This was one of the first tapes I bought when I first started getting into Japanese wrestling. A lot of the 90s New Japan juniors stuff that I loved back then isn't my cup of tea anymore, but other than Liger/Togo I don't think I've watched any of this show in like ten years. I'm not gonna watch the whole thing again (fuck if I know where the tape even is at this point), but three of the matches made the '96 yearbook. And if I haven't skipped any Mayumi Ozaki matches then I'm not about to skip any involving Taka Michinoku, Dick Togo and Eddie Guerrero.
Taka Michinoku v Super Delfin
This was alright. In one sense I guess it works as an M-Pro inro of sorts, but it's not like this is the first time these guys had wrestled in New Japan. It's been a while since I watched any non-yearbook M-Pro, but I get the feeling they've had way better singles matches on their own turf (or maybe I'm getting confused with all those multi-mans where they're on opposite sides). This was more like Rey Jr. and Psicosis taking their signature match on tour. Taka doesn't really act like a wee dickhead, but he has some spectacular highspots. His quebrada looks awesome and his springboard plancha where he jumps off two sets of ropes has just the right mix of gracefulness and recklessness. I dug how they do a different take on the lame chop battle, with Delfin wincing and grabbing his chest after each shot, almost like a comedy spot (which is kind of what that tripe has turned into at this point, although in an ironic way). Stretch run gets plenty of heat, but it kinda felt like they were just running through stuff, moving from one spot to the next with no real transitions or selling.
Jushin Liger v Dick Togo
This is the stuff right here. Togo is an awesome portly asskicker in this, but Liger is even better as your juniors ace. Five/six years ago I had Liger as a frontrunner for the GOAT. My tastes are way different now, and at this point I think I prefer Togo as my juniors #1, but this is the kind of Liger that I'll never tire of. Togo comes out the blocks on top and his early offence looks great, including a super nasty double stomp off the middle rope and an awesome fat boy bullet tope. His riling up of the crowd is really fun as well (crowd even boo). Then Liger takes over and gives it back ten times worse. This is his house, he's The Man in it, and he won't be shown up by a chubby indy dude. Liger teaching guys street lessons is by far the best Liger. Remember the NOAH feud twelve (fuckin TWELVE!) years ago where he was just a complete fucker and made Kikuchi hate his life? This is that Liger, only less surly (because if pro-wrestling has taught us anything, it's that true surliness comes with age). He hits three powerbombs in this and each one is sicker than the last. First one is in the ring, second is on the floor as a counter to a rana off the apron, and the third is on the exposed concrete. And he showboats in between just because. He also works Togo's arm for a while, and it all looks really good, but best of all it remains a theme the whole way through. Considering perfunctory juniors mat/limbwork is the dirt worst to me, any match where that mat/limbwork actually feels important is a huge bonus. Finishing run is nice and compact, and it probably could've even done with a few more minutes and nearfalls, which is an unusual yet pleasant surprise. Liger's final transition/comeback after two fat boy sentons felt a bit too easy, but he'd been on offence for a stretch before that anyway, so it's not a massive deal. Killer match.
Black Tiger v Great Sasuke
I remembered absolutely nothing about this, but I thought it was pretty decent. Thought it had more of a narrative and a more interesting dynamic than the BOSJ final I watched last week. Eddie is a much bigger and more muscular dude than Sasuke, so he kind of works this as junior heavyweight powerhouse. He reverses some Sasuke signature moves by just catching him and chucking him around, like plucking him out the air on an attempted springboard splash and hitting a belly to belly. He takes most of the match with some great offence - awesome looking hammerlock shoulderbreaker, a hilo to the arm, huge Alabama slam - and really doesn't give Sasuke time to breathe. He works the arm initially, then Sasuke tries to pull a Wild Pegasus and go to the sleeper (which was cool while it lasted), but Eddie dropkicks the knee and goes after that briefly. He returns to the arm down the stretch, but not as much is made of either as there could've been. Sasuke's offence comes in short spurs, most of it high risk craziness as time goes on. His missile dropkick to the floor is such a wild spot -- it looks like something from a Street Fighter game, but it has to hurt him way more than his opponent. That's concrete the psycho's landing on. I'm surprised he hasn't broken his hip doing it (actually he probably has). Some of his stuff doesn't come off great and looks botchy, so maybe he's concussed again (edit: reading the thread on PWO, apparently one of them had the flu. I'll assume it was Sasuke). Finish looks great and I guess it's supposed to come across as a "flash" finish, but it still felt a bit abrupt. Not the best match either guy had that year, but I'm all for Eddie Guerrero offence showcases.