Monday, 31 July 2017

SWS, 10/30/91

My intention was to watch the Haku/Ishikawa match last night as it had been pimped on PWO, but it was late and I had nothing else to do so I sat and watched the whole card. It was an easy hour and a half.

Pat Tanaka v The Great Kabuki

This feels like the kind of match Tanaka's worked a thousand times on WWF house shows. He took most of this and looked good as always. His sweep kick always looks nice and his diving forearm is great; he's just a rock solid hand that I have no problem watching work eight/nine minute undercard matches. Kabuki never did much but he hit a couple nice thrust kicks and Tanaka took a big inside-out bump for his lariat. Perhaps an excessive reaction what was a meager lariat in truth, but no matter.

Barbarian v Kendo Nagasaki 

This was JIP to some headlock/leglockery until Nagasaki said fuck it and went bushwhacker with a chair. Nothing prompted it, Barbarian did nothing that would ordinarily warrant it, he just decided it was what he desired. They spill into the crowd and throw some meaty chops and for a minute there I'm thinking we're getting a double count out, but no, they do in fact make it back into the ring. Shortly afterwards Barbarian hits the top rope clothesline and that, as they say, is that.

Koki Kitahara & Yoshihiro Asai v Bestia Salvaje & Masao Orihara

This was real nifty and at points got pretty damn awesome. The nifty came from Asai and Bestia, who ran the gamut of Asai/Ultimo's armdrag and headscissor sequences with Bestia serving as a great base for all of it. None of Asai's stuff here will be new to you if you've seen more than a couple Ultimo Dragon matches, but for the most part it looked pretty when it needed to and more importantly like it was impactful. But really, you want this for the parts that were awesome (I mean why wouldn't you?) and those were courtesy of Kitahara and Orihara. This might be my favourite Kitahara performance ever. When they match up initially they both throw a few big kicks and Orihara fights admirably, but he's a young boy and Kitahara treats him as such. It's a fun dynamic and it works. Kitahara doesn't go beyond the pale, he doesn't take liberties, but he doesn't throw feather dusters either. The balance is as it should be, all things considered. Then Orihara kicks him a little too forcefully in the nose and Kitahara just absolutely fucking mangles him. It was almost uncomfortable at points. Orihara continues to scrap and stand up for himself and Kitahara gets even more abusive. He punted him in the face and kidneys, hit a vile roundhouse kick, gave him a snap suplex on the ramp, recklessly front suplexed him across the guardrail, it was brutal. And truly in step with the values of a Tenryu fed he gave up caring about the result of the match in order to continue beating on poor Orihara. Vengeance had taken precedence over victory. This was a match where everybody looked good and the whole thing came together well, but that one moment where something went awry - horribly, for Orihara - led to things taking a murderous detour. Kitahara as vicious wee prick elevated this past the ceiling it might've had otherwise.

Naoki Sano & Shunji Takano v The Warlord & Paul Diamond

One could argue this might be a waste of Sano's talents. As a match it wasn't very good and it was JIP to boot, but it did have some moments that were at least unique. Diamond was all over the place, messing up every spot and getting awkwardly into position for everything, but Warlord was pretty okay. He's jacked to the moon and back and I'm not sure how he can move properly, but he had some fun stuff with Sano, including a bit where Sano tried to slam him, failed because Warlord is gigantic and Sano is comparatively teeny, then stepped on his toes before successfully slamming him on the second attempt. He also took a couple big Sano spin kicks, and I liked how he ate Sano's plancha kind of side on and different from how you'd normally take it (I assume Warlord had never once been required to take a plancha before).

Ashura Hara & Samson Fuyuki v Yoshiaki Yatsu & Shinichi Nakano

I was hoping we'd get more Nakano and Fuyuki hating on each other in this and that is exactly what we got. Doesn't look like their feud has gotten to the super heated stage yet, but they sure don't like each other. In fact, I don't think anybody likes anybody. All the shots were beefy and clubbery and so forth and there were few wasted opportunities when it came to an illegal man putting a boot in. Hara was headbutting guys and hitting meaty lariats, Yatsu was boxing folk around the ears and Nakano and Fuyuki weren't shy about smacking one another. Eventually it breaks down and a chair ends up in the ring, and I'll be damned but they even went with the chair shot behind the ref's back finish. I would very much be down for a Nakano/Fuyuki singles match.

