Date: August 8th, 1998
Location: Osaka Dome, Japan
Announced Attendance: 45,000
I decided to try to have at least one review from each year for New Japan, and so we start with 1998. This is right before New Japan was dramatically changed with the invasion of MMA fighters, and this is one of the last “pure” major shows that used mostly contracted New Japan wrestlers. Inoki had retired a few months prior to this which is why he is completely absent from the card, and since by now WCW was sending wrestlers far less often there is surprisingly not a single American wrestler on the event. The main event would see Masahiro Chono battling the aging Fujinami to try to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for the first time in his career. Here is the full card:
– El Samurai vs. Kendo Kashin
– Kazuo Yamazaki and Osamu Nishimura vs. Takashi Iizuka and Tadao Yasuda
– Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Shiro Koshinaka
– Manabu Nakanishi and Satoshi Kojima vs. Yuji Nagata and Kazuyuki Fujita
– Great Muta and Great Kabuki vs. Tatsutoshi Goto and Michiyoshi Ohara
– Great Sasuke vs. Jushin Thunder Liger
– Don Frye vs. Kensuke Sasaki
– IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Koji Kanemoto and Dr. Wagner Jr. vs. Shinjiro Otani and Tatsuhito Takaiwa
– J-1 Heavyweight Championship: Genichiro Tenryu vs. Shinya Hashimoto
– IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Masahiro Chono
New Japan, per usual, showed the card out of order so I put it back how it was seen by the live crowd.
El Samurai vs. Kendo Kashin
Battle of the masked wrestlers! Tie-up to start, Kashin goes for the cross armbreaker, but El Samurai gets out of it and rolls him up for two. Snapmares by El Samurai, but Kashin gets out of each one and both wrestlers are back on their feet. Snapmare by El Samurai, and he applies a reverse chinlock on the mat. Kashin gets to his feet, but El Samurai pulls him back down and keeps the hold applies. Kashin finally gets out of it and goes for his cross armbreaker, but El Samurai blocks it. El Samurai goes for a crab hold, but Kashin spins his way out of it and stomps El Samurai in the head. Kashin picks up El Samurai, snapmare, he applies the cross armbreaker but El Samurai manages to lock his hands together and get a foot on the bottom rope. Stomp to the head by Kashin and he hits an armbreaker. Uppercut by Kashin, but El Samurai comes back with an elbow, sending Kashin to the mat. El Samurai picks up Kashin and throws him into the corner before stomping him down to a seated position. Choke by El Samurai and he hits a neckbreaker. Cover, but it gets a two count. El Samurai applies a reverse chinlock on the mat and rakes Kashin in the eyes. El Samurai picks up Kashin and goes for the powerbomb, but El Samurai backdrops out of it. Again Kashin goes for the cross armbreaker, first on one arm and then the other arm, but El Samurai blocks it. Stomps by Kashin, but El Samurai comes back and knees Kashin against the ropes. Piledriver by El Samurai, cover, but it gets a two count. El Samurai applies a chinlock, but Kashin struggles to his feet and kicks El Samurai in the arm. Kashin applies a stretch hold to El Samurai and he goes for an armbar, but El Samurai reverses it with a head scissors. Mounted punches by El Samurai, Irish whip, Kashin avoids the first lariat attempt but not the second one. El Samurai brings Kashin to the corner and gets on the second rope before nailing the tornado DDT. Powerbomb by El Samurai, cover, but it only gets a two count. El Samurai picks up Kashin and throws him into the corner. El Samurai puts Kashin onto the top turnbuckle, but Kashin hits him low as he goes for the Frankensteiner. Jumping lariat by Kashin from the turnbuckle, cover, but it gets a two count. Irish whip by Kashin from the corner, reversed, but Kashin catches El Samurai coming in and puts him on the top turnbuckle. Kashin goes for his top turnbuckle cross armbreaker, but El Samurai jumps off and connects with a lariat. El Samurai picks up Kashin, goes to the top turnbuckle and applies a choke, Kashin gets him off, but El Samurai hits a snapmare followed by a reverse DDT. El Samurai charges Kashin, but Kashin grabs him and puts him on the top turnbuckle. He goes for the cross armbreaker again, but El Samurai pushes him off. Kashin applies a crab hold instead, but El Samurai gets a hand on the bottom rope. Again Kashin puts El Samurai on the top turnbuckle, this time he manages to throw El Samurai off and quickly locks in the cross armbreaker for the submission! Your winner: Kendo Kashin
Match Thoughts: This match… was not good. Besides the botched ending (they had to re-do the spot, I was nice about it in the play by play but that is clearly what happened), these two didn’t click very well at all which was a bit surprising. I understand that the cross armbreaker is Kashin’s finisher, but he must have gone for it 10 times from start to finish which was a bit excessive… most wrestlers would have tried to wear down the arm first. Overall it was disappointing. Score: 3.4
Kazuo Yamazaki and Osamu Nishimura vs. Takashi Iizuka and Tadao Yasuda
Nishimura and Yasuda start things off. Nishimura goes for a low kick, but Yasuda steps out of the way. Stomps by Yasuda, he applies a side headlock, Nishimura Irish whips out of it but Yasuda shoulderblocks him down. Back up, they go into a Test of Strength, Yasuda pushes Nishimura to he mat but Nishimura bridges his way back up and suplexes Yasuda down. Punches by Yasuda and he hits a scoop slam. Yasuda picks up Nishimura, but Nishimura quickly applies an abdominal stretch. Yasuda flings Nishimura down to get out of it, but Nishimura gets it re-applied. Iizuka comes in to break it up however, and Nishimura tags in Yamazaki. Yasuda catches a Yamazaki roundhouse kick and tags in Iizuka. Tie-up, waistlock by Yamazaki and he hits a snapmare, the two trade moves and they both end up back on their feet. Waistlock by Iizuka, reversed by Yamazaki, Iizuka applies an chickenwing armlock and drops Yamazaki to the mat. Yamazaki gets out of it and applies a wristlock, reversed by Iizuka, but Yamazaki rolls him up and applies a leg lock. Iizuka quickly gets to the ropes however and Yamazaki breaks the hold. Back up, Yamazaki goes for a single leg takedown but Iizuka blocks it and applies an arm submission hold. Yamazaki gets a foot on the ropes, Iizuka picks him up but Yamazaki applies an armbar. Wristlock by Yamazaki and he tags in Nishimura. Nishimura takes over the wristlock, but Iizuka pushes him back and tags in Yasuda. Stomps by Yasuda in the corner, snapmare, and he connects with an elbow drop. Cover, but it gets a two count. Yasuda goes for a crab hold, but Nishimura reverses it with an ankle lock. Yasuda gets to the ropes after a moment and Nishimura tags in Yamazaki.
