The SmarK Rant For The Best Of Japan 2002 – Volume 4

The SmarK Rant for the Best of Japan 2002 – Volume Four

– I have a bet with myself that I can finish this set by January 1. I’ll probably lose, but at least I don’t have to pay myself

– Masaaki Mochizuki, Ryo Saito & Dragon Kid v. Magnum Tokyo, Darkness Dragon & Genki Horiguchi v. CIMA, Don Fuji & Yoshikazu Taru. Yes, it’s a three-way trios match from Toryumon. Magnum Tokyo again gets the award for coolest pre-match dance routine. He’s looking like quite the dirtbag here, too. This is probably gonna be a bitch to recap, to say the least. We start with Mochizuki, Tokyo & CIMA, as Tokyo takes Mochizuki down and it turns into a three-way go-behind sequence that’s pretty cool. Suddenly, it’s BONZO GONZO3 and everyone hits the floor for a big brawl. Tokyo tosses some chairs on Don Fuji and wanders around the audience like a madman, and in the ring Ryo Saito slugs it out with Fuji. Horiguchi joins in and double-teams Fuji, but they turn on him and Fuji tags out. Next up, the two Dragons tangle, but Taru tosses Kid into Darkness. They come back and double-team him with a baseball slide / camel clutch, but then Darkness turns on Kid, and Kid proceeds to give him a headscissors with about 9 rotations on it. Next up, it’s CIMA, Tokyo and Mochizuki again, and after some REALLY fast-paced double-teaming from CIMA & Tokyo, CIMA gets dumped and Tokyo slugs it out with Mochizuki. Fuji comes in and everyone chops him, so he chops them all back. He likes it, apparently. The lineup of people chopping him and then getting chopped back is pretty funny to see. Finally, after three rounds of that, Fuji has had enough and bails. Cute. So next, it’s Dragon Kid and Saito working Genki over, and Saito hits the chinlock, but CIMA kicks him in the face to break it up. Genki slams Kid, but CIMA slams him, and then slams Dragon Kid, and hits the chinlock again. The three guys dropkick each other and Team CIMA works Kid over in the corner. Taru kicks him into a slingshot senton from CIMA and they hold him in the corner, as they fight off the other two teams, then bring Darkness Dragon in. MM and Saito work him over with a double back-elbow, but Darkness goes low on Saito and Tokyo comes in with a suplex. Senton gets two. Genki helps to work on the arm and they double-team with an elbow that gets two. Tokyo tosses Dragon Kid around and brings in Darkness, who does a complex double-team with Genki and allows Tokyo to slap Darkness around. Dragon Kid pulls him out of the ring, and it’s nutso time again, as everyone is in the ring and guys fire off splashes in the corner on Tokyo in succession. Stereo ranas from Saito & Kid are blocked by Fuji & Taru with stereo boston crabs, and then it’s a CRAZY 5-on-4 quadruple suplex spot that has to be seen to be believed. Everyone else leaves, and CIMA works over Genki, but misses a dropkick, and now Team Tokyo works him over with a backdrop suplex into a double missile dropkick. Then they tease a 3-on-2 backdrop suplex attempt that turns into triple atomic drops, and everyone is brawling again. Then it’s a double stacked suplex on Dragon Kid that gets two. Fuji tries a powerbomb, but he’s kicked down, high and low, to break the move. Things gets nuts with everyone hitting their big moves on everyone else in sequence, ending with Dragon Kid putting Darkness Dragon in twisting submission hold. Darkness comes back with a brainbuster for two. Genki and Darkness double-team him with a Rock Bottom and Tokyo goes up, but CIMA catches him with the Iconoclasm. Fuji comes in to finish, but Taru breaks it up and Mochizuki gets an enzuigiri on Tokyo as it seems to be open season on him. Dragon Kid springs in with a rana, but Darkness pulls off his mask, and he’s distracted enough for Tokyo to roll up and pin at 17:35. So it’s just 3-on-3 now. Darkness powerbombs CIMA for two, but Fuji comes in with a lariat and chokeslam for two. Tokyo gets a missile dropkick on Fuji and a bulldog for two. Taru gets a Mehshugganator on Tokyo for two, and CIMA goes up, but Tokyo catches him with a rana off the top that CIMA rolls through for two. Darkness throws powder at CIMA for two. Miscommunication results in Tokyo getting hit with a tray and Taru gets two. CIMA gets an Emerald Frozen on Genki Horiguchi for the pin at 19:55. This was truly insane and had the most innovative double (and triple and quadruple and ) team spots I’ve ever seen, but it wasn’t much more than a bunch of spots, so if that’s your poison, you’ll love it. ****

– Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi v. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Hiroshi Tanahashi. Tenzan and Nakanishi slug it out to start, and Tenzan actually wins that one. He keeps pounding with the overhead chops, but Nakanishi hammers back just as hard. Tenzan catches him with a Thesz Press and pounds away, but Nakanishi beats him to the ground and works him over. They do the test of strength, but Nakanishi goes for the claw right away and then brings in Nagata. Tanahashi wants to give it a go, however. Nagata works a wristlock, but Tanahashi takes him down with an armbar, so Nagata suplexes out of it. He grabs a headlock, but Tanahashi gets the armbar again, and they do some matwork off that. Tanahashi slugs away, but Nagata likes it and wants more. So Tanahashi gets a flying forearm to knock him down and they regroup. Nagata fires off some kicks to the legs and Nakanishi comes in to help work over the arm, and he stomps away out of a fireman’s carry. They exchange chops, which Nakanishi wins handily, but Tanahashi dropkicks him and brings Tenzan back in. Nagata delivers a big boot in the corner and kicks him down, then delivers an overhead suplex for two. He works on the leg, but Tenzan catches the arm in a short-arm scissors. Nagata makes the ropes. Nagata takes him down and chinlocks him, and they reverse off that, until Tanahashi comes in for the double-team and works his own headlock. They slug it out, won by Nagata, and Nakanishi comes in with a clothesline for both and a spear for Tanahashi. Torture Rack, but Tenzan distracts him by delivering a Tenzan Driver to Nagata. He breaks and hits a high knee on Tenzan, who bails. Tanahashi catches him from behind with a half-crab, however. He tags Tenzan in and Tenzan slugs away and gets two. Nakanishi gets up again, so Tenzan slugs him down again for two. Tanahashi gets a snap suplex for two, and puts him in a sleeper with the hooks in. The heels work Nakanishi over in the corner and Tenzan stops his comeback attempts with a headbutt and slam that gets one. Heel miscommunication and Nakanishi spears both guys and makes the hot tag to Nagata, who kicks the crap out of Tenzan and fights off Tanahashi. A pair of high kicks puts him out in the corner, but Tenzan blocks an Exploider. Tanahashi comes back in and loses a slugfest, but they trade enzuigiris and Tanahashi gets a nice northern lights suplex for two. Nagata blocks a german and comes back with an overhead suplex, then starts firing off the high kicks. And I mean seriously laying them in. Then he goes to the arm instead and cranks on it, which is the thread that Nakanishi picks at when he comes in. He just absolutely pounds Tanahashi into silly putty and Nagata boots him down and keeps destroying him. It’s so merciless that the crowd actually changes sides and cheers the kid. Finally Tenzan bursts in and goes after Nagata, but Nakanishi gets rid of him and Nagata keeps calmly wiping the mat with Tanahashi. Nakanishi continues the beating and drops an elbow for two. He takes him down with a rear naked choke, but Tenzan tries to break it up, unsuccessfully. The kid hangs on, however, and Nakanishi releases and keeps pounding him. Nagata comes in with a running boot in the corner and a high release suplex for two. It was a like a vertical suplex, but he let go and threw him at the high point. Enzuigiri and northern lights suplex get two. Tanahashi fights back to the delight of the crowd, but gets booted down again and the Nagatalock follows. Tenzan barely gets in and breaks it up with a diving headbutt, however. Finally he gets a tag and collides with Nakanishi, but gets clotheslined down. Nagata comes back in with an enzuigiri, but he won’t drop. Another one, no go. Nagata unloads the high kicks, but Tenzan catches one and dragon-screws him, then hits a leg lariat and Tenzan Driver for one. He tosses Nakanishi and lets Tanahashi try again, and he dropkicks Nagata in the corner to set up a german suplex for two. Tenzan goes up with the moonsault, and Tanahashi rolls over for two. Nagata comes back with a sudden spinkick to the head and an Exploider, which gets two. Nakanishi with the butterfly suplex for two. Tanahashi gets a small package for two. Nakanishi clotheslines him down again and a northern lights suplex gets two. Nagata gets a leaping DDT into a crossface, but time is running out. The kid hangs on, however, with no hope of reaching the ropes, and Nagata breaks, then cradles for two. Rear naked choke, and time expires at 30:00. Great spirit from Tanahashi there, as he took the beating like a man. There wasn’t anything spectacular enough to drive it over ****, though. ***3/4 Nagata offers Tanahashi a handshake for a job well done afterwards.