Takashi Ishikawa v King Haku

I'm kinda bummed that they JIP'd this to around the midway point, but the half that we got was quite the slobberknocker. Ishikawa spends a bit of time working Haku's leg, wrapping it around the ring post, belting it with a chair, slamming him knee-first across the guardrail, and Haku sells it pretty well. Then they move past that and get to laying it in like you want. Ishikawa's lariats looked as good as they ever have and Haku was right there in response. They even did a strike exchange where Haku was conking Ishikawa with headbutts and Ishikawa was slapping him up across the ears; it was like something you'd see in an Ishii match (only less ridiculous). Short finishing run got the crowd going as well. And we got another Ishikawa fatboy plancha! This was fun.

Genichiro Tenryu v George Takano 

Tenryu in SWS is sort of a strange beast. He's clearly the ace and the biggest star in the company, but there aren't too many times where I can remember him really projecting that, at least against the natives. Part of it might've been him wanting to elevate guys like Ishikawa or Takano and make it feel like there's at least a closeable gap between ace and #2, so he would be more giving in those match-ups. I can certainly understand that and even applaud him for it, but selfishly I wish he'd gone full Tenryu more often and really fucked guys up. Takano took a bunch of this, maybe too much, though it at least led to moments where Tenryu would eat a big slap or kick and sell it like his brains got rattled (and he has some of the best brain-rattled selling ever). Takano brought a nice level of intensity as well and his huge tope was pretty incredible. Still, the best part of this was Tenryu grabbing a chair and just chucking it at Takano's head. He threw a handful of chops to the trachea and a couple knees that weren't exactly pretty, but for the most part he kind of coasted this. Overall it had its moments, but I think Tenryu needed something to inject a bit of life into him again. Luckily WAR wasn't too far around the corner.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Sunday, 30 July 2017

NWA Classics 24/7 #20

Gino Hernandez v Nick Kozak (Houston Wrestling, 12/1/78)

There wasn't really a whole lot to this, but they told a nice enough story. Kozak must've wrestled on and off around Texas for about twenty years. He's clearly in the twilight of his career at this point and looks like a New York firefighter six months off retirement. Gino had his head shaved recently and is rocking the awesome mask/wig combo. Match is basically built around Kozak trying to expose Gino's baldy head to everyone in attendance. He seems more preoccupied with that than actually winning, though, and Boesch touches on it on commentary. Eventually he pushes Gino too far so Gino rams him into the post and smashes him with a chair. For some reason Bronko Lubich doesn't disqualify him and Gino finishes things off with a Russian leg sweep and a couple elbow drops. Gino in Houston is a well I haven't really tapped yet and this was an okay place to start.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

IGF Next Exciting Wrestling!

So back in April, Simon Inoki, brother of Antonio, announced that the Inoki Genome Federation was branching out with a separate brand that would run smaller venues than the larger scale IGF shows, and more often at that. For the first show they brought in a bunch of shoot style vets like Fujiwara, Funaki, Otsuka and Josh Barnett. I think three cards were taped and a further handful of guys like Takaiwa, Kanemoto, Murakami and Minoru Tanaka made appearances. I was on board. Then last week it got shitcanned. Go figure. I don't know if it's gone for good or there's some inter-Inoki squabbling going on that might be hastily resolved or whatever, but either way Next Exciting Wrestling is no more...for the time being. I've started picking through the three shows we have available.

Yoshiaki Fujiwara v Shinya Aoki (NEW, 4/5/17)

Man, Fujiwara is the most timeless of the timeless. He looks almost no different now than he did fifteen years go and the only difference between then and fifteen years before that is the kneepads (he always looked like an elderly gent, even in the earliest footage we have of him). He's a little slower than he once was given that he's two years shy of his seventieth(!!!) birthday, but he can still work joints and take it to the mat with the best of them. Aoki is a lightweight mixed martial artist who's fought everywhere from PRIDE to Strikeforce and flipped off Mizuto Hirota after breaking his arm with a kimura. He possibly has the reputation of being a wee prick. This was fairly methodical, but the devil is in the details and the details were what made it. All of the shifting for side control was measured, often with Fujiwara using his weight to his advantage. He'd use some nasty joint manipulation and, being a few steps ahead as he always is, Aoki would try to roll free only to end up where Fujiwara really wanted him. Aoki would kind of slither about as if he was going to shoot in for a takedown, so Fujiwara would draw him in close and ram him with a headbutt. And holy fuck were these some awesome little heabutts, straight to the ear leaving Aoki almost in disbelief (I mean, he broke a dude's arm and gave him the finger, so it's hard to feel too much sympathy for him). When Fujiwara managed to grab the Fujiwara armbar I thought he might actually be able to pull off the win. Then when Aoki escapes you get the sense he might not come any closer than that. By the end you're just hoping Fujiwara can survive the choke long enough for the time limit to expire. This could've been a super fun modern day Fujiwara/Takada-esque series if they'd gotten the chance.

