Shinya Hashimoto & Yoshiaki Fujiwara v Daisuke Ikeda & Takashi Sugiura (Zero-One, 9/15/01)
This was pretty badass. Everybody got to do at least a little and they all looked good because of it, although there wasn't as much Ikeda kicking lumps out of people as one might hope for. His exchanges with Fujiwara were brief, but they were great. Ikeda doesn't care if Fujiwara's ninety years old and roundhouse kicks him in the temple and blatantly chokes him. Fujiwara responds by throwing his headbutts and choking him back, and you get the sense a singles match would end up being a ton of fun at the very least. Fujiwara was pretty awesome in this, actually. We already know he's timeless, but now and again there'll be a match where by all rights he should be broken down like crazy yet still does something that defies the logic of ageing. In this, Sugiura - who has a legit amateur background - shoots in for a takedown, and as Fujiwara sprawls away he somehow manages to hook an armbar with his legs and basically nail Sugiura to the mat. We've all seen Kurt Angle matches where the Olympian is getting out-wrestled on the mat. This wasn't Kurt Angle being schooled by Shane McMahon. It didn't look like a pre-planned spot. It came across as one guy going for a quick takedown and a guy twice his age countering it in spectacular fashion. And really, is there a better "flash counter" guy in wrestling history than Fujiwara? Hashimoto was such a killer here, too. There's a bit early on where Sugiura takes him to the mat and reigns down elbows and forearms, and when they get back to their feet you can almost see "Right...that won't happen again" written across Hash's face. Sure enough Sugiura tries to take him down again and Hash just drills him in the shoulder with a kick. Three of the guys in this match are in my top 10 favourite Japanese wrestlers ever, Sugiura holds his own, and this was a nice way to spent twelve minutes.
Shinya Hashimoto & Naoya Ogawa v Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Scott Norton (New Japan, 5/2/02)
So, my hopes for this weren't sky high. I don't like Tenzan and I wasn't sure how much Norton had left in the tank at this stage in his career. Hashimoto is fucking Hashimoto though, and Ogawa is always good for bringing the heat, so if nothing else I figured the crowd would be up for it. Well fuck all that because this was AWESOME. And the Dome crowd is most definitely up for it. Hash and Ogawa are INVADING and I love invading in my pro-wrestling. Ogawa especially has this dangerous aura about him, like he just does not give a fuck about who he has to go through. Match is also stiffer'n crap which plays right into his wheelhouse. Even Tenzan ramps up the stiffness, and every headbutt he throws at Hashimoto's stomach looks like it was designed to crack ribs. Hash is just kicking folks right in the lungs and it is brutal and beautiful at the same time. Norton is like the most imposing bouncer you've ever seen. It's like he bounces at the school that trains people how to bounce at the roughest pissholes on earth. He will literally eat you. He and Hash always had great chemistry together, and they smash each other to bits in this, which is exactly what YOU are looking for. I mean, Hash is just laying into him with vicious overhands and Norton is firing back with NASTY chops. Like, Tenryu would even wince at these. Eventually Norton goes FIP and Hash and Ogawa tee right off on his shoulder, and Norton is really great at making his comebacks while selling the injury. Crowd goes ballistic for all of it, too. Hash and Ogawa's take on Total Elimination is abso-fuckin-lutely incredible, btw. The first one on Tenzan is heavy rewind material -- it honestly looked as perfect as a leg sweep/STO double team possibly could. Then the German suplex/STO combo at the end. That was just...holy smokes. How did it not kill Norton? Seriously. This was Hashimoto's last ever match in New Japan, and it was a fitting way for one of the best guys in that promotion's history to go out. But really, how did Scott Norton survive that? I just...fuck, man.