Volk Han v Masayuki Naruse (RINGS, 10/25/96)
This rocked. It's the kind of thing that people who're otherwise cold on shoot style could dig, because it has a pretty clear and discernible story to it. Naruse is eager and full of fire, but Han is Han. He is unbreakable, unflappable. Naruse literally somersaults free when Han tries to twist him into a submission attempt, but as awesome as it looks and as much as the crowd love it, Han is unperturbed. He'll keep doing his thing and eventually he'll catch Naruse in something you can't flip out of. Except Naruse keeps coming, and he even catches Han in the ribs with a palm strike. Then he catches him with a backfist. Han dismissively dumps him over the ropes with this amazing "just fuck off already" look on his face and picks up a yellow card for it, so Han is down to his last point. Naruse only needs to force one more rope break - or score another knockdown - and he's won. But Han is Han. I out loud said "look at that!" when Han catches him in the shoot bow and arrow, and part of me wanted Naruse to make it that extra inch to grab the ropes, but a bigger part knew he was already doomed. Han as this shoot style end boss is the perfect description. If you grew up on Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat or whatever then you'll know what it was like to get M. Bison or Shao Kahn's health down to a bare slither only for them to pull it out at the death. You were so close, but in the end what difference did it make? You'd just have to start over, anyway. That was Naruse. So close, but so far.
Yuki Ishikawa & Alexander Otsuka v Daisuke Ikeda & Takeshi Ono (Battlarts, 10/30/96)
What a fucking match. This felt like the best possible amalgamation of this kind of shoot style with US/southern tag psychology (with no downtime at all). Ikeda and Ono are an absolutely spectacular pair of bellicose cunts, constantly interjecting to break up submissions any time the other looked to be in any danger whatsoever. Ono has always been a belligerent shit, but his Vietnamese girl bun makes him look even more obnoxious. He's dangerous, though, like a skinny back alley fighter who takes on bare knuckle bouts for food scraps, then ends up laying out the whole police division sent to shut it down. Every Ishikawa/Ikeda exchange is exactly what you want out of these two. They punch each other in the cheek, throw headbutts with an audible *thud*, try to pull each other's limbs off, the whole lot. Otsuka is at his best chucking folk around and he dumps people on their head a bunch. There's one amazing bit where he can't take Ono's horse shit any longer and comes in like he's about to fucking murder him (and of course Ono taunts him even more). You can actually see Ishikawa and Otsuka getting more and more fed up with the apron interference throughout the match. They're not opposed to doing it themselves, but it really only happens as a response to Ikeda and Ono doing it first. It's a clear theme in the match, and it leads to the perfect payoff where Ono eventually bites off more than he can chew and Otsuka suplexes him on his neck, leaving Ishikawa free to twist Ikeda's arm into a disgusting enough position that he has to submit. I wouldn't hesitate to call this a serious MOTYC.