So I've been on a 'grumpy bastards in pro-wrestling' kick lately and was planning on writing about some Kanemoto matches along with a Tenryu match or two for the next TTIGDWT (That Time I Got Drunk With Tenryu), but I've watched four Kanemoto matches over the last couple days where he kicks the crap out of people and I figured that deserved its own post. Plus he managed to make a 2010 Naomuchi Marufuji match watchable, so that too.
Koji Kanemoto v Yoshihito Sasaki (Zero-One, 10/10/05)
Kanemoto is one of my favourite dickheaded asskickers ever. He's in his mid-forties now so that means he gets the Mid-Life Cantankerous Curmudgeon Badge that is a sure fire sign you'll see him kick people in the face on a regular basis. He's got a long way to go before he's in the TRULY Old Cantankerous Bastard club with the likes of Tenryu and Black Terry, but this is definitely something for the old CV. I'm guessing Sasaki hasn't started hanging around with Sekimoto yet because he doesn't look to be juiced out of his mind here. He has really weird "intense" facial expressions where he sticks his tongue way out of his mouth. Luckily this is all about Kanemoto INVADING and showing CONTEMPT and acting like a grade-A reprehensible fucker of a human being, so most of what Sasaki does is limited to hope spots and trying not to get his face caved in. Kanemoto is having none of that and just abuses him. I watched this on my PS3 and the slow-mo function that I never knew existed until last night - because I'm an idiot - is TOO fucking much because it must've took me half an hour to finish a ten minute match. Sasaki manages to spear Kanemoto early in the match, then when he tries it again later Kanemoto knees his teeth through the back of his head and I was leaning on rewind like a motherfucker and then I was leaning on slow-mo like a motherfucker. This was some nasty, nasty shit. Kanemoto turning it up to eleven by teeing off on Sasaki's face with straight punches and ignoring the ref's warnings is why he is the boss. Finish is suitably brutal. Match goes exactly 10 minutes and is probably one of my favourite ten minute or under matches ever.
Koji Kanemoto v Naomuchi Marufuji (New Japan, 3/5/10)
I wasn't entirely sure what to expect out of this. On the one hand it's a Marufuji match, and at this point Marufuji's pretty much horrendous and all of his matches have a large helping of bullshit. On the other hand it's a Kanemoto match, and at this point Kanemoto is maybe the best he's ever been and all of his matches have a large helping of him kicking people in the teeth. I don't think there's anything that could COMPLETELY offset Marufuji's suck, but Kanemoto as the home favourite that the crowd want to see stomp a pretty boy's face into the mat comes about as close as anything, I suppose. I was actually digging the first 8 or so minutes quite a bit. It seemed to be building to Kanemoto loosening Marufuji's jaw with a kick, so when he finally manages to hit it it comes off like a big spot. There's some leg work once Kanemoto takes control, and I knew where it was going as soon as it started (nowhere), but I got the sense Kanemoto was having more fun blistering Maru's thighs than anything else. I guess it still falls under "legwork", but the segment had enough moments where Koji would turn loose and punt him in the back of the head or slam him onto a bunch of chairs for it not to be by the numbers time-killing. Of course Marufuji then goes on offence and won't sell anything and it's all go-go-go as per usual, and that's where my interest takes a severe dip. Any time Kanemoto would get a run of offence things picked up, but Marufuji would regain control, bust out his goofy looking offence, and wouldn't sell a thing. And it goes thirty minutes, which doesn't help matters. Finishing stretch felt like a big Kurt Angle finishing stretch at points as well, and I don't care much for that. Match had its moments, like Kanemoto hanging Maru up in a tree of woe and casually sitting cross-legged in front him of so he could bitch slap him a bunch of times, but Marufuji is really bad and borderline uncarryable since he needs to get all of his shit in. And his shit is garbage that drags everything down. I'd probably say this is on the cusp of being "good," but unless Marufuji is a guy you can stomach or you're a big Kanemoto fan, don't bother.
Koji Kanemoto v Hayato Jr. Fujita (M-Pro, 12/22/09)
This is part of the Super J-Cup and is a terrific little match. Hayato is chock full of the fire that comes from being a chippy young underdog on his home turf and he refuses to let Kanemoto kick him six ways from Sunday. Match is just loaded with unhinged violence and stiffness and Hayato gives every bit as good as he gets -- there's a great moment where they're teeing off on each other out on the floor and Hayato actually manages to come out on top of the exchange by running along the apron and blasting Kanemoto in the sternum with a kick. Kanemoto sells it like he's just been on the receiving end of vehicular manslaughter. Crowd is totally rocking from start to finish and they're molten at the end. This also runs about 12 minutes, so they completely cut the nonsense and there's zero overkill and unnecessary bullshit. Short matches with dudes assaulting each other is definitely the most interesting thing to me in puro right now. Not surprising, then, that this and the Takayama/Sugiura match from 10/3 are my favourite matches from Japan from 2009.
Koji Kanemoto v Hayato Jr. Fujita (M-Pro, 5/30/10)
More of the same, this time from the BOSJ tourney. Seriously, this is just so far up my alley at this point that I'd be shocked if I come across a match from Japan this year that I enjoy nearly as much. Hayato is quite the lil' firecracker here again. I heard he controlled most of this, and I wasn't totally sure how I felt about that, but fuck, if I don't get to see Kanemoto abuse some indy kid then I guess THIS indy kid abusing KANEMOTO is as close as I'll come to having the same kind of fun. He's even more up for a fight than before, truly wellying Kanemoto with kicks that look like Roberto Carlos taking a free kick from 35 yards. He also does the same spot where he drills Koji in the chest with the running kick from the apron, and when he rolls him back in he starts peppering him with these amazing looking downward kicks to the back of the head and neck. Plus this has FACE PUNCHING which you gotta love. They're both fighting over a kneebar early on and Kanemoto punches Hayato in the face, so naturally Hayato punches him right back, and Kanemoto's expression is just too great. It's like he's shocked this kid has the audacity to return a PUNCH. Everything else is kosher, but a PUNCH? "Some skinny indy scrub thinks he can punch ME? Fuck THAT shit!" Then they get up and get in each other's face and start waffling each other in the nose some more. Totally dug the finish here too, with Hayato winding up for another of his Adam Vinatieri specials, Kanemoto countering it by kicking him in the knee and locking in his figure-four ankle lock. Sort of sudden, but in these two matches, Hayato managed to make the move look as legit as I can remember at any point in the last 10 years, so I'm not complaining. Great stuff. Kanemoto might be my favourite wrestler in the world right now.