Kazunari Murakami & Kohei Sato v Keisuke Okuda & Akira Jo (NEW, 7/7/17)

This is that one Murakami match that pops up every year and makes me want to watch every single thing he's ever done. I never actually do it of course, but there are few things in wrestling I enjoy more than watching Murakami roll into town and wreak havoc. He's even gone a step further this year by rocking up wearing what appears to be a snake skin suit. He looks like a hitman who requests payment in "favours." Of the sexual variety? Maybe a wee bit too conventional for the likes of he. I've never seen Jo or Okuda before but the pre-match highlight package leads me to believe they will not spend much of this match on the offensive. This was about 95% strikes and sneers and it was totally awesome. Jo and Okuda take a real pasting but they just keep on coming. A few times they'll cause trouble, but for the most part Murakami and Sato obliterate them. Murakami was amazing in this; his facial expressions and mugging is some of the best ever and he was glaring and snarling like a psychopath. Akira Jo doesn't have the greatest strikes in the world, which isn't normally conducive to having good strike exchanges (especially given that most strike exchanges are crummy to begin with, simply by way of their existence), but it actually became a positive in this instance as it highlighted the sheer gulf in striking power. He'd throw a few flimsy forearms and slaps then he'd get murdered with a Murakami uppercut or Sato kneelift. Basically Murakami and Sato were bastards and Jo and Okuda had no means of out-bastarding them, no matter how hard they tried. Towards the end Murakami was just planting them with judo throws and Sato told the crowd to quieten down for a sec so they could hear the thunk off a headbutt. When Murakami rids himself of the jacket and shirt you know it's go-home time. I loved this and I really should watch every single thing Murakami's ever done.

RIP, Next Extreme Wrestling. We hardly knew thee.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #16

Hideki Suzuki & Yoshihisa Uto v Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi (Big Japan, 3/19/17)

Solid bout, though more of a sporting contest between two teams looking simply to win rather than a bar fight with them trying to kick the crap out of each other. Not that we didn't get a little of the latter anyway. Okabayashi will really go all in on the shouty tough guy "hit me and prove you are worthy!" part of a strike exchange - which is pish - but he will doubly go all in on absolutely caving somebody's chest in with a knife edge. So I suppose you accept the trade off. Suzuki and Sekimoto were really putting all their weight behind forcing the other to the mat with top wrist locks and knuckle locks. It all served as a fine bridge between the previous draw and the upcoming rematch and I was into pretty much everything they did together. Thus, I am now anticipating that rematch even more than I was before. So job done, I guess.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

SWS Bringing the WAR + Kawada v Kobashi: The Final Chapter

Naoki Sano, Shinichi Nakano & The Great Kabuki v Samson Fuyuki, Takashi Ishikawa & Koki Kitahara (SWS, 11/10/91)

Well this was pretty badass. The central thread running through it is that Fuyuki and Nakano despise each other, but there's also a little side story of Kitahara not really being a fan of Fuyuki either despite being on the same side. It's subtle and they don't play it up much, but Kitahara will refuse to tag him and once or twice stares at him like he'd like to give him a smack. Fuyuki/Nakano is not subtle and they tear into each other and grab each other by the throat and such. The first half was a wee bit ragged even if there was plenty of hate going around (from everyone), and there was a great bit where Ishikawa hit a fat boy plancha, but it's when Fuyuki takes a mugging on the floor that things really pick up. Nakano opens him up with these nasty little rabbit punches and Fuyuki spends a chunk of time in peril. Sano was winging kicks and punching the cut, Kabuki was throwing his awesome uppercuts to the body and chin, and Nakano was biting away at that open wound. Fuyuki is always really vocal with his selling and his shrieks were sort of uncomfortable. I mean, you'd probably expect it out of someone whose forehead was being gnawed at. Short finish run is hectic and I was fine with Nakano just grabbing a chair and cracking Fuyuki with it. If you're gonna do a DQ in a Tenryu fed then you need to make it look legit and Nakano made this chair shot look legit. Post-match Fuyuki gets zero sympathy from Kitahara who volleys him in the face, which was just the best payoff. Even Ishikawa was affronted.