Yamazaki picks up Yasuda and kicks him repeatedly in the leg. Dragon screw leg whip by Yamazaki and he twists on Yasuda’s ankle until Yasuda grabs the bottom rope. Kick to the leg by Yamazaki and he tags in Nishimura. Nishimura goes back to the leg and applies a submission hold, but Yasuda wiggles to his corner and tags in Iizuka. Iizuka and Nishimura trade strikes, with Iizuka getting the better of it. Iizuka goes for a uranage, but Nishimura grabs the top rope to stop from going over. Stomps by Iizuka against the ropes, Irish whip, and he delivers a dropkick. Nishimura avoids another uranage attempt and applies a sleeper, Iizuka tries to get out of it but Nishimura takes him to the mat. Iizuka struggles to his feet and delivers a backdrop suplex. Uranage by Iizuka, cover, but it gets a to two count. Iizuka goes off the ropes, but Nishimura catches him with an Octopus Hold. Iizuka hiptosses out of it and Nishimura tags in Yamazaki. Kicks to the back and legs by Yamazaki, but Iizuka grabs him and hits a uranage. This gives him time to tag in Yasuda, Yasuda slaps Yamazaki into the corner, Irish whip, and he hits a splash followed by a butterfly suplex. Cover, but it gets a two count. Irish whip by Yasuda, Yamazaki catches his kick attempt by Yasuda connects with an enzigieri. Yasuda picks up Yamazaki and goes for the Tiger Driver, but Nishimura goes to the top rope and hits a missile dropkick before he can hit the move. Iizuka comes in and dropkicks Nishimura and he gives Yamazaki a backdrop suplex. Yasuda is back up, he picks up Yamazaki, but Yamazaki reverses the Tiger Driver attempt into a cross armbreaker. Yasuda keeps his arms linked however for a moment and attempts to powerbomb Yamazaki, but Yamazaki finally gets the move fully applied and picks up the three count! Your winners: Kazuo Yamazaki and Osamu Nishimura
Match Thoughts: Pretty ho-hum. Somehow this is the first match I think I have seen of Yasuda… wasn’t impressed too much. They seemed to just be going through the motions, besides Nishimura’s clever ways of getting out of the uranage there really wasn’t much of note that happened. The cross armbreaker was the move of the year in New Japan, as in almost every match a wrestler as gone for it. While it is a respected finisher, I really don’t like it picking up the win when literally no work was done on the arm, especially considering that Iizuka was chilling on the apron and didn’t bother to come help. I wasn’t expecting much and that is exactly what I got, just filler. Score: 4.2
Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Shiro Koshinaka
Tie-up to start, Koshinaka gets Tenzan into the ropes and he gives a clean break. Tie-up again, waistlock by Tenzan and he takes Koshinaka to the mat. Tenzan applies a reverse chinlock and he rakes Koshinaka in the eyes. Chop by Tenzan, but Koshinaka quickly gets back to his feet. Kick to the stomach by Koshinaka and he hits a series of headbutts. Tenzan comes back with Mongolian chops however and Koshinaka falls to the mat. Back up, side headlock by Tenzan, Koshinaka Irish whips out of it but Tenzan shoulderblocks him to the mat. Tenzan goes off the ropes, leap frog by Koshinaka, but Tenzan avoids the monkey flip and connects with a falling headbutt. Tenzan picks up Koshinaka, scoop slam, and he chops Koshinaka in the chest. Back up, chops by Tenzan, but Koshinaka comes back with a headbutt. Tenzan headbutts him back, but Koshinaka goes off the ropes and hits a hip attack. More hip attacks by Koshinaka, he goes off the ropes and delivers a running one. Headscissors by Koshinaka, but Tenzan gets out of it and applies a leg lock. Reverse chinlock by Tenzan and he rakes Koshinaka in the face. Tenzan picks up Koshinaka and throws him into the corner. Chops by Tenzan, but Koshinaka fights back. Tenzan goes for a Mongolian chop, but Koshinaka blocks it and kicks Tenzan down. Koshinaka applies a reverse chinlock, but Tenzan hits a jawbreaker to get out of it. Headbutts by Tenzan and he hits a Mongolian chop. Tenzan goes for a suplex, Koshinaka tries to block it, but Tenzan hits it anyway. Tenzan then goes to the top turnbuckle, but Koshinaka joins him and delivers a superplex. Spinning heel kick by Tenzan, Koshinaka gets up quickly and goes for a hip attack, but Tenzan catches him in mid-air and hits a suplex. Irish whip by Tenzan to the corner, he hits a few Mongolian chops, goes to the top turnbuckle, and drives Koshinaka’s head into the mat with his knee. Cover, but it gets a two count. Tenzan picks up Koshinaka, Irish whip to the corner by Tenzan and he hits the Mountain Bomb. Cover, but again it gets a two count. Tenzan applies the Buffalo Sleeper, but Koshinaka kicks his way out of it. Stomp to the back by Tenzan, Irish whip, he goes for a powerslam, but Koshinaka reverses it with an inside cradle for a two count. Elbow drop by Tenzan, cover, but Koshinaka kicks out. Tenzan goes up to the top turnbuckle, but Koshinaka dropkicks him as he jumps off. German suplex by Koshinaka, he picks up Tenzan and nails a powerbomb. Cover, but it gets a two count. Koshinaka goes up to the top turnbuckle, waits for Tenzan to get up and jumps off to try a hip attack, but Tenzan hits a spinning heel kick to his back. Tenzan hits a pair of lariats, but when he goes off the ropes again Koshinaka catches him with a hip attack. Koshinaka picks up Tenzan, hits a powerbomb with a jackknife hold and picks up the three count! Your winner: Shiro Koshinaka
Match Thoughts: For someone that uses it has a finishing move, Koshinaka sure does hit some poor looking powerbombs. Koshinaka was one of the IWGP Tag Team Champions at this time, by the way, in case you were wondering why he won. I am glad he tacked on the jackknife hold because otherwise there would have been no real reason for that pin to work since Tenzan had controlled the match. Actually, Tenzan looked good here, I like him much better in short matches as he has an easier time maintaining the fire and emotion. For where it was on the card it was fine, I just wish Koshinaka was better at doing a powerbomb. Score: 6.3