– G1 Climax 10-Man Royal Rumble. We start with Shiro Koshinaka and Osamu Nishimura. Not sure of the rules here, but I guess we’ll find out as we go along. Koshinaka works a headlock to start and they do the feeling out, and Nishimura gives him a good luck forearm to the mouth. Koshinaka kicks him down in response and knees him on the mat, then hits the chinlock. After (about) 2 minutes, we’re joined by Tanahashi, and they immediately double-team him with a dropkick. He locks up with Nishimura, who grabs a headlock on him, but Tanahashi gets a slam for two. Then they decide to double-team Koshinaka with a double-dropkick, and it’s our next contestant, Masa Chono. He kills everyone with Yakuza kicks and then concentrates on Koshinaka, but everyone dogpiles on him for two. Legsweep from Koshinaka , but Chono gets his own, and Nishimura offers a truce. Chono attacks him instead and they do a knucklelock spot, with Nishimura bridging out of it and suplexing him for two. 2:15 has gone by, so it’s Yoshie at #5. He assists various people in beating on Koshinaka, who bails as a result. Yoshie pounds on Tanahashi in the corner while Chono headlocks Nishimura. Yoshie gets two on Tanahashi, and our next contestant is Nakanishi at #6. He goes right for Chono with the test of strength, and then spears him. He slugs it out with Koshinaka while Chono pounds on Nishimura in the corner, and there’s a lot of headlocks going on. Next up, Kensuke Sasaki at #7. He wants Chono and chops away in the corner, but Koshinaka clobbers him from behind. Yoshie splashes Tanahashi for two. Sasaki slugs it out with Nakanishi and neither guy gets any satisfaction from it, and Koshinaka just watches. Everyone is slugging it out, and Kenzo Suzuki is #8, and he spears and backdrops Koshinaka for the first pinfall, finally. He and Tanahashi double-team Yoshie and he gets two on Chono. Sasaki puts Chono in a Scorpion deathlock, but Suzuki breaks it up, while Yoshie headlocks Tanahashi. Sasaki & Chono get in each other’s face again and slug it out with kicks and clotheslines, with neither guy so much as selling. Tenzan is #9, and he pounds Nakanishi and brawls outside with him. He pounds him with a chair and they brawl into the crowd, as Yuji Nagata is #10. So that’s everyone now. He chooses to stay back and watch for a bit, while Tenzan & Nakanishi fight their way back to the ring again. Nakanishi tries to suplex him off the apron while Nagata slugs away with Sasaki, but Suzuki catches Tenzan from behind with a backdrop suplex and Tanahashi pins him with a german! Huh. Suzuki elbows Sasaki down and slugs away while Yoshie and Nakanishi pound on other, but Sasaki comes back with a Michinoku driver on Suzuki and pins him. Nakanishi pounds Nagata with chops and Tanahashi kneebars Chono, but Sasaki breaks it up. Nagata works on Nishimura’s arm, while Nakanishi catches Chono in a Torture Rack, then drops him in a gutbuster for two. Sasaki hits Chono with a lariat while Nishimura slugs it out with Nagata in dramatic fashion and they exchange cradles for two, before Nishimura uses a rollup out of an abdominal stretch to pin him. Go Osamu! Yoshie pounds on Chono and Racks him, and no one saves, so he submits. Huh. That was unexpected. Now Yoshie and Nishimura double-team Sasaki and get rid of him with an enzuigiri and splash, and it’s the final four: Nishimura, Nakanishi, Tanahashi & Yoshie. Nishimura & Nakanishi slug it out and Nakanishi gets the Rack as a result, but he releases it, allowing Nishimura to catch the abdominal stretch. Nakanishi reverses that to another Rack, but Nishimura counters with an Octopus, and Nakanishi taps! Tanahashi is busy stomping on Yoshie and he gets a flying forearm, allowing Nishimura to get a figure-four, and Tanahashi helps with a headscissors at the same time. He still manages to reverse both moves and make the ropes. The double-team effort continues, but Yoshie overpowers both of them and goes for the Tazzmission on Tanahashi, but Nishimura catches HIM with a sleeper, until Tanahashi breaks it up. Yoshie goes for a body vice, but Nishimura bridges for two. Back to the body vice, and Nishimura taps. Damn. So it’s Tanahashi and Yoshie left. Tanahashi tries a suplex, but he’s too damn big, and gets a spinebuster for two. Now he tries a german suplex, but Yoshie is still too big and elbows out. Lou Thesz Press gets two for Yoshie. He’s ready to finish, but misses a clothesline and Tanahashi gets his suplex and it’s over at 29:17. That was a pretty damn good Royal Rumble, even with only 10 people, with lots of cool unexpected booking choices. ****1/4

– Triple-Crown title: Genichiro Tenryu v. Satoshi Kojima. Nice to see Kojima finally getting his shot. They fight over a lockup to start, and Tenryu gives him a clean break. Again, and another clean break. Kojima gets the lockup this time, and no clean break, as he slugs him down in the corner. Tenryu doesn’t appear terribly phased by it. Kojima takes him down and crossfaces him, and then overpowers him with a shoulderblock. Test of strength is next, as Tenryu brings him to the corner, but Kojima powers back and brings the old guy to his knees before hitting him with chops. Tenryu slugs back, suitably pissed now, and Kojima wisely takes a coffee break. Back in, they fight over the lockup again and Kojima goes for the leg, but Tenryu is having none of that. He keeps stomping the knee but Tenryu is all stoic and stuff, so he takes him down and goes for the knee on the mat, which results in him getting his eyes poked. He kicks the knee out again to keep Tenryu from trying anything else, but he gets nailed with a leg lariat regardless. So it’s back to the leg to keep Tenryu grounded, as he grabs a kneebar, which gets reversed to a heel hook. He makes the ropes, but gets dragged back again. Back to the ropes, and this time Tenryu releases and beats his face into hamburger in the corner before more kicks to the knees slow him down. Dragon-screw takes Tenryu down and he bails and adjusts his kneepads. Kneepad placement is very important. Back in, Kojima charges in and stomps the hell out of the knee before he can get up again, and he keeps stomping, but now Tenryu uses guile and experience and goes low before stepping on his face to get rid of him. He follows with a corner clothesline and a running chop to set up the peppering of blows in the corner, and Kojima is staggered, and he rolls out again. Tenryu this time follows with a tope suicida. Kojima viciously clips him while he’s posing on the ring apron, however, and then flattens him with a pescado. Then a somersault off the apron for good measure. Back in, and it’s back to that knee again, followed by a corner clothesline and a dragon-screw. Figure-four, but Tenryu won’t let him sink it in. Finally he does, but Tenryu makes the ropes. Scorpion Deathlock next, and he gets it good. Tenryu makes the ropes again, however. Kojima pounds away in the corner and gets a running elbow before going up with the flying elbow, and that gets two. Another elbow is blocked with an enzuigiri, and Tenryu gets a DDT for two. German suplex gets two. Another one and Kojima is sucking wind, so Tenryu drops an elbow and goes to the double-underhook submission, but Kojima breaks with a kick to the head. Next is a rear naked choke, but Kojima makes the ropes. Brainbuster is reversed to the Koji Kutter, but he can’t capitalize. Neckbreaker gets two. Michinoku Driver, but again he can’t make the pin in time and only gets two. Tenryu comes back with a quick brainbuster and both guys are woozy. Tenryu manages to cover for two. They head up and Tenryu gets the release german superplex and hangs on, but misses the flying elbow. Kojima makes the comeback and puts him on top for a Super Koji Kutter, which gets two. Lariat to the back, and to the front, but now the wrapped arm is hurt. They slug it out and Tenryu gets a pair of brainbusters out of nowhere for two. Lariat is blocked by Kojima and he gets his own for two. He’s got some grapefruits on him, I’ll give him that. Tenryu kicks him in the bad arm, however, and slugs away on him, and another brainbuster is all she wrote but Kojima pops up and gets another lariat for two! Ah, the old All Japan “I’ll be happy to sell that head-dropping move, but excuse me for a moment while I pop up and clothesline you” sell. Works every time. They’re both up and chopping, Tenryu in particular REALLY hard, and they both have to stop and catch their breath. Kojima waits too long and gets another brainbuster for his troubles, and that gets two. Tenryu goes nuts with punches and powerbombs him to end it at 28:53. Well that was quite the war of attrition. Great drama on both sides, loved the selling, just felt like a real Big Match. I still think Kojima is the guy to be on top, but I guess they differ in their opinion. ****1/2