Toshiaki Kawada v Kenta Kobashi (All Japan, 1/17/00)

Their last ever match together, so I suppose it's fitting that it felt a bit like a Greatest Hits show. It wasn't absolutely stacked with bombs or anything, but I'd probably rather watch them go twenty minutes than forty-plus at this point anyway. Kawada was the best wrestler in the world in 2000 and he was exceptional in this. Kobashi was kind of picky with the selling and I'm not in love with the Hulk Up shtick, but Kawada basically used that to make the match feel like an uphill struggle. Like, I don't think Kobashi took a great deal more of the match than Kawada did, but based on how Kobashi would often steamroll him and the way Kawada sold it all you knew who the dominant one was. Kawada was always in with the kicker's chance. He dropped Kobashi with a few big suplexes (and Kobashi took them on his head), but much of his offence was kicks. And they were awesome kicks -- the punts, the gamengiri, the roundhouses, the HUGE axe kick, they all looked killer. Sometimes they'd come across as desperation as well, like when he fought off Kobashi's dogged attempt at a German suplex by hitting an enziguri. If Kobashi was suspect with the selling, he was not with the offence. He was chopping Kawada right in the neck, and while the fighting spirit spots might've been eye-rolly he sure tried to make you forget about them straight after with the lariat. Plus he did everything with a scowl. Finish had some awesome dead-on-his-feet selling from Kawada just for good measure, and the fact the crowd seemed to buy into a cross armbreaker as a possible finish despite there not being a submission finish in All Japan since 1992 (prolly) was pretty cool as well.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Great Sasuke, Shiryu & Masao Orihara v Takashi Ishikawa, Masanobu Kurisu & Koji Ishinriki (WAR, 6/30/94)

What a wild wee maniac bastard Masa Kurisu is. This is a show built around a six-man tag title tournament, so in that sense I guess it's fairly important. But it's a house show. It's not taped and it never would've seen the light of day if not for someone filming the whole thing (bless that soul, whoever he/she is). So a house show of some consequence...but still a house show. Kurisu has no reason to be the way he is on a house show. Right away he's potatoing guys, clonking them with headbutts, kicking them in the eye, chopping their throats. Orihara has shaved train tracks into his hair and looks like a crackhead and Kurisu cannot understand why people are cheering him. It is mystifying to him and eventually he decides it's enough for the crowd to also earn his ire and so he spends a goodly amount of time thereafter shouting at them and giving them the finger. He hates Shiryu's elaborate mask so he rips a chair off the ground and hammers him with it, like really destroys him with this chair shot. Later on he jabs the edge of it into Orihara's neck and then runs the length of the entrance ramp to smack him again. He even "winds up" before it, which, you know, awesome. It was a truly glorious performance from a reprehensible little man. And this match fucking ruled, even beyond the Kurisu parts. It might not be quite as random as the most random of six-man tag pairings to ever grace a WAR card, but it's hard to imagine it taking place anywhere else. It was the essence of WAR, basically. I don't know who Ishinriki is but he's wearing a Jason Voorhees mask and bright lilac trunks, which is a pretty tremendous juxtaposition and just goes to show that the pro wrestling really can create wonderful art. Ishikawa sort of takes a backseat in the handing out of potatoes, but there was one bit where he literally punted Orihara up and down the ramp. The M-Pro guys were super over as well. Everybody popped big for their signature spots and were rocking for the stereo dives, and somehow the juniors trio even managed to hit a triple springboard dropkick in which all six feet connected with their target. Usually somebody messes up the timing of a spot like that and you end up with one of them dropkicking thin air, but they hit it right on the money here. Ishinriki probably kicked out of and popped up from too much stuff at the end, but it at least made things dramatic and the finish was really cool. I just loved all of this, warts and all. And Kurisu. He's everything that's great about WAR in one middle-aged, bellicose nutshell.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

There's an Answer Here if Tenryu Looks Hard Enough. There's a Reason Why He Always Reaches for the Harder Stuff

Genichiro Tenryu & Stan Hansen v Akira Taue & Great Kabuki (All Japan, 3/2/90) - GOOD