Manabu Nakanishi and Satoshi Kojima vs. Yuji Nagata and Kazuyuki Fujita
This is back when Fujita was doing his best Scott Steiner impersonation. Nagata and Nakanishi start things off. Tie-up, waistlock by Nagata, reverses into a wristlock by Nakanishi but Nagata reverses it and hits a drop toehold. Elbow to the back of the head by Nagata but Nakanishi fires back with a forearm. They trade blows, with Nagata kicking Nakanishi in the leg until he falls to the mat. Nakanishi tackles Nagata however, scoop slam by Nakanishi and he tags in Kojima. Kick to the stomach by Kojima and he goes for a suplex, but Nagata reverses it into an armbar. Kojima quickly gets to the ropes, snapmare by Nagata and he kicks Kojima in the back. Nagata tags in Fujita, tie-up, side headlock by Fujita, Kojima Irish whips out of it but Fujita shoulderblocks him down. Scoop slam by Fujita, cover, but it gets a one count. Fujita grabs Kojima’s leg and kicks it before applying a leg lock. Single leg crab hold by Fujita, but Kojima makes it to the ropes. Fujita tags in Nagata, and Nagata pulls back on Kojima’s leg. Single leg takedown by Nagata and he applies an ankle lock. Kojima gets out of it however and stomps on Nagata repeatedly before tagging in Nakanishi. Clubs to the back by Nakanishi, but Nagata grabs his leg. Nakanishi quickly grabs the bottom rope, but Nagata gets him up and hits a belly to belly suplex. Nagata tags in Fujita, who kicks Nakanishi in the chest. Nakanishi fires back with a lariat however he picks up Fujita and tags in Kojima. Kojima comes off the top with an elbow drop, he picks up Fujita and forearms him in the face. Fujita comes back with a forearm of his own and the two trade shots. Fujita gets the better of it, he picks up Kojima and makes the tag to Nagata. Kicks by Nagata in the corner and he knees Kojima in the head. Enzigieri by Nagata, but Kojima fires back with a lariat. Kojima helps up Nagata, but Nagata thrusts him in the throat and hits an exploder.
Both wrestlers tag out, Irish whip by Nakanishi on Fujita and he connects with a jumping knee. Nakanishi goes off the ropes again and this time he hits a forearm. Argentine Backbreaker by Nakanishi, but Nagata comes in and breaks it up with a dragon screw leg whip. Fujita tags in Nagata, but Nakanishi delivers an overhead suplex. Argentine Backbreaker by Nakanishi on Nagata, Kojima cuts off Fujita, but Nagata wiggles out of it. Dropkick to the leg by Nagata and he kicks Nakanishi in the leg again. Nagata Lock by Nakanishi, Fujita holds back Kojima, but Kojima breaks free and frees his partner with an elbow drop. Kojima picks up Nakanishi, scoop slam, and Kojima hits a lariat. Kojima then hits Nakanishi for being useless before going to his corner. Nakanishi tags him in, Kojima goes off the ropes but Nagata catches him with a belly to belly suplex. Heel kick by Nagata and he tags in Fujita. Running shoulderblock by Fujita and he hits an overhead slam. Cover, but it gets a two count. Irish whip by Fujita, but Kojima ducks the lariat and hits the Koji Cutter. Kojima knocks Nagata off the apron, goes back to Fujita and chops him into the corner. Irish whip by Kojima and he hits the jumping elbow strike follows by a snapmare and elbow drop off the top turnbuckle. Cover, but Nagata breaks it up. Nagata then hits a backdrop suplex on Kojima before Nakanishi storms the ring and throws Nagata out. Nakanishi moves the mat out of the way on the outside and slams Nagata down onto the concrete. In the ring, Fujita hits a Frankensteiner on Kojima and he slaps on a cross armbreaker. Nakanishi breaks it up, but Nagata is back and he throws Nakanishi out of the ring. Jackhammer by Fujita on Kojima, cover, but Kojima barely kicks out. Fujita goes off the ropes, but Kojima catches him with a killer lariat. Cover, and Kojima picks up the three count! Your winners: Manabu Nakanishi and Satoshi Kojima
Match Thoughts: Not a bad match, but pretty basic. They never made too much of an effort to give the viewers a reason to care about the match, I thought they would do more with Kojima and Nakanishi apparently not getting along but they only had one confrontation and it was forgotten. The ending was sudden, as Fujita had hardly gotten hurt and was dishing out the big moves when he was suddenly pinned by a lariat. The wrestling action was solid and it was fun seeing pre-monster Fujita along with the other “future” stars of New Japan, but overall the match seemed pretty meaningless. Score: 5.6
Great Muta and Great Kabuki vs. Tatsutoshi Goto and Michiyoshi Ohara
Before the match both Muta and Kabuki spit mist into the air, but Goto and Ohara jump them when the bell rings. Muta is singled out in the ring as Ohara hits a vertical suplex. Muta rolls out to ring side and scares some fans before getting back into the ring. Muta and Ohara circle each other, tie-up, and Muta chops Ohara in the back of the head. Muta tags in Kabuki, Kabuki goes up to the second turnbuckle and hits a fist drop. Throat thrusts by Kabuki but Ohara rakes his eyes and tags in Goto. Goto punches Kabuki to the mat, picks him up and gives him multiple headbutts. Kicks to the midsection by Goto and he chops Kabuki against the ropes. Kabuki comes back with a throat thrust however and the two begin trading blows. Kabuki makes the tag to Muta, Irish whip by Muta but Goto kicks him when he goes for a back bodydrop and throws Muta out onto the ramp. Goto joins him on the rampway and hits a piledriver. He then runs all the way up the ramp and charges back, hitting Muta with a lariat. Back in the ring, Irish whip by Goto, but Muta rolls out of the way of the lariat attempt and connects with a dropkick. Muta throws Goto onto the ramp, hits a face crusher, goes up the rampway and charges back with a lariat of his own. Muta tosses Goto back in the ring and makes the tag to Kabuki. Irish whip by Kabuki and he hits a shoulderblock. Cover, but it gets a two count.
