Friday, 12 March 2010

Jushin Liger v Naoki Sano (New Japan Pro Wrestling, 1/31/90)

This used to be floating around my all-time top five matches. I wouldn't hold it *that* high anymore, but it's still a tremendous match.

It's a simple match. There's nothing especially "intricate" about it, but I'm at the point now where I'd rather watch two guys tell a simple story really well than two guys trying to pump out a "storytelling epic" or whatever. I mean, I love 90s All Japan as much as the next guy, but most of the time I'm more inclined to sit and watch something like this - something that doesn't require one to think too much about - before something like Misawa/Kawada, even if the latter is technically better. Or something.

Anyways, this is all about Liger stepping up to the plate and asserting himself as the boss of the division. He's the Liu Kang to Sano's Shao Kahn. The Ryu to Sano's M. Bison. There's another "Asian guy" movie reference in there, but I'll be damned if I can think of it right now. He comes out the blocks full of piss and vinegar, even opting to slap Sano rather than shake his hand, and generally goes about trying to make short work of the enemy.

Then Sano gets pissed at the fact he's being bitched out by this fuck in a goofy costume and just goes to town. He posts him, rips at the mask, busts him open... he beats the shit out of him is what I'm saying. Liger's selling is amazing, too. He's bleeding all over the place and stumbling around like he's ready to pass out, trying to string together as much offence as he can before Sano's able to get his bearings and kill him dead. Any kind of offence he does manage to muster feels more like a hope-spot than anything, even the INSANE tope that clears the ring barrier. Liger's in total survival mode at this point and Sano's the one going in for the kill... problem is, that fuck in the goofy costume just won't stay down.

Last few minutes are about Liger FIGHTING his way back into things while Sano struggles to keep his grip on the situation. Liger's offence doesn't seem as much like "survival instincts" now and you get the sense he might actually have weathered this little shit kicker's storm. Then he strings together two big moves and the Shooting Star Press... storm weathered.

So yeah, I'm not as big a fan of it as I was in the past, but my tastes are always changing and I had a decent idea that it would fall out of favour ever so slightly. That said, it's still a Hell of a match. I'd probably put the Eddie/Benoit match from the 1996 BOSJ tourney over it as the best New Japan juniors match ever, and I still love both Liger/Ohtani matches, but I can't imagine this falling out of my top 5 if I were to sit and really think about it.

****1/2

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