This kind of match has a sort of inevitability about it. Taue is practically unblooded and Kabuki, broken down as he's becoming, isn't dragging a guy in his second year past two of the three biggest stars in the company. And Tenryu and Hansen themselves are inevitable. They're wrecking balls, they destroy things and you can't stop it. The fun, then, is seeing how the old guy with the nunchucks and his rookie partner meet their demise. Tenryu and Hansen obviously smashed them to bits -- nasty chops, forearms, clubbering, forty yarders to the spine. Taue wouldn't go down without a fight though, and there was a great bit where he caught Tenryu coming off the ropes with a big boot to the chin before following up with a weird chokeslam that dropped him face-first. If wrestling was real then Hansen would have to be one of your top draft picks for a tag partner. He's exactly the kind of guy you'd want at your back in a fight. Any time Tenryu looked to be in even the slightest bit of bother Stan would come in and help. Put Tenryu in a leglock? Hansen is in kicking your face. Indian deathlock? Not on Hansen's watch. Taue and Kabuki got no respite whatsoever. He was also awesome at responding to Kabuki's short uppercuts (which looked GREAT, btw). The more Kabuki threw the more Hansen would sell them, going from almost annoyance at the start to eventually needing to just bowl Kabuki out the ring so he'd stop. Finish was cool as well, with Kabuki taking a wild bump to the floor off the lariat as Taue lay dead for a while after the double powerbomb.

Genichiro Tenryu, Koki Kitahara & Animal Hamaguchi v Kendo Nagasaki, Kishin Kawabata & Ryo Miyake (WAR, 6/30/94) - FUN

This is probably right on that line between FUN and SKIPPABLE, but I'm all about the WAR and there was enough randomness here that you probably should be too. Nagasaki is 53 at this point and he is flat out determined to skelp someone with a chair. Doesn't even matter who, he'll hit anyone. Hamaguchi is 47 but he drops elbows like a man two decades younger. They were great elbows, really quick and impactful. Tenryu took a bit of a backseat in this to let the others have the spotlight - as was his unselfish wont - and so Kitahara stepped into the role of guy kicking everyone in the face really hard. Kawabata was kicked many times in the face. Miyake was kicked many, many times in the face. Nagasaki was kicked once in the face and he went directly for that chair. Never for a second did you doubt the finish. This is the Wrestle and the Romance.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #15

Hideki Suzuki v Daisuke Sekimoto (Big Japan, 3/5/17)

I was caught a little bit in two minds coming into this. On the one hand it was a big title match in which I figured Suzuki would really get to stretch out and do his thing. On the other hand I knew it went half an hour and I wasn't sure how I'd handle half an hour of Sekimoto. But hey, it mostly turned out to be everything I wanted with almost nothing of what I didn't want! They grabbed me from the very first lock-up, laying some groundwork for the story they were going to tell. Sekimoto wins the initial test of strength because he's stronger, so Suzuki smartly uses his height and leverage to stand back up and slickly spin out to sweep Sekimoto's leg. Suzuki flexes out the kinks in his fingers and they lock up again, but this time Suzuki just throws Sekimoto over the ropes with a belly to belly. And from there it was just a super quick half hour. There were lots of things I liked in this. They never worked what you'd call a slow build as such, there wasn't much hold-trading or deliberate matwork early on, but they continued laying the foundations and it didn't take long for the story to form. Sekimoto is a real slab of meat and his number one aim is to steamroll you. Suzuki can't quite trample guys the same way but he's the superior technician, and so there are lots of examples of Sekimoto trying to flatten him or hit one of his bombs and Suzuki countering in unique ways, usually into a submission attempt. Sekimoto tries for a submission of his own by going to the torture rack and Suzuki does this great slow escape that he manages to turn into one of his airtight chin locks/chokes. Suzuki has so many cool variations of moves, often rolled out unexpectedly, like when Sekimoto lowers his head huffing air after a flurry of forearms and Suzuki yanks him right into a small package. He also brings a bunch of cool little touches to communicate the STRUGGLE, like grabbing Sekimoto's ankle so he can't be turned in a Boston crab or going dead weight to prevent the German suplex. I was mostly perfectly fine with the strike exchange as well, and I actually thought Suzuki threw the better shots. He's a world class striker anyway, but clubbering the dogshit out of someone, as much as he can annoy me, is something not many people do as well as Sekimoto. Even the no-selling/fighting spirit parts were tolerable, not just because there were only a couple of those bits during the whole match, but because they at least played into the story of Sekimoto being a juggernaut who's nearly impossible to stop if he builds up enough momentum. And if nothing else it led to Suzuki having to come up with more interesting ways of combating Sekimoto's little-engine-that's-too-stupid-to-know-it-should-stop-isms. I was a bit worried they'd started going back and forth towards the finish a bit early and that they'd lose me, but they really didn't at any point. I guess there were a couple ropey transitions, but the selling of exhaustion was mostly excellent and it really did feel like they fought a war. It always came off as a struggle rather than back and forth for back and forth's sake, which is one of my single biggest grumbles with modern puro. It isn't making you forget Misawa v Kawada or anything, but there were shades of the build to those big moves just the same. And the fact neither could hit their finisher not only left something of consequence on the table for the rematch, it made sure they never went too far into overkill in the first run. I heard this was good and I'm all the way on the Suzuki bandwagon by now, but it still managed to exceed my expectations.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #14