Goto tags in Ohara, chops by Ohara and he hits a side slam. Ohara picks up Kabuki and headbutts him in the lower midsection. Cover, but it gets a two count. Ohara tags in Goto, lariat by Goto with a cover, but it gets another two count. Goto throws Kabuki into the corner and tags Ohara back in. Headbutts by Ohara but Kabuki comes back with a throat thrust. Ohara hits a throat thrust of his own, Irish whip, but Kabuki catches him with a savate kick and makes the tag to Muta. Irish whip by Muta to the corner on Ohara and he delivers his handstand elbow strike followed by a face crusher. Dragon leg screw whip by Muta, Ohara rolls out of the ring but Muta quickly follows him. Muta throws Ohara onto a table, picks him up and hits a piledriver as the table collapses. Muta tosses Ohara back into the ring, goes onto the top turnbuckle and goes for a chop, but Ohara catches him with a chokeslam. Ohara tags in Goto, and Muta makes the tag to Kabuki. Goto knocks down Kabuki with a lariat, Kabuki gets up and Goto hits another one. Double Irish whip to Kabuki and they drop Kabuki throat-first onto the top rope. Goto picks up Kabuki and hits a backdrop suplex, cover, but Muta breaks it up with a steel chair shot. Ohara runs in and hits a jumping lariat on Muta, gets the chair, and hits Kabuki with it. Ohara goes for a powerbomb on Muta, but Muta spits the red mist in his face as he gets him in the air! Backdrop suplex by Goto on Kabuki, he goes up to the top turnbuckle, but as he jumps off both Muta and Kabuki spray mist at him! Face crusher by Muta on Goto, Kabuki waits for Goto to get up and he nails the lariat! Cover, and he picks up the three count. Your winners: Great Muta and Great Kabuki
Post match: Kabuki gives a speech as this was (at the time) his last apperance in New Japan before retiring. Backstage afterwards, Muta can be heard saying (in English) “I miss Daddy. Where Kabuki? I love you! I miss you!” Isn’t that sweet?
Match Thoughts: While lacking quality in-ring action, this match was about so much more then that. When Muta debuted, he was billed as Great Kabuki’s son. The two had a few battles in the early 90s and also were once a tag team called the Rising Suns. This was during Kabuki’s retirement tour, which he mostly kept to after his official retirement show in 1999. At this point Kabuki was 50 years old but he still had presence in the ring and even though he was slower he didn’t look too bad. For historical significance this was a necessary match and one that the crowd really enjoyed, so it certainly belonged on the show even if it wasn’t a technical masterpiece. Score: 6.0
Great Sasuke vs. Jushin Thunder Liger
I wish I knew why this match was happening, but its hard to find information from 1998. Liger ducks a Sasuke heel kick to start the match, but Sasuke avoids the shotei and kicks Liger out of the ring. Sasuke goes off the far ropes and sails out onto Liger with a somersault tope suicida! Sasuke is up first and gets back in the ring, with Liger slowly following. Sasuke grabs Liger, snapmare, but Liger reverses it. Double leg takedown by Sasuke but Liger kicks him off. Drop toehold by Sasuke and he applies a reverse chinlock on the mat. Sasuke goes for the cross armbreaker, but Liger gets out of it and applies a side headlock. Sasuke makes it to the ropes, so Liger stomps him in the chest. Kick to the back of the head by Liger and he kicks Sasuke out of the ring. Sasuke takes a minute to recuperate before getting back into the ring, but Liger is waiting and applies an armbar. Sasuke reverses it with a leg lock and goes for a choke, but Liger gets out of it and applies a seated armbar. Stomps to the back of the head by Liger, Irish whip, and he delivers a running elbow. Backdrop suplex by Liger, cover, but it gets a two count. Liger goes for a cross armbreaker, but Sasuke gets a foot on the bottom rope. Sasuke rolls out to the ramp and down to the floor, but after a moment returns to the ring. Liger grabs Sasuke and delivers a brainbuster, cover, but Sasuke kicks out at two. Chickenwing armlock by Liger, but Sasuke gets a foot under the ropes and Liger eventually breaks the hold. Liger toys with Sasuke before stomping him repeatedly in the back of the head. Liger picks up Sasuke and yanks down on his arm. Choke by Liger against the ropes and he kicks Sasuke out of the ring. Sasuke climbs back in, but Liger kicks him in the ribs as soon as he does so. Arm breaker by Liger and he rakes Sasuke in the eyes. Another armbreaker by Liger, he grabs Sasuke, but Sasuke blocks the third one and headbutts him in the back of the head. Piledriver by Sasuke, cover, but it barely gets a one count.
