Yoshihiro Takayama v KENTA (NOAH, 6/27/04)
This was spectacularly violent. Takayama offers up a handshake at the start and KENTA slaps his hand away like a little prick, so Tak just fucking KILLS him. It's not a Tenryu-like hurricane of rage and brutality with the pissed off facial expressions; Takayama doesn't look any more pissed off than he usually does, in fact he seems perfectly calm, but that "fuck a handshake" bullshit is straight up mockery and he's having none of it. He knees him clean in the face, kicks him ridiculously hard in the solar plexus, punches him in the jaw, and best of all he just hoists him above his head and throws him out to the floor (and KENTA's head really smacks the guardrail when he lands). KENTA is a guy I don't really care for at this point, but as a piss and vinegar junior punching above his weight against the big lumpy dudes, he's pretty unimpeachable. He lands a bunch of super nasty looking shots in this, almost from a clinching position, and will full throttle punt someone in a body part. Not having to sell (then shrug off, then sell again, then shrug off again, rinse repeat) a leg injury and only worry about getting cracked in the teeth also works wonders for him. Takayama's selling in return is some GREAT shit. He eats an elbow to the face early on and immediately responds by caving KENTA's head in, but as the match goes on, the more shots he gets hit with the slower he is to respond in kind. It might seem redundant to say something like "he sells each strike like it actually hurts", since that's kind of the point of pro-wrestling in the first place, but there's so much crappy no-selling of stiff strikes in current day puro that it's honestly worth mentioning when someone actually sells it WELL. And sweet Jesus does that final knee look horrific. This is a match dynamic that can be awesome when it's done right. THIS was done right.
Yoshihiro Takayama v KENTA (NOAH, 1/15/11)
This was fucking crazy, too. It's just as stiff, but it might be even more harrowing since Takayama's an honest to goodness stroke victim. His face is pretty much a wreck at this point in his career; it honestly looks like someone stuck their hands in putty and made random shapes around two eyes, a nose and a mouth. Then gave him it and told him to wear it as his face. He eats a bunch of sick strikes and takes a double stomp from the top rope to the floor that looked totally ribcage-shattering. There's points where he sort of stumbles around with this "Why am I even doing this? I should've retired and opened a fucking restaurant as soon as Don Frye punched me in the nose" look on his face and I'm thinking "Aw man, someone do the F.A.S.T Test, quick." On offence he is what you expect -- just a mean motherfucker that'll maul you if he has an opening. He winds up bleeding hardway after cracking KENTA with a total bar fight headbutt, and there's a spot later on where it looks like he's set to throw another one only to bring KENTA's head down and obliterate him with a knee. Then they top it off by shoot punching each other DEAD in the fuggin' face. Definitely my favourite match from Japan this year. The dynamic is the same as the '04 match, but KENTA takes more of this while Tak spends some time trying not to keel over and die. There's a couple parts where Tak has to stand waiting on KENTA doing a springboard or some corner running spot, but everything leads to something brutal and I guess I can buy a guy with 3 braincells standing around looking confused for a few seconds. I'll honestly be surprised if he retires in one piece, though.