Hideki Suzuki & Takuya Nomura v Yasafumi Nakanoue & Yoshihisa Uto (Big Japan, 7/24/16)

The feud that keeps on giving, this time with a neat new wrinkle. Suzuki and Nomura were a fun match-up, but they might be even more fun as a unit. This is now the fourth Nomura match I've seen and I'm definitely becoming a fan. He was really awesome in this with how he'd throw super fast hands and leap all over people trying to twist them into armbars. That he made his debut a mere three months prior to this means his strike exchanges carry some weight, how he'll try and hang with the established guys even though he's obviously the underdog. You want him to come out of those exchanges on top and you feel sympathy for him when he doesn't. I mean it's hard not to feel sympathy for him when Nakanoue and Uto are clobbering his face in, but his selling was pretty great as well. Suzuki was tremendous yet again. He was Nomura's burly big brother, content enough to let Nomura fight his own battles yet willing to step in when necessary. He approached his initial exchanges with a sort of condescending indifference, where Nakanoue would elbow him in the face (stiffly) and he wouldn't even dignify it with retaliation. It was intended to insult and Nakanoue knew it. Then he lost his marbles like everybody knew he would and he just murdered Nakanoue. That initial moment in a Suzuki match where his temper erupts is so great. It's truly Tenryu-esque. And these matches are all very derivative of WAR, the way the violence escalates and how there's always that sense of things being on the cusp of breaking down into a street brawl. Also loved the finish, with Nomura earning his stripes by holding off Nakanoue long enough for Suzuki to end things. Post-match Suzuki helps Uto back to his feet and shakes his hand in a show of respect. Nakanoue he leaves in a heap on the floor.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #13

Hideki Suzuki v Takuya Nomura (Big Japan, 7/9/16)

This felt like the right sort of progression from their June match (Hideki of the Day #10). The outcome still isn't really in doubt, but Nomura fought harder and took more of this. Suzuki would try things that he did in the first match, but Nomura would be ready for it and counter. Suzuki would try to counter the counter, but then Nomura would counter even that. He did his homework, he was relentless in going for openings, and Suzuki often found himself on the back foot. There were a few cool moments like that in particular. Nomura was crawling all over him at one point trying to grab a cross armbreaker, Suzuki tried to roll backwards out of it and Nomura caught his legs in a nifty cradle. Nomura tried to double stomp Suzuki's head again and there was a great bit where he fought out of a kneebar by slapping him really hard across the face. Nomura even has the big uppercuts scouted and reverses one into a slick backslide. Suzuki needs to go one step further than before when Nomura kicks out of the Billy Robinson backbreaker, so he sure plants him with the double underhook suplex. Give these guys seven/eight minutes and it'd be hard for them not to make it worthwhile.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #12

Hideki Suzuki & Daichi Hashimoto v Yasafumi Nakanoue & Yoshihisa Uto (Big Japan, 6/29/16)

"Nakanoue definitely feels like one of the weakest - or at least the most cookie cutter - of the players in this division when he isn't outright beefing with someone. Like, he needs that hook to draw me in". I said that yesterday in light of Nakanoue and Suzuki being on opposite ends of a match and not hating each other to death. So I went back to some 2016, and yeah, they really hated each other to death last year. This was fucking great. Suzuki was incredible in it and brought everything that made me a fan in the first place, but Nakanoue was so much more interesting this time it wasn't funny. It's actually he and Uto who start the mugging pre-match, which is a departure from Suzuki being the first to let his temper boil over. But of course it's only a matter of time before it does boil over. He really thumped Nakanoue with elbows and headbutts and threw in a Tenryu punt to the eye for good measure. They even did a strike exchange that I not only thought wasn't rubbish, but was in fact actively good, and I know I said I wasn't going to keep bringing up strike exchanges but this felt significant enough to warrant mention. Then Uto tried to get chippy so Suzuki stretched him and punched him in the kidney and dug his knuckles in his face (which gave Uto a bloody nose). Daichi establishing himself as the young guy who wouldn't take any shit was the other major plot line. He really swung for the fences with his kicks, threw a few coconut headbutts, flew into camera shot with a crazy dropkick, and overall I bought him as the young guy who wouldn't take any shit. So job done, I guess. Post-match Nakanoue tries to get back at Suzuki some more and Suzuki literally grabs ring boys by the head and throws them away in order to oblige. I love this feud and this match encapsulates everything that's great about it.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #11