Sasuke picks up Liger, scoop slam, he goes to the top turnbuckle and nails his beautiful somersault senton. Cover, but it gets a two count. Sasuke goes to the top turnbuckle again, but Liger is up and he pushes Sasuke off the turnbuckle down to the floor. Liger quickly joins him on the outside and delivers a brainbuster on the floor. Liger mocks Sasuke in the ring as Sasuke slowly gets to his feet and crawls back in. Irish whip by Liger to the corner and he nails the Liger Kick. Cover, but Sasuke barely kicks out. Another Irish whip to the corner and Liger shotei’s Sasuke in the back of the head. Stomps by Liger, but the referee gets him to stop as Sasuke is under the ropes. Liger taunts a Michinoku Pro wrestler at ringside, picks up Sasuke for a Liger Bomb, but Sasuke hurricanranas his way out of it. A dropkick by Sasuke sends Liger out of the ring, Sasuke goes out to the apron and nails an Asai Moonsault, with him landing on the other side of the guard rail. Both wrestlers are slow to get up, but Sasuke is up first and he rolls Liger into the ring. German suplex hold by Sasuke, but it gets a two count. Sasuke picks up Liger, scoop slam, he goes up top the top turnbuckle but Liger easily rolls out of the way of the 450 backflip. Liger grabs Sasuke, nails the Liger Bomb, cover, but Sasuke somehow kicks out. Irish whip by Liger from the corner and he delivers a shotei. He then puts Sasuke onto the top turnbuckle, joins him, and hits the Fishermans Buster down to the mat. Cover by Liger, but Sasuke again barely kicks out. Liger taunts Sasuke, but Sasuke catches him with a kick and rolls him up for two. Small package by Sasuke, but again he gets a two count. Shotei by Liger, cover, but he also can only get a two count. Liger picks up Sasuke and goes for a Liger Bomb, but Sasuke reverses it with a hurricanrana and picks up the three count! Your winner: Great Sasuke
Match Thoughts: I have no idea why Liger was bringing the hate, but he certainly was the heel in this match which surprised me a bit. From taunting to eye raking to refusing to let go of holds, Liger made sure the crowd was pulling for Sasuke, and it worked. Even though Liger was champion, this was not a title match…. Sasuke would get his shot the following month. Anyway, I really enjoyed the match, it was completely different from their 1994 J Cup match… this was about Liger trying to kill Sasuke and Sasuke knowing he was over-matched. By the end Sasuke was just rolling Liger up and trying to win any way he could after taking several of Liger’s big moves. Fun stuff, Liger brings the best out of Sasuke. Score: 7.5
Don Frye vs. Kensuke Sasaki
Tie-up to start and Frye arm drags Sasaki to the mat. Lariat by Sasaki, and he delivers another one. Sasaki approaches Frye, but Frye slaps on a leg lock. Sasaki makes it to the ropes however and Frye eventually breaks the hold after the referee pries him off. Tie-up, headbutts by Frye and he connects with an arm drag. Frye mounts Sasaki and goes for the cross armbreaker, but Sasaki gets a foot onto the ropes. Again Frye is slow to break the hold, but after a moment he does so. Double leg takedown by Frye and he hits a series of mounted punches, but Sasaki gets him off and applies a cross armbreaker. Frye manages to roll to the ropes however and now it is Sasaki that is slow to break the hold as the crowd roars with approval. Sleeperhold by Sasaki, but Frye reaches the ropes before he loses consciousness. Sasaki picks up Frye, flings him to the mat and goes back to the cross armbreaker, but Frye keeps his hands locked and bites Sasaki in the leg. Sasaki goes for a kick, but Frye catches it and hits a uranage. Frye positions himself on top of Sasaki and goes for the cross armbreaker, but Sasaki keeps his hands locked together. Frye decides to apply an ankle lock instead, but Sasaki rolls to the ropes and Frye breaks the hold after the referee steps in. STO by Sasaki and he clubs Frye, but Frye hits him low. New Japan wrestlers get on the apron in protest, Sasaki goes for a knee, but he misses and Frye holds him down on the mat. They end up in the ropes, Frye gets up first but Sasaki grabs him and hits a backdrop suplex. Sasaki goes off the ropes and nails a lariat, he picks up Frye but Frye quickly grabs the top rope. Again the referee tries to break them up but they start swinging wildly at each other. Another low blow by Frye, and this time the referee calls for the bell. Your winner by DQ: Kensuke Sasaki
Post match: Frye continues pounding on Sasaki until New Japan wrestlers come in to help. A melee breaks out between Sasaki’s group and Frye’s group, but they are eventually separated even though Nagata in particular was livid. Sasaki is bleeding as he leaves the ring from cuts over his left eye and on his forehead.