– Masahiro Chono & Osamu Nishimura v. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Yoshihiro Takayama. Well that’s an interesting combination. Tenzan starts with Nishimura and they battle for a lockup, and it’s a clean break. Tenzan even wants to shake hands. Who’d have thunk it? Nishimura grabs a headlock and they take it to the mat, but it’s a stalemate. Nishimura takes it to the mat again, and Tenzan fights out again. Back to the lockup and Tenzan goes for the arm, but Nishimura reverses to a headscissors. He stays on the arm and brings in Chono, who gets overpowered. They try the test of strength and Tenzan stomps him down, but he takes Tenzan down and chinlocks him. Back to the test of strength, won by Tenzan, but Chono grabs the armbar and forces him to make the ropes. Takayama comes in and asserts his authoritah on Chono before chinlocking him, but Chono works him over in the corner to break. Nishimura comes in to try and they reverse off a hammerlock by Takayama, as Nishimura takes him down with a headlock and they work off that on the mat. Nishimura does the headstand to escape a headscissors, and they’re back up again. Takayama takes him down with a knucklelock, which Nishimura of course bridges out of, into a northern lights suplex for one, and he holds onto the knucklelock to boot. Takayama returns the bridge favor and then pounds him on the ropes. Takayama sends Tenzan in to do his dirty work, as he obliges by chopping away at Nishimura before getting caught in the wrong corner. Chono comes in and works on the knee, and they trade shots, high kick for lariat, until Chono goes down first. Tenzan lays in the shots , but Chono wants more, so Takayama comes in and kicks him in the head from behind. I’m not sure that’s what he had in mind. Tenzan appears to agree. He disgustedly tags out to Takayama as Chono brings in Nishimura, and they do some more mat-wrestling to get reacquainted. Nishimura holds a headscissors, but Takayama reverses to an anklelock, forcing Nishimura to make the ropes. Legdrop gets two. Tenzan charges in, but hits Takayama by mistake, and there’s more friction than a sandpaper factory. Tenzan comes back in and pounds on Nishimura, dropping elbows for two. Corner clothesline and he stomps away, but accidentally clotheslines Takayama off the apron. That’s not gonna help. Nishimura comes back with forearms, but walks into a samoan drop. The referee, however, rules that their contact on the clothesline was a tag, so no pin is counted. Takayama comes in and hammers on Nishimura, but he fires back with forearms. Tenzan comes in and walks into a sleeper, and Chono adds a Yakuza kick for two. He stomps away and gets a neckbreaker, but Nishimura tags himself back in and goes up with a missile dropkick, which pisses off Chono. Takayama tags himself in and tries a german suplex on Nishimura, but it’s blocked, so he kicks him down instead and sends him to the floor. Tenzan sends him back in and Takayama keeps stomping him, and hits him with a Shining Wizard for two. He calls in Tenzan for a double-team, but as expected they screw it up and Chono is able to tag in and go up top. Tenzan catches him with a superplex, however, and Takayama tries to suplex Nishimura, but he gets a backslide for two. Takayama kicks him in the face to put him down again and brings in Tenzan, who pounds on him in the corner and gets the knee off the top for two. Moonsault gets two. Buffalo Sleeper, as Takayama keeps Chono busy by choking him out, but Nishimura makes the ropes. Tenzan hammers him in the corner while Takayama brawls on the ramp with Chono, and they all regroup in the ring, as Chono & Nishimura come back with an STF and abdominal stretch, respectively. Chono hits Tenzan with a high kick and Takayama hits Chono with a high knee, and Tenzan gets a lariat on Nishimura to set up the Tenzan Driver for two. Takayama brawls out with Chono again as time winds down, but Nishimura rolls up Tenzan for the pin at 28:40. Thought that was gonna be a draw for sure. Good match, but the feuding partners deal dragged it down some. ***1/2