Hideki Suzuki & Daichi Hashimoto v Yuji Okabayashi & Yasafumi Nakanoue (Big Japan, 2/26/17)

Pretty standard twelve minute house show tag. Suzuki and Nakanoue have definitely moved past whatever made them hate one another to death in 2016. Which is somewhat unfortunate. Nakanoue definitely feels like one of the weakest - or at least the most cookie cutter - of the players in this division when he isn't outright beefing with someone. Like, he needs that hook to draw me in, whereas Suzuki is game against pretty much anyone, Okabayashi will throw huge chops against whoever he's in there with, and Daichi at least feels somewhat interesting if for no reason other than the family name. Then again this had one of those screamy tough guy strike exchanges between Daichi and Okabayashi that makes you cringe so hard your face falls off and Nakanaoue did not. So who knows. Suzuki threw one awesome chop-forearm-uppercut combo but otherwise this was fairly nondescript.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #10

Hideki Suzuki v Takuya Nomura (Big Japan, 6/29/16)

This was cool as fuck. I'd seen Nomura once before in a tag match, but this is the first time I've gotten a look at him in a focused singles setting. He works as quick young striker and throws nice hands and feet, pretty much everything landing with a smack (this is Big Japan, after all). Suzuki doesn't really work as a bully as such, but he's the bigger man and so he works as dominant grappler and throws Nomura around with some awesome wrestling. It's a ready made dynamic and it worked a treat. Some of Suzuki's takedowns in this were so great. There was one bit where he just ripped out an inside cradle from nowhere and it was probably the tightest, most realistic use of a small package I've seen in a pro-wrestling match. It had no set up and didn't look cooperative at all, but if he'd wanted to he probably could've kept Nomura tied up like that for several minutes. At another point he dropped to his back to invite Nomura to grapple with him and Nomura tried to fucking double stomp him in the face instead. And good grief will Suzuki try and bend you all the way in half with a Boston Crab. Super fun match-up. Suzuki basically working as burlier Osamu Nishimura is something I can absolutely get behind.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #9

Hideki Suzuki v Masakatsu Funaki (Zero-1, 3/1/15)

Really cool seven minutes. Funaki was the heir to Inoki and Suzuki is a 2010s Billy Robinson, so you knew you'd get some neat matwork, and while it didn't last very long it most certainly was neat. Funaki is more than a decade Suzuki's senior but you couldn't tell from how he moves. He's still super quick in the scramble, rolling through and grabbing armbars like it was 1996. The last couple minutes were just great. They burst into a frantic race to either score the submission or drop the other with a bug suplex and the slickness with which they were reversing and countering was pretty impressive. Wish it were longer, but you take what you can get.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #8

Hideki Suzuki & Yoshihisa Uto v Daisuke Sekimoto & Seiya Sanada (Big Japan, 2/18/16)

This was kind of low-key compared to the Big Japan I've watched recently - nobody really tried to cave anybody else's face in - but it felt like a vehicle to push Sanada, and in that sense I suppose it did its job well enough. He wasn't spectacular or anything and his offence was a bit juniory, but at least it looked crisp. The finish run with him and Uto was basically garden variety "you hit your move and I'll hit mine" stuff, though. Suzuki/Sekimoto made for a fun match-up, especially their exchange where they fought over hammerlocks and top wrist locks. Sekimoto is the pits and the poster boy for most of what I can't be arsed with in modern Japanese wrestling, but to be fair to him he paired up well with Suzuki. His forearm exchanges with Uto also had the added wrinkle of a hierarchy gulf, so it didn't come across as being completely hackneyed. His facial expressions are still ridiculous, however. Perfectly fine twelve minutes overall.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #7

Hideki Suzuki & Yoshihisa Uto v Shuji Ishikawa & Kohei Sato (Big Japan, 9/21/15)

