nakanishi quickly breaks up an STF, allowing Nishimura to get the sleeper again. Chono breaks with a jawbreaker and Tenzan gets an elbow, but he wasn’t tagged in or something. Nishimura dropkicks him but gets tossed, and Chono uses a chair. Karl Gotch would not approve. Back in, Nakanishi takes out his frustrations on Chono while Nishimura gets a german suplex on Tenzan for two. Nishimura gets the cross-armlock, but Tenzan makes the ropes. Nakanishi with another torture rack, but Tenzan falls into the Buffalo Sleeper. Nakanishi makes the ropes. Lariat gets two. Moonsault gets two. Nakanishi hits Chono with an atomic drop, and a german suplex on Tenzan, but it’s ANOTHER draw at 5:00. I smell a rematch on volume 3.
– IWGP title: Yuji Nagata v. Yoshihiro Takayama (NJPW Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 05/02/02). And we wrap things up here, as Takayama headbutts him to start and shoves him around. Nagata spears him down and they trade shots on the ground, with Nagata trying to ride him over into a rear naked choke. He goes for a crossface instead, but Takayama breaks loose. Overhead suplex, but Takayama fires back with a high kick and Nagata backs off. They feign some kicks and Takayama gives him a clean break off a lockup. Nagata gets a backdrop suplex for one, but Takayama holds on with a headlock until Nagata makes the ropes. Nagata lays in the kicks, but gets elbowed and kicked himself. German suplex gets one for Takayama, and he kicks Nagata down with a straight kick. Nagata bails, so Takayama drops a boot from the apron, and they head back in, where Nagata appears to be out. Takayama grabs an armbar, but Nagata makes the ropes. He slugs Nagata down with high kicks, and he’s down for the count again. More kicks in the corner, another count. Takayama tries the german suplex, but Nagata blocks, and then reverses to a heel hook. He starts kicking the leg, but runs into a knee in dramatic fashion. That gets two. Takayama works the armbar and stomps away, dropkicking Nagata into the corner. High knee and butterfly suplex get two. We hit the chinlock and Takayama kicks him down, and gets two. The ref lays in the count again, but Nagata is up. He keeps fighting up, and Takayama keeps kicking, so Nagata finally fires back. Takayama goes DOWN and the Nagatalock follows, but the ropes are made. Enzuigiri and leg lariat into the corner set up a backdrop suplex for two. Another enzuigiri is blocked and Takayama kicks him down to set up the german suplex, which gets two. They slug it out ala Takayama-Frye and both go down. Again with the slugfest, but Nagata gets a high kick for the pin at 15:37. Quite the battle therem as Takayama continued his improvement in 2002. ***1/2
The Bottom Line:
Aside from a couple of questionable choices included for historical reasons rather than quality, the second volume continues to bring the puro love, with more than a few must-see level matches here.
Check it out at www.goldenboytapes.com, and stay tuned for more!