– Tiger Mask IV v. Dick Togo. From Michinoku Pro, natch. Togo grabs a headlock to start, but TM spinkicks him out, and they duck each other before Mask gets a pescado. He fires off some high kicks, but misses and hits the post. Ouch. Dick lives up to his name and chairs the knee, and they brawl over to one of the tables, as Togo sends him into the wall and then back to the ring for another meeting with the post. He uses a cable to strange him around the post, thus showing that sportsmanship is far from dead, and then undoes a turnbuckle, too. Back in, Togo gets a DDT for two. He rams Mask into the exposed steel a few times, and then dodges a charging Mask, only to run into the steel himself. TM slugs back and puts a sleeper on him, but Togo fights out. TM tosses a chair for a Van Daminator that puts Togo on the floor, then follows with a high cross to the floor. Back in, butterfly suplex and standing moonsault set up a kimura, but Togo makes the ropes. TM dragon-screws the leg into a figure-four, as Togo bleeds like crazy. He finally makes the ropes. Togo comes back with a low blow, and can’t even irish whip Tiger Mask because TM’s knee gives out. Togo grabs a sleeper on the mat, but TM fights out, only to get yanked down again. Another sleeper is reversed to a backdrop suplex, and now Tiger gets his own sleeper. He reverses a backdrop suplex attempt for two, and then escapes a german suplex attempt by Togo, but gets caught in a crossface. He makes the ropes. TM slugs back and spinkicks Togo into the corner, but gets caught with an Oklahoma roll into another crossface, again making the ropes quickly. They slug it out and Togo goes low to block a Tiger suplex, and again takes him down into a crossface. Again, Mask makes the ropes. Delayed suplex gets two. TM fires off a high kick that puts Togo out, and he gets two. Togo blocks another armbar attempt and they slug it out from their knees, won by Tiger Mask. He hooks a guillotine choke, but Togo breaks free and gets a moonsault for two. TM backdrops out of a Pedigree attempt, but Togo clotheslines him down again and gets HHH’s dread finisher. He goes up to finish, but TM crotches him and follows him up, and won’t take no for an answer. He brings Togo down with a butterfly superplex, which gets two. Tombstone piledriver gets two. Cross-armlock, but Togo goes to the eyes and it’s a 20:00 draw. Solid match. ***1/4

– Shinjiro Ohtani v. Taka Michinoku. Taka actually still has his WWF music. And some muscle mass. Ohtani, carrying more weight in his new role as a heavyweight contender, is really starting to show his age. Taka snaps off a german suplex and superkick for two, and Ohtani bails. Back in, Taka elbows him down and dropkicks the head, grabbing a headscissors, but Ohtani fights out and they toss each other into the corner and slug it out. Ohtani charges and hits knee, allowing Taka to get a jumping knee and a guillotine choke on him, which he then switches to a triangle choke, but Ohtani slams out of it. Ohtani hangs him in the Tree of Woe and baseball slides him, and chinlocks him. He switches to a camel clutch, adding a neck twist, but Taka reverses to his own and rakes the face for good measure. Ohtani responds by biting his fingers, and then bitchslapping him down in the corner. Lesson learned, I guess. He starts chopping and stomping at the knee, giving him the old bootlaces across the face to show who’s boss, and then hits him with a running boot to the face. Ah, still a punk at heart. Another running kick to the face as Taka staggers up, but a third one misses and Taka comes back with a tornado DDT and seated dropkick. He gets a crossface (does everyone in Japan worship Benoit or something?) , but Ohtani makes the ropes. He then hits a backdrop driver out of nowhere, and follows with a german suplex that drops Taka on his head, setting up a rather nasty cross between a half-crab and a Liontamer. I’m pretty sure the human spinal column isn’t meant to bend that way. Taka makes the ropes. Ohtani’s dragon-screw attempt is countered with an enzuigiri and he bails, allowing Taka to follow with his signature springboard plancha. Both guys are out on the floor, and Taka tries to keep him out for the countout, and then both dive in at 19. Taka then does his own boot rubs in the corner and snaps off a rana and a high back kick to set up another crossface. Ohtani makes the ropes. Michinoku Driver is countered by a half-nelson suplex, and both guys are out. They talk some shit to each other in Japanese and that can only result in a good old slugfest, with Taka going down first. He gets up again, however, and forearms Ohtani for two. High kick gets two. Ohtani bitchslaps him again and powerbombs him, for one. The springboard dropkick sets up another powerbomb, with about 19 rotations, for the pin at 15:11. Ohtani is probably the only guy to use a bitchslap as a transition, so I afford him a little extra in my ratings. ***1/2 Part of me, the very small and mostly silent part of me, almost wishes that the WWE would bring Taka back again as an opponent for Tajiri and Rey Mysterio on the off-chance they’ve learned how to use him since 1997, but that’s only a very small part of me.

