So the Segunda Caida crew have been reviewing a bunch of WAR over the past however many months, and it all sounds ridiculously fun and violent and awesome. I've been holding off on digging into it until Goodhelmet's Tenryu set is ready to go, but last night I caved and figured I'd get myself a small taste. It tasted like fucking WAR.
Takashi Ishikawa v Koki Kitahara (WAR, 7/15/92)
I don't know if I've ever seen an Ishikawa match before. He was a part of a couple All Japan six-man tags during the Jumbo-Tenryu/Choshu-Yatsu feud in the mid-80s that I have, but I'm blanking on whether I bothered to actually watch them after burning them onto a disc however long ago. Pretty sure this is the second Kitahara match I've seen. The first was the New Japan tag where he was teaming with Tenryu against Liger and Fujinami where he was aping the "come out and play-aaaayyyy" guy from The Warriors with the jeans and t-shirt and funky bandana, but Tenryu and Liger stole that particular show while Kitahara was pretty much limited to throwing a bunch of kicks and soaking up boos, so you don't really get a handle on how good or bad he is. The WAR crowd are totally behind him here, though. Primarily because Ishikawa just fucking murders his face. If this is what Ishikawa is always like then I need to get a hold of as much Ishikawa footage as I can, because he is just a nasty violent motherfucker. Kitahara comes into this with a bandage above his eye and after a couple minutes Ishikawa narrows right in on it. He potatoes him with two ridiculous punches to open him up, and from there Kitahara crawls around half blind while Ishikawa punts him, stomps him, knees him, kicks him in the eye and face. Kitahara will rifle off a kick from time to time and the crowd really rally behind him, but all roads lead back to Ishikawa brutalising him. The ref' is trying to get him to stay back so he can check the cut, but he's having none of it and eventually it's thrown out before there's an honest to goodness maiming. Ishikawa's reaction to this is sort of "Fuck it, I knew this would happen anyway" and as he's walking away he takes one last penalty kick to Kitahara's face like it's nothing. Such a violent shitstorm of a performance from Ishikawa, and you really come away from this with that in your mind, but I thought Kitahara was good as your underdog taking a complete mauling and continually coming back. This was my kind of wrestling.
Shiro Koshinaka & Kuniaki Kobayashi v Koki Kitahara & Masao Orihara (WAR, 3/3/93)
Koshinaka's a guy I didn't like much at all on the New Japan 80s set and actively dreaded watching a lot of his matches. That said, this is WAR and everything already just seems better in WAR. Koshinaka taking it to the mat and diddling around isn't the Koshinaka I want. Koshinaka potatoing people is the Koshinaka I want. This was potato Koshinaka, just punching guys in the face and stomping them in the head. Even his hip attacks looked nasty, like he was jamming the point of the bone right into the opponent's cheek. Also does lots of stuff with a smile on his face; totally came across as a guy that loved the idea of being a nasty bastard. There was one annoying moment where he no-sold a piledriver, but who's perfect, right? Kitahara and Orihara are really good as your home team defending WAR turf here. Kitahara continues to take a man-sized whooping, only this time he has two good eyes and manages to hold his own much better. Orihara just hates Koshinaka and there's a great moment where Kosh has Kitahara in a half crab, so Orihara comes in and blasts him clean in the face with a roundhouse kick. Koshinaka looks at him with pure disgust and refuses to let go, so Orihara cracks him with this reckless roundhouse right square on the ear. Kobayashi was just kinda there for the most part, though. The other three guys are bringing the hate and stiffness like it's WAR, and from time to time he'll border on that level, but most of the time it seems more like a Davey Richards approximation of ROH INTENSITY. And that shit just won't cut it.
Shinya Hashimoto v Hiromichi Fuyuki (WAR, 3/3/93)
I guess recently I kind of lost sight of how good Hashimoto was. I've been watching a lot of early 90s New Japan over the last couple months and I've found most of it to be really dull and/or boring. The Hashimoto stuff is always at least interesting on some level, but almost everything else sort of put me in a New Japan slump. This was exactly what I needed to pull me out of it (even if it's technically not "New Japan"... it's part of a New Japan feud so fuck it, it counts). Both guys are really great at capturing an aura of hate for the other; just from staring at each other from across the ring you can tell they have bad intentions on their mind. They do a big pull apart brawl at the start and Hashimoto even takes a swing at one of his own boys because he wants the ring clear, and fuck anybody trying to calm him down. Once things do settle down they actually take it to the mat and work a slow burner, which isn't really what I was expecting. But I can't complain because all of the matwork is really heated and gritty, and there wasn't any point where I found myself zoning out like I did with a bunch of Chono and Mutoh matches recently (I'm not sure why I bothered to watch them in the first place because I don't even like either guy). Plus they break up the spells on the mat by hitting each other really fucking hard. I mean, I can't recall ever thinking these guys didn't seriously dislike each other, whether they were on the mat or standing toe to toe, it always felt like a case of one guy trying to hurt the other. So it always felt like WAR, basically. Fuyuki's another guy that's new to me, but my first impressions of him were good. He brings the hate and violence and drops Hashimoto with a fucker of a DDT, and that's really all I was hoping for out of him. His selling at the end was pretty awesome, too. He's a dude that just got planted on the top of his head with a DDT and he sells like a dude that just got planted on the top of his head with a DDT, all dazed and confused like.
I was planning on ordering a bunch of RINGS in the near future, but after this I'm thinking I need to join the WAR party ASAP. It just seems like the easiest promotion in history to watch if pro-wrestling with violence and dudes beating the fuck out of each other is your kind of pro-wrestling. And I haven't even got to the Tenryu stuff yet.