Match Thoughts: Man was Sasaki’s face messed up after the match, either he went crazy with the blade or Frye stiffed him a few times for dramatic effect. In New Japan I have never seen a wrestler as hated as Frye… I don’t know how he did it but he gets booed unmercifully. Seeing him constantly cheat as the crowd was worked into a frenzy was really fun to watch. It wasn’t much of a match, more of an angle, but it was an angle that went over incredibly well. They were sloppy at times and there weren’t any near falls, but they got the message across and did a lot to continue building up Frye. Very well done by New Japan. Score: 6.8
Koji Kanemoto and Dr. Wagner Jr. vs. Shinjiro Otani and Tatsuhito Takaiwa
This match is to crown the first ever IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions. Kanemoto and Otani start the match. Tie-up to start, Kanemoto gets Otani into the corner and he gives a clean break. Kicks to the leg by Kanemoto and Otani falls down to the mat. Kanemoto goes off the ropes but Otani catches him with a dropkick. Running kick to the head by Otani and he delivers a second one. Otani picks up Kanemoto, he goes off the ropes but Kanemoto kicks him in the head as he approaches. Kicks in the corner by Kanemoto, scoop slam, he goes for a corkscrew senton but Otani moves out of the way. Choke by Otani in the corner and he stomps Kanemoto down to a seated position. Boot scrapes by Otani and he nails the running kick as well. Otani throws Kanemoto back into the corner and scrapes his boot against his face again. Choke by Otani in the corner but Kanemoto muscles out of it and kicks Otani repeatedly in the back. Kanemoto picks up Otani and goes for a suplex, Otani lands on his feet and both wrestlers kick each other down. At a stalemate, both wrestlers tag out. Wagner and Takaiwa circle each other, tie-up, Wagner gets Takaiwa into the ropes and he gives a clean break. Tie-up again, chops by Takaiwa but Wagner chops him back. A forearm by Takaiwa knocks Wagner down, snapmare by Takaiwa and he applies a reverse chinlock. Wagner reverses it with a wristlock, but Takaiwa reverses that into a wristlock of his own. Monkey flip by Wagner to get out of the hold and both men are back up again. Wristlock by Wagner and they go into a Test of Strength. Wagner gets Takaiwa to the mat, but Takaiwa bridges up. Takaiwa gets in the mount position and punches Wagner in the face before applying a side headlock. Wagner Irish whips out of it but Takaiwa shoulderblocks him down. Takaiwa picks up Wagner and tags in Kanemoto, who comes in the ring with a knee drop.
Otani picks up Wagner, but Wagner pushes Otani backwards and makes the tag to Kanemoto. Kicks to the chest by Kanemoto and he finishes Otani with a dropkick. Now Kanemoto holds Otani for Wagner, who dropkicks Otani right in the face. Uppercut by Kanemoto, but Otani comes back with a spin kick and tags in Takaiwa. Scoop slam by Takaiwa on Kanemoto and he hits a knee drop. Takaiwa holds Kanemoto for Otani and Otani dropkicks Kanemoto in the face. Takaiwa and Otani stomp on Kanemoto, Takaiwa picks him up and goes for a backdrop suplex, Kanemoto blocks it so Takaiwa applies a reverse chinlock. Kanemoto gets out of the hold though and makes the tag to Wagner. Irish whip by Wagner and he delivers a dropkick. Reverse chinlock by Wagner and he clubs Takaiwa in the back. Scoop slam by Wagner, he goes to the apron and hits a slingshot senton. Cover, but Takaiwa kicks out. Wagner picks up Takaiwa and tags Kanemoto back into the match. Kicks to the chest by Kanemoto, but Takaiwa catches one and connects with a lariat. Takaiwa tags in Otani, scoop slam by Takaiwa and Otani hits a somersault senton. Cover, but it gets a two count. Otani sets Kanemoto up in the corner and hits a dropkick. Choke by Otani, he picks up Kanemoto and tags in Takaiwa. Brainbuster by Takaiwa and he kicks Kanemoto in the chest. Back up, side headlock by Takaiwa, Kanemoto Irish whips out of it and the two collide with neither man going down. They trade chops, Irish whip by Kanemoto but Takaiwa catches him when he goes for a leap frog and slams him to the mat. Short armed lariats by Takaiwa, but when he charges Kanemoto he is caught with an overhead suplex. Scoop slam by Kanemoto in front of the corner and he delivers his corkscrew senton. Kanemoto tags in Wagner, chops by Wagner in the corner, Irish whip, reversed, and Takaiwa hits a lariat. Scoop slam by Takaiwa, he goes up to the top turnbuckle but Wagner rolls out of the way of the elbow drop. Roll-up by Wagner, but it only gets a two count. Wagner goes off the ropes and hits a somersault senton, he picks up Takaiwa and nails the Michinoku Driver II. Cover, but Otani breaks it up. Kanemoto runs in to take care of Otani, Wagner picks up Takaiwa and (in one of the coolest double team moves EVER) he delivers a Black Tiger Bomb while Kanemoto hits a missile dropkick from the top turnbuckle! Cover by Wagner, but Otani breaks it up. Kanemoto slaps Otani out of the ring, Wagner goes up to the top turnbuckle but Takaiwa rolls out of the way of the somersault senton. This gives Takaiwa time to tag in Otani who comes in the ring with a springboard dropkick. Otani picks up Wagner, Irish whip, but Wagner hangs onto the ropes. German suplex hold by Otani, but it gets a two count. Otani goes for the dragon suplex, but Wagner grabs the top rope. Elbows by Wagner and he hits a spear. Takaiwa is still recovering outside the ring as Wagner drops Otani throat-first onto the top rope.