– Shinjiro Ohtani v. Masato Tanaka. This should be interesting. They exchange slaps off lockups to start, and then trade wristlocks, as it’s a stalemate. Tanaka takes it to the mat with a hammerlock, but Ohtani reverses to a headlock. He holds a headscissors, which Tanaka counters out of into a facelock, so Ohtani knees him in the gut and hangs him in the Tree of Woe. Baseball slide and manages to cut Tanaka open already, and then makes sure to claw at the cut to really be a jerk. He keeps working the cut and stomps a mudhole in the corner, then adds the boot leather to the damage done to the cut. Running boot is blocked by Tanaka, who shoves him down and spears him in electrifying fashion. Running elbow against the ropes, but another one misses and Ohtani fires off a german suplex, as Tanaka does the delayed sell and hits a lariat before dying. The blood is flowing nicely now. They exchange power shots and go toe-to-toe, with only sheer stubbornness making Ohtani the victor, because he’s just that grumpy. Running boot in the corner, but he runs into an elbow and a backdrop driver from Tanaka. Both guys are out. Tanaka puts him on top and brings him down with a dangerous-looking top rope inverted DDT, which gets two. Ohtani is dead weight, however, so Tanaka spits BLOOD in his face and then hits the Diamond Dust Driver for two. Now THAT’S a transition move! Tornado DDT is blocked and Ohtani comes back with a leg lariat as they’re just throwing everything but the kitchen sink at each other. Ohtani is FEELING IT now, as he shrugs off a forearm and gets a dragon suplex into a Tazzmission, but Tanaka makes the ropes. He’s an absolute mess now, as Ohtani gets the springboard dropkick and a powerbomb for nothing, as Tanaka kicks out before one. I can see this is a test of wills now. Ohtani fires off some kicks, but gets hit with a dragon suplex by a resurgent Tanaka, who goes up with a frog splash for nothing, as Ohtani also kicks out before one. Ohtani dropkicks him into the corner and gets the rotation powerbomb for two. And now the power of grump is filling him! He spinkicks Tanaka, but misses a clothesline and gets elbowed down for two. Tanaka gets three lariats for the pin at 14:06. Wow, was that ever nasty. ***1/2

– Manabu Nakanishi v. Osamu Nishimura. THE MEGAPOWERS OF OLD-SCHOOL COLLIDE! This is part of the G1 Climax tournament. I don’t even know who to cheer for! They decide to start with a knucklelock and work from there, so Nakanishi quickly overpowers him and holds him down for two. Nishimura bridges out, so Nakanishi tries jumping on him, and he won’t budge. He bridges up and offers a clean break. So we try again with the test of strength, but this time they take it to the mat and Nakanishi twists the ankle, but Nishimura takes him down with an armbar, forcing Nakanishi to power out and back to the ankle again. They exchange those holds and Nishimura goes to a headlock, which Nakanishi bridges out of and then suplexes out of. Nishimura grabs a headlock and they reverse off that, as Nakanishi gets a headscissors and squeezes. Nishimura does the headstand counter and we’re back to square one. They reverse off a go-behind and take it to the mat, and Nakanishi uses the headstand on him this time. Ho HO. Back to the knucklelock, and they reverse off that in cool fashion, drawing ooos from the crowd. Nakanishi gets the advantage, so Nishimura mule-kicks him and they start again. Nakanishi kicks him in the gut, sending him into the corner, but he lets him up again like a good sport. Nishimura fires back with forearms, so Nakanishi gives him one that puts Nishimura on the floor. Back in, Nakanishi unloads more forearms, but a backslide gets two. Nakanishi chops him down again, and into a boston crab now. Nishimura makes the ropes and bails. Nakanishi follows him out and chops him back in. He spears him from behind and Nishimura grabs a facelock, but Nakanishi suplexes out of it. Nishimura keeps coming, trying a sleeper, and holding on through a throw attempt. He even holds on after a suplex. They head out, with Nishimura STILL hanging on. They crawl back in, with Nishimura still clinging on, until Nakanishi finally falls back to break. Nishimura with the enzuigiri and he goes up with a flying knee to Nakanishi’s knee, and a figure-four. Nakanishi breaks and goes to the spinning toehold and clawhold, then releases and drops an elbow for two. They slug it out and Nishimura gets the abdominal stretch, but Nakanishi makes the ropes. Another try and this time it’s the Octopus, but Nakanishi makes the ropes. Nishimura gets a figure-four now, but Nakanishi makes the ropes. Nakanishi pounds him down, setting up the Rack, but Nishimura counters to a bulldog for two. They headbutt each other and slug it out, and Nishimura goes down. Another try at the Rack, but Nishimura blocks with a headlock, into another sleeper, but Nakanishi breaks with a sideslam for two. Back to the Rack, but it’s a 30:00 draw. Somehow I’m not surprised. Really quite a disappointing match, as it seemed like it was finally going somewhere and then it just ended. I hate draws. ***

– Kensuke Sasaki v. Yoshihiro Takayama. More G1 Climax wackiness. They fight over a wristlock to start and Sasaki goes for the arm, but Takayama facelocks him and they slug it out, but both guys are surly and stuff and it doesn’t faze either one. They head out to the ramp and Sasaki powerslams him there, but that just annoys Takayama and comes back in for some scuffling. Sasaki pounds him in the corner and runs into him with a couple of knees, and a vertical suplex gets two. Takayama slaps him down, however, and drops an elbow for two. He kicks at the back and then kicks him down for two. Takayama heads to the ramp and then charges back into the ring with a high knee that knocks Sasaki back into the ring. He chokes him down and hits a high knee in the corner to set up a butterfly suplex for two. Another running knee, this one to the gut, puts Sasaki down, and the ref gives him the count. Sasaki fights up with a lariat and slugs away on him, then takes him down with a judo throw, but gets booted. Takayama misses a legdrop and Sasaki gets the Scorpion deathlock, but Takayama makes the ropes. They slug it out in crazy fashion, progressing from punches to boots, and just keep sucking up punishment until Takayama tries a high knee and gets slammed. Sasaki hits him with a lariat and finishes with the Northern Lights Bomb at 12:12. Good hard-hitting match. ***1/4

