Never got around to watching or writing much of anything over Christmas/New Year, but I got back into the swing of things and started watching some stuff a few days ago. More bad-assery this week. And plenty instances of dudes (and dudettes) getting hit in the face real hard. Tenryu, Ikeda, Funaki, Hotta... yeah.
Masakatsu Funaki v Tatsuo Nakano (UWF, 7/24/89)
Last time I watched this I thought it was one of the best sub-ten minute matches ever. Didn't think any different this time. Crowd is fucking MOLTEN for Nakano. Funaki is way above Nakano in the pecking order and he's the favourite to win and he's all cut up and good looking. Nakano is tubby and pasty and not good looking. Funaki lobs ridiculous palm strikes at Nakano's already not-good-looking face and has no qualms with stomping on his head and kicking him in the jaw to break submission attempts. Nakano winds up bleeding from newly created holes where his cheek bones and the bridge of his nose used to be. AND HE DOES NOT GIVE A FUCK. Dude just keeps on coming and bleeding everywhere and rifling off high kicks right to Funaki's head, and Funaki is AMAZING at selling the knock downs. I mean this is some great, great shit. Nakano tells the doctor to go fuck himself is he thinks about stopping this for blood loss and punts Funaki in the head some more. Funaki tells Nakano to go fuck himself if he thinks he can freely kick him in the head and starts blasting him in his broken face with headbutts. This is just grade-A ass-stompery with insane heat and hate and holy fuck does it rule so hard.
Genichiro Tenryu & Koki Kitahara v Tatsumi Fujinami & Jushin Liger (New Japan, 8/3/93)
Didn't think this was spectacular or anything, but fuck man, look at those guys and tell me it couldn't be real fucking good. Well, it was real fucking good. I'm not sure I've ever actually seen Kitahara before, but he's wearing a WAR t-shirt and jeans and looks like some scummy asshole that just walked in off the street. Crowd really, really do not like this guy. Liger's a blast as the babyface junior, especially when he's punching above his weight against old man Tenryu. TENRYU is fucking Tenryu and that means you get him hucking lariats and chopping people in the throat and arrogantly kicking people in the face with the toe of his boot. Match only goes about 12 minutes and there isn't as much seething hatred as the Tenryu/TM II v Choshu/Nakano match I talked about a couple weeks ago, so this doesn't quite reach the promised land of sub-15 minute matches like it could have with the same level of contempt as the '90 tag, but what we do get is the kind of thing that you really can't be disappointed with either way. The way Tenryu sells for Liger is pretty spectacular, too.
Shinya Hashimoto v Jake Roberts (New Japan, 9/23/93)
I'm a big fan of both these guys so when I saw this on Goodhelmet's Jake the Snake comp I was pretty interested. I can't imagine anyone thinking this is a great match, but I thought it was a lot of fun. It's cool watching Hash match up with Roberts at this point; Hash might have been the best in the world in '93, but Roberts is a long way past his best and is mostly working shtick, so Hash is happy enough to go along with it. Starts out with Jake doing his whole "shake my hand because I'm really a nice guy" stuff and Hash not buying it because Mr. Nice Guy brought a fucking king cobra with him. They do some feeling out stuff and there's a cool spot where Jake sort of circles Hash and tries to back him into the corner with the snake. A few "I'm too smart for that shit", "No, I'm too smart for THAT shit" spots and Jake gets more frustrated, and the first ten or so minutes really breezed by for me. It's all really low-tech and simple; slick exchanges are taken out for shtick built around the snake in the corner and who might be able to hit their DDT first. But I'm a big fan of shtick and Jake has some great shtick. First thing of any real consequence to happen is one of my favourite transition spots - Jake leapfrogs Hash and goes down clutching the leg like he's torn his ACL, and the ref' is trying to push Hash away in case he needs to throw the match out. Hash isn't really buying it and wants to push on, but the ref's having none of it. Then he turns his back and boom, cheapshot. I love that spot, and when guys like Jake or Arn go down clutching their knee I get giddy with anticipation. Jake hits the DDT at this point and when Hash kicks out he figures it's snake time, so he rolls Hash out of the ring and does this silent creep towards the corner while the ref' is putting the count on Hashimoto. It's obviously a comedy spot, but the crowd dig it and so do I. Finish is kind of weak and looked like it might have been botched, but the match goes around 15 minutes and other than that finish I dug all of it. Wasn't expecting much, but those expectations were definitely exceeded.
Lioness Asuka v Yumiko Hotta (All Japan Women, 3/26/95)
This felt sort of like a female version of Battlarts... it's brutally stiff at points. I mean they are seriously laying the shots in here; roundhouse kicks flush in the face, NASTY headbutts, punches that range from looking like they're only partially worked to not worked at all... it's heavy stuff. I had seen this a few years ago and thought it was one of the best Joshi matches I had seen, but this time I thought it suffered from some real dull patches. It's worked almost entirely shoot style, and the stand-up or them going strike for strike is great, but Asuka throws on holds from time to time that kill the momentum. Holds being used to slow the momentum so they can pick it back up with another strike exchange isn't the problem, because there are plenty of shoot style matches that have an "ebb and flow" pace to them that are great; the problem isn't so much the pacing, but rather what they're doing in the "ebb" sections. Asuka will throw on a hold and Hotta won't really do anything with it other than shout from time to time as if she's in pain, and Asuka isn't very keen to *make* her do anything. There are times where there appears to be real struggle and Hotta will fight like a wildcat and Asuka will try and stomp her face into canvas or whatever, but you really want these two swinging fists and feet, and when they're not doing that things tend to take a dip. Final few minutes are great though, and some of the teased KO spots are awesome. The final kick square in the mush is a suitably hellish way to end a match that's loaded with stiffness that blows the needle off the scale.
Daisuke Ikeda v Alexander Otsuka (Battlarts, 11/5/97)
I've watched a decent sized batch of '97 Battlarts over the last few weeks, and this might be my favourite of everything. Otsuka likes to take a few brief forays into pro-style, which I always dig. Always adds to the charm of an Otsuka match for me. They both seem pretty intent on ripping the other guy's leg off in this. Ikeda throws some hellaciously stiff leg kicks. Otsuka has a bunch of neato tricks he pulls out on the mat while rolling through on holds and stuff. He also eats a ton of NASTY strikes, and down the stretch it's all getting great heat for the teased KOs. The struggle towards the end with Otsuka trying to suplex Ikeda's spine out his mouth before Ikeda can punt his head into the sixth row is really great and dramatic. I'm gonna pick up Lynch's best of Battlearts set pretty soon, I think.
NEXT WEEK: I've got a stack of Hashimoto footage coming soon, so if that's here in time then I'll no doubt talk about some Hashimoto. More Tenryu as well. I've been meaning to watch the 3/96 Liger v Ohtani match, and 2/97 rematch, for a while, and a couple days ago I found a decent excuse to do so... so I'll probably talk about both of those. No idea what else. I'll just take 'em as they come and see what happens.