Wagner tags in Kanemoto, Wagner picks up Otani and puts him on his shoulders, Kanemoto then goes to the top turnbuckle and hits a reverse splash, sending Wagner to the mat. Kicks by Kanemoto, he picks up Otani and kicks him some more. He goes for the tiger suplex, but Otani reverses it with a release German suplex. Takaiwa is almost back on the apron, in case you were wondering. In the ring, Otani goes to his corner but no one is there, allowing Kanemoto to kick him from behind. Scoop slam by Kanemoto in front of the corner, he goes to the top turnbuckle and goes for a moonsault, but Otani gets his knees up. Takaiwa is finally back and Otani tags him in. Takaiwa picks up Kanemoto, hits two quick powerbombs without letting go, then picks him up a third time and plants him with a Death Valley Bomb. Cover, but Wagner breaks it up. Takaiwa lariats Wagner in the back of the head to send him out of the ring, Takaiwa goes off the ropes and levels Kanemoto with a lariat. Cover, but Kanemoto barely kicks out. Takaiwa goes up to the top turnbuckle, but Wagner comes over and stops him from jumping off. Kanemoto finally recovers, he joins Takaiwa up top and hits a Frankensteiner. Wagner takes care of Otani, moonsault by Kanemoto on Takaiwa, cover, but Takaiwa kicks out! Kanemoto and Wagner talk for a second, Kanemoto tags him in and Wagner dropkicks Takaiwa in the back. Wagner taunts Otani, goes off the ropes, but Takaiwa doesn’t even feel the lariat. Both wrestlers go off the ropes and hit lariats, but neither man goes down. Wagner goes off the ropes again, but Takaiwa catches him with a Death Valley Bomb. Takaiwa tags in Otani, Otani goes off the ropes, but Wagner delivers a lariat. Wagner picks up Otani, scoop slam, he goes to the top turnbuckle and hits the body press. Cover, but it gets a two count. Otani and Wagner both are slow to get up, Wagner grabs Otani and goes for the Michinoku Driver, but Takaiwa runs in and clubs him from behind. Takaiwa knocks Kanemoto off the apron as well, Otani goes out to the apron and delivers a springboard missile dropkick to Wagner. Dragon suplex hold by Otani, and he picks up the three count! Your winners and first champions: Shinjiro Otani and Tatsuhito Takaiwa
Match Thoughts: This match was amazing, just non-stop action from bell to bell as all four wrestlers brought their A game. At first I thought that Takaiwa wasn’t selling the awesome Black Tiger Bomb well enough since he tagged right out, but then he proceeded to stay on the floor the next five minutes unable to get into the ring to help Otani. There were a few small communication problems, which isn’t surprising considering a Luchador was in the match, but some of them made sense anyway (such as Kanemoto directing Wagner on how to do the double team moves) since Wagner and Kanemoto were kinda a thrown together team. The action here was brutally stiff at times, as everything from the Michinoku Driver to the boot scrapes to the Death Valley Bombs looked killer. Takaiwa and Otani celebrating afterwards showed that the new belts actually meant something and it was a good way to bring a new championship to New Japan. Score: 8.6
(c) Genichiro Tenryu vs. Shinya Hashimoto
This match is for the J-1 Heavyweight Championship. They circle each other to start, chops to the chest by Hashimoto but Tenryu punches him to the mat. Hashimoto rolls out of the ring to re-group but Tenryu goes off the ropes and jumps out of the ring with a forearm suicida. Chop by Tenryu and he throws Hashimoto over the guard rail. Tenryu joins him on the other side and backdrops him through a table. Tenryu walks back towards the ring, but Hashimoto catches up with him and clubs him as he goes through the ropes. Kicks by Hashimoto in the ring and he chops Tenryu in the corner. Hashimoto applies an armbar, but Tenryu gets a boot on the bottom rope. Back up, chops to the chest by Hashimoto but Tenryu comes back with a guh punch. Tenryu and Hashimoto trade shots, with both men refusing to go down. A guh punch finally does the trick and Tenryu chops Hashimoto into the corner. Sumo slaps by Tenryu but Hashimoto fires back with chops and Tenryu hits the mat. Back up, they continue trading strikes, Hashimoto goes off the ropes and chops Tenryu right in the shoulder. Tenryu drops to one knee and Hashimoto kicks him hard in the chest. Tenryu finally blocks a chop and hits a few guh punches before sending Hashimoto reeling with an enzigieri. Another enzigieri by Tenryu and he mostly hits a tiger driver for a two count cover. Tenryu picks up Hashimoto and hits another enzigieri, but Hashimoto comes back with a heel kick. Both men slowly get up but Hashimoto connects with a leg sweep. Chops to the head by Hashimoto and he floors Tenryu with a kick to the chest.
Irish whip by Hashimoto from the corner but Tenryu ducks the spinning heel kick attempt. Tenryu goes up to the top turnbuckle but Hashimoto chops him before he can do anything. Hashimoto joins him but Tenryu slides down and throws Hashimoto to the mat. Cover, but it gets a two count. Enzigieri by Tenryu, he hits a scoop slam and goes to the top turnbuckle, but Hashimoto moves out of the way of the elbow drop. Now Hashimoto goes up to the top turnbuckle and delivers the elbow drop. Hashimoto picks up Tenryu and nails the DDT, cover, but it only gets a two count. Again Hashimoto drags Tenryu to his feet and he hits another DDT. Again he covers Tenryu, but it Tenryu kicks out. Hashimoto goes off the ropes and delivers a spinning heel kick, cover, but it gets a two count. After picking up Tenryu, Hashimoto goes for the brainbuster but Tenryu blocks it and hits a DDT of his own. Hashimoto is up first, he goes off the ropes and hits a dropkick. Cover, but Tenryu kicks out at two. Hashimoto goes off the ropes, but Tenryu catches him with a kick to the face. Tenryu gets Hashimoto up and hits an enzigieri, but Hashimoto doesn’t go down. Another enzigieri doesn’t do the trick either, and after a third Hashimoto is still on his feet. Tenryu goes off the ropes and hits a lariat, but Hashimoto still won’t go down. Another lariat by Tenryu doesn’t work, nor does the third. Tenryu goes off the ropes one last time, hits a fourth lariat, and Hashimoto finally falls down to the mat. Cover, but it gets a two count. WAR Special by Tenryu, but Hashimoto kicks his way out of it. Kicks to the chest by Hashimoto and Tenryu lands back into the corner. More kicks by Hashimoto as Tenryu is in a seated position, Irish whip by Hashimoto and he goes for a splash, but Tenryu catches him and hits a powerbomb. Cover, and Tenryu picks up the three count. Your winner and still champion: Genichiro Tenryu