– Osamu Nishimura v. Masahiro Chono. This appears to be JIP. Also from the G1 Climax. Nishimura gets a suplex off a knucklelock and they work on the mat, as Chono takes him down and they fight over a leglock. Chono surfboards him, but Nishimura reverses the move (after a few tries, which makes the end result more satisfying) and he switches to a half-nelson, but can’t get the abdominal stretch. Back to the test of strength, but Chono gets a cheapshot and stomps him down into the corner, then undoes the turnbuckle. I didn’t even think you could do that with the NJ ones. He whips Nishimura into the cold, unforgiving steel and they end up on the floor. Chono pounds on him and sends him into the post, and back in he gets a neckbreaker for two. He pounds away on the neck, but a slam is reversed to an inside cradle for two. Chono tries the Yakuza kick, but walks into a sleeper as a result. Nishimura whips him into the exposed turnbuckle, and then dumps him and crotches him on the railing. Back in, Nishimura knees him down for one. Figure-four, but Chono makes the ropes, so Nishimura pops up while he’s still recovering, drops a knee from the top on his knee, and starts working a spinning toehold. Back to the figure-four, but Chono reverses this time. Nishimura uses his leverage to reverse BACK, however, putting him in control again. Nice. Chono rolls to the ropes to finally break, but Nishimura keeps up the momentum and rolls with him to the floor, still in the hold. Very cool. Chono finally escapes and they head back in, as he starts hitting Russian legsweeps, but Nishimura reverses one into the abdominal stretch, so Chono reverses that into one of his own. Nishimura forearms him and gets the Octopus, but both guys collapse before any damage is done. Nishimura with a sunset flip for two, reversed for two, reversed for two, reversed for two, reversed for two, reversed for two. Now it’s back to the lockup again as Chono takes him down with a single-leg into the STF, but Nishimura is too slippery. They criss-cross and Chono boots him, but Nishimura catches him with the abdominal stretch, which Chono hiptosses out of. Back to the STF for Chono, but he’s still too slippery, and time expires at 30:00 (20:42 shown). Slow start, but the stuff with the reversals and figure-fours were gold. ***3/4

– Hiroyoshi Tenzan v. Yoshihiro Takayama. Tenzan lays him out and drops the headbutt off the top before the bell, and gets two. They slug it out, as Tenzan is apparently in a bad mood, and he pounds Takayama down for two. Takayama comes back with some vicious high kicks that send Tenzan into the corner, and he chokes away with the boot. They exchange more shots and Tenzan goes all ground-n-pound on him and rakes the eyes. He starts chopping and knees away in the corner, driving his boot into Takayama’s face. Like he NEEDS to get any uglier. He goes up, but Takayama slams him off and drops a leg. That gets two. More stiff kicks and a high knee in the corner get two. We hit the chinlock. Another big kick gets two. Takayama fires off more high kicks, but Tenzan headbutts him down and works on the knee. Takayama takes a powder to regroup, but gets knocked off the apron. Tenzan tries a suplex back in, but Takayama fights him and they argue over that forever until Tenzan finally wins the battle of wills. He stomps away and gets a lariat, but Takayama won’t go down. He keeps slugging, no help. Takayama blocks a slam and gets one of his own, but Tenzan gets a northern lights suplex and another lariat for two. Buffalo Sleeper, but Takayama breaks free , so Tenzan tries another lariat. Nothing there, so he slams him and goes up, and drops a headbutt for two. Another slam is blocked, and Takayama gets a high kick, but Tenzan keeps pounding with the double-chops and rakes the eyes. A headbutt to the gut and a leg lariat finally put Takayama down again, and it gets two. Moonsault misses, but Takayama charges and gets caught with a samoan drop. He no-sells, however, and hammers Tenzan down again, and gets the Shining Wizard and german suplex to finish at 13:25. Kinda disappointing, actually. **3/4

– Shinjiro Ohtani v. Tetsuhiro Kuroda. This is the finals of the Zero-One Fire Festival tournament, and I’m not familiar with Kuroda, but he’s got Taka with him, so he must be cool. Ohtani gives him the slap to start, just to put him in his place, but Kuroda has the audacity to slap back. He’ll PAY for that. They do the test of strength and Kuroda rides him down, but Ohtani grabs a headlock and turns it into a headscissors. Kuroda escapes and starts working on the knee, and they have a slapping match, and Ohtani loses? This cannot be abided. Kuroda gets a back elbow and figure-four, but Ohtani reverses it. Kuroda makes the ropes and pounds him, so Ohtani bitchslaps him and hangs him in the Tree of Woe, then baseball slides him, but misses. Kuroda posts the knee a few times and DDTs him on the floor. Oh man, I hope Ohtani makes this guy pay. He gets one of those lariats from 50 feet away that the Japanese love so much, and they head back in. Ohtani is bleeding from a previous cut, by the way. Kuroda works on the cut in the corner, giving him his own boot-rakes! How can you let this happen, Shinjiro? Kuroda pounds him with forearms and chokes away in the corner, and hits the chinlock. Back to the corner for a Nash choke, and a corner clothesline. Another charge hits boot, and Ohtani gets a tornado DDT and running boot in the corner. And NOW it’s boot-raking time, as he gives Kuroda some shoe leather to the face, with MUSTARD on it. Springboard dropkick misses, however, and Kuroda gets a lariat for two. Corner clothesline and northern lights suplex get two. He goes up but gets caught by Ohtani, and then compensates by necksnapping Ohtani on the top rope. He misses a clothesline and Ohtani gets a german that drops him right on his head, and a powerbomb into a half-crab. He’s too dumb to accept defeat and tap out, forcing Ohtani to pull him back from the ropes, before making it there on his own. Ohtani ducks an enzuigiri and gets the Tazzmission, but Kuroda makes the ropes. Another try, but Kuroda goes low and gets a lariat for two. Ohtani is dead weight, so he tries another pin and gets two. Rolling germans get two. They exchange slaps and then Ohtani starts throwing high kicks, but a lariat puts him down, and Kuroda gets two. He slugs Ohtani down, but another try at a lariat is reversed to a dragon suplex, and this time he gets the springboard dropkick. Kuroda no-sells it, however, and a running lariat gets two. Ohtani dropkicks him down again and a Ligerbomb gets two. Dragon suplex finishes at 17:53. I told you slapping Ohtani was a bad idea. The match was all Ohtani. ***1/2

– Yuji Nagata v. Manabu Nakanishi. Back to the G1 Climax again. Nakanishi attacks at the bell and stomps Nagata into oblivion in the corner, but gets kicked down as a result. So they start again, and do the test of strength, and Nakanishi takes him down into an armbar. Nagata rolls out of it and takes him down with a headlock, but Nakanishi goes back to the arm again with a standing armbar that turns into a headlock. Nagata uses that moment to reverse into his own armbar, and that turns into a cross-armlock when Nakanishi tries to counter. And we’re back to square one. Nagata takes him down, but Nakanishi chops away and gets two. He goes to a facelock, but Nagata slugs out of it and they go toe-to-toe until Nakanishi drops first from a high kick. Nagata lays in the kicks on the mat, but Nakanishi suplexes him and drops the leg for two, brother. He goes to a neck vice and starts headbutting, and the big Andre knee to the head and kneedrop get two. They exchange kicks and Nagata gets the Nagatalock out of nowhere, but Nakanishi makes the ropes. He comes back and clips Nagata until he falls, and gets the spinning toehold and trash-talking combo. Nagata makes the ropes, however, so Nakanishi keeps stomping the knee, necessitating an enzuigiri from Nagata to cool things down. Running boot in the corner and they head up, but Nakanishi gets a clawhold to send Nagata crashing down, and follows him down with a flying chop. Lariat and he’s coming back, and he gets the Rack, but Nagata counters with a sleeper, so Nakanishi flips out of it. Exploider from Nagata, but Nakanishi no-sells and gets his own. Back to the Rack, but now Nagata knees out of it and gets another enzuigiri. He won’t go down, so another one. Still standing, and now he’s chopping, so Nagata gets an overhead suplex for one. Crossface, but Nakanishi escapes and gets the clawhold. Nagata tries the high kicks, but he won’t go down. Nakanishi spears him twice, but a third one is blocked with a guillotine choke. That gets two. Exploider gets two. Crossface, but he makes the ropes. Nagata goes for another Exploider, but Nakanishi shocks him (and me) with a german suplex for upset win at 17:19! Way to go, man! ***1/2

– Kensuke Sasaki v. Hiroyoshi Tenzan. We finish things off with another G1 Climax match. Tenzan grabs a headlock and they fight over shoulderblocks, but Tenzan opts to clothesline him instead. He headbutts him down and hammers away, but Sasaki fires back with chops. They fight over a suplex, which Sasaki gets, and then they go with the test of strength. Sasaki turns it into a wristlock and takes him to the mat while working on the arm, but Tenzan reverses to a headlock. Sasaki takes him to the mat and they exchange shots there, but when Tenzan is up Sasaki chops him down again and slams him for two. They slug it out and Tenzan gets a leg lariat for two. He goes up rides him down with the knee for two. Lariat doesn’t budge Sasaki, who comes back with a dropkick and Cactus Clothesline that puts both guys out. Back in, Sasaki gets the judo throw for two. One-armed powerbomb gets two. Scorpion Deathlock, but Tenzan powers out and hammers away. He blocks a chop, however, which further injures Sasaki’s arm, and he starts going to work on it. He gets an armbreaker and headbutts him on the mat for two. Samoan drop and he goes up for a diving headbutt that gets two. Buffalo Sleeper gets two. Moonsault misses, however, and Sasaki knocks him down and bulldogs him. Lariat gets two. Another one gets two. Northern Lights Bomb is blocked by Tenzan, and they collide while trying lariats, as Tenzan is left energized. Tenzan Driver and a cross-armlock, but he can’t get it cinched. Nonetheless, the referee stops the match at 15:52 and deems Sasaki unable to continue. Kind of plodding and slow. **1/2

The Bottom Line: Nothing terribly spectacular on this volume, although Ohtani has some fun matches in the Fire Festival tournament and Tanahashi really earned his stripes in my book. Plus I loved the Kojima-Tenryu title match.

More G1 Climax coming next volume! Can I finish this set before 2003 is over? Stay tuned!

And don’t forget to head over to for all your puro tape needs, including this set and many others, in video or DVD format.

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