Match Thoughts: The J-1 Heavyweight Championship was based in WAR and Tenryu was the only wrestler to ever hold it. Tenryu in 2001/2002 looked younger then 1998 Tenryu did, perhaps the WAR wrestling style had taken a lot out of him but Tenryu didn’t look very good here. His enzigieris were not convincing (especially in comparison to Hashimoto’s strong kicks) and he had a lot of trouble getting Hashimoto up. Even when Hashimoto did all the work he struggled, as the ending powerbomb didn’t look very good at all and made the ending look weak. Hashimoto kept this match watchable as his kicks and chops were killer, and Tenryu did a good job selling for them. While I think Tenryu dragged down the match, part of that is because he was against a large wrestler that made his strikes look like love taps. Not bad, but not as good as I was expecting. Score: 5.7
(c) Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Masahiro Chono
This match is for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Tie-up to start, side headlock by Chono, Fujinami Irish whips out of it but Chono shoulderblocks him down. Chono goes for a Yakuza Kick, but Fujinami catches his leg. He is distracted by Saito however, Chono goes off the ropes again and goes for another Yakuza Kick, but Fujinami catches this attempt as well and hits a dragon screw leg whip. Fujinami goes for a crab hold, but Chono quickly grabs the bottom rope and rolls out of the ring. Chono gets back in after a moment, tie-up, and they go into a Test of Strength. Fujinami gets the better of it and he slaps Chono down to the mat. Chono goes for a single leg takedown, Fujinami blocks it, but Chono pushes Fujinami into the ropes. Drop toehold by Chono and he applies a reverse chinlock. Fujinami struggles to his feet but Chono takes him back down without releasing the hold. Again Fujinami slowly gets back up and he reverses the hold. Armbar by Fujinami, Chono gets to his feet and gets to the ropes, forcing a break. A front facelock is applied by Chono into an armbar and he arm drags Fujinami back to the mat while keeping a hold onto the arm. Fujinami eventually gets out of it and goes for Chono’s arm, applying a submission hold of his own. Chono reverses it with a leg lock, but Fujinami gets into the ropes and Chono gives a clean break. Back up, front facelock by Fujinami into a butterfly lock and he takes Chono to the mat. Chono gets back up as Fujinami goes for a facelock, but Fujinami lets go and they square off again.
Kicks to the leg by Fujinami, Irish whip, but Chono avoids the dropkick and headbutts him in the midsection. Fujinami comes back with punches and applies a full nelson, but Chono gets out of it with a low blow. Side Russian leg sweep by Chono and he applies a modified bow and arrow submission. Chono eventually releases the hold and stomps Fujinami in the leg. Fujinami gets back up, but Chono rakes him in the eyes and hits a Yakuza Kick. He goes for a second one, but Fujinami catches his leg and hits a dragon screw leg whip. Figure four by Fujinami, but after a few minutes Chono gets to the ropes. Scoop slam by Fujinami, he goes up to the top turnbuckle and hits a diving knee onto Chono’s leg. Dragon screw leg whip by Fujinami, he pulls Chono towards the middle of the ring a bit and re-applies the figure four, but Chono again makes it to the ropes. Fujinami waits for Chono to get up and kicks him in the leg, scoop slam, he goes to the top turnbuckle again and jumps off but this time Chono moves and applies an STF. Fujinami is too close to the ropes though and Chono is forced to break the hold. Chono pulls Fujinami to the middle of the ring and re-applies the STF, but Fujinami won’t submit so Chono releases it. Chono goes for a Yakuza Kick, but Fujinami catches his foot and applies the sleeperhold. Chono gets out of it with a jawbreaker however, he goes up to the top turnbuckle and connects with a flying shoulderblock. Cover, but it gets a two count. Chono applies the butterfly lock, but Fujinami slides out of it and both men are on the mat. Chono is up first, he hits the Yakuza Kick, cover, but it only gets a two count. Another Yakuza Kick by Chono, then he hits one from behind and slaps on the STF. Fujinami struggles towards the ropes and almost makes it, but Chono cinches back and Fujinami has no choice but to submit! Your winner and new champion: Masahiro Chono
Match Thoughts: This would be Chono’s first, and only, IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Sadly he would get injured and never even get a chance to defend the title before he had to forfeit it. The play by play is short not because the match was (it ran about 20 minutes) but because they primarily used long submission holds. The only problem I had with that is Fujinami spent 10 minutes working on Chono’s leg, but Chono never sold it at all once the hold wasn’t applied. Mat-based matches only work if the wrestlers remember it, otherwise it comes across as pointless, dull, and a waste of time. The last few minutes were fine as the crowd was hot and Fujinami tapping out after taking two Yakuza Kicks was perfectly logical, but they could have cut the match time in half and accomplished the same goal. I wouldn’t go as far as saying the match was bad, for it wasn’t, but it was pretty slow to build and much of the build ended up meaning next to nothing by the time the match ended. At least Chono finally picked up the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, even if it was very short-lived. Score: 6.0
Clips and images from this event can be seen at www.puroresucentral.com within the review of the event itself. Feel free to email me at email@example.com if you have any questions, comments, or snide remarks.
The Inside Pulse
As I mentioned above, this was one of the last big shows in New Japan that was completely void of any MMA influences (I don’t count Frye as he was a pretty consistent part of the New Japan roster and had storylines within the company). Overall it was enjoyable, not that it was without its problems. New Japan was getting… old…. at this point. Chono and Fujinami were no longer young pups (almost 35 and 44 respectively), nor were Tenryu and Great Kabuki. The bottom part of the card was youthful, but the matches didn’t seem important. The Jr. Heavyweights did tear the house down however, and Liger/Sasuke had a very good match. While I think the last two matches were only “good,” neither were unwatchable and the crowd was hot throughout the card. As you can see, a lot of the matches fell in the 5.5 to 6.5 range, which basically means that they were solid matches but nothing more (maybe equivalent to a **1/2 on most reviewers scale). The Jr. Heavyweights really boosted the card though and between them and the special attraction of Kabuki’s New Japan retirement match I can give this show a solid recommendation.