Big Japan truly is the land of the crowbar-wielding potato farmers. I've had that impression for a while if only from reading about it, but watching this stuff confirms it. Ishikawa, Sato, Suzuki, Okabayashi, Kawakami, Sekimoto, even the rookies -- everybody thumps the absolute dogfuck out of each other. It's a bit of a departure from the barbed wire landmine deathmatch focus of yore (though Abby Jr. and the deathmatch crowd are still doing their thing. It's sort of surreal seeing Yuko Miyamoto as grizzled old bastard with criss-cross scarring all over his back when a decade ago he was the pretty young fella being hurled off scaffold. So...surreal yet understandable, I guess). This was all around badass to begin with, but the added hook with Uto stepping to the plate against the big dogs really kicked it up a few notches. And by Christ did Uto get abused in his stepping to the plate against the big dogs. Kohei Sato has been around for a while now but he's always been a guy on the periphery of my attention. I couldn't tell you if he's always worked like this, but based on recent evidence he might throw the hardest elbows in wrestling. He was just plastering Uto here. Ishikawa is someone I now want to watch more of independent of this little project and he was a super fun bully again. His knees to Uto's body were outrageous, but it was the interactions with Suzuki that ruled the most. There was one strike exchange where they were just hammering each other and laughing along like a pair of sadists, gumshields half hanging out mouths and spittle flying. Everybody and their granny and their granny's dog knew who was taking the fall here, but it was the journey that you came to see and a heck of a fun journey it was.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #6

Hideki Suzuki v Ryuichi Kawakami (Big Japan, 2/10/17)

Presumably the follow-up singles to the January tag (for more information on this wrestling match, see Hideki of the Day #3), this definitely had a 'first match in the feud' feel to it. You need to start somewhere, though, and for eleven minutes it was a cool first match in the feud. Both guys are pretty coy in the early parts, neither wanting to play too much of their hand too early, though like in most Suzuki matches we get some nice exchanging of holds. There's a great Suzuki moment where he counters a chin lock by grabbing one of Kawakami's wrists and twisting like he's opening a stubborn jar of pickles. Sometimes you can just tell from a wrestler's reaction whether it's all selling or not, and this looked like the grimace of a man who knew he was either being taken down to the mat or losing a hand. There was another part as well where Suzuki had him in a tight headlock and Kawakami's face was contorted into about four different expressions. I've only seen Kawakami twice so I'm still in the process of formulating an opinion on him, but I'll tell you this much: he hits like a bastard. He threw some MEATY forearms, brothers. Last few minutes were real good and the finish was great. Suzuki had come close to hitting the butterfly suplex a couple times, but Kawakami had been able to reverse. Kawakami then connected with a big forearm and Suzuki went full on dead weight, and for a second I thought they were actually gonna do a ref' stoppage. Kawakami eventually managed to get him up, but Suzuki was playing possum and hit the butterfly for the quick three. Satisfying build up to what I assume will be plenty of ill will and ass-beating and whatnot.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #5

Hideki Suzuki v Kohei Sato (Zero-1, 3/27/16)

Killer match. Suzuki was pretty fucking sensational in this. It's not especially long for a title match (clocks in at around fourteen minutes), but he controls most of it by working Sato's arm and it is some awesome arm work. He has an array of octopus stretch holds where he simultaneously ties up a different body part while bending the right arm at horrific angles. Sato is completely helpless at points and Suzuki is crawling all over him and trying to wrap Sato's arm around his own body like a beach towel. He also throws European uppercuts and grounded knees directly to the arm, which obviously ruled. It's not often I'll complain about a wrestling match in the current climate not having a longer finishing stretch, but I thought this could've done with a few more minutes. I did like the idea of Sato rolling out a few bombs in fairly quick succession to knock Suzuki loopy, and I guess it theoretically leaves the door open for a rematch, but it felt like Suzuki maybe went down a wee bit too easily. Or maybe I just wanted the match to continue because I was diggin' it. Who knows? Either way I thought this was pretty great.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #4

Hideki Suzuki & Atsushi Maruyama v Yasafumi Nakanoue & Takayu Nomura (Big Japan, 6/20/16)

Suzuki/Nakanoue might've been the best feud in wrestling last year. I haven't seen the blowoff to it, nor do I know if there even is one, but everything I saw them do together in 2016 was exactly what I wanted in the current Japanese pro-wrestling. And this was more of the same. Early on Suzuki was trying to get under Nakanoue's skin by refusing to engage, but it didn't take long before the shackles came off. There was a two minute spell towards the end where Suzuki went full Tenryu and absolutely fucking mauled him. It was very, very great; like, one of the best segments of a match I've seen in ages. Nakanoue would have none of it and fight back, but Suzuki would just cave him with an elbow or a headbutt or full force kick him in the face. It was amazing. And then Nakanoue would fight back even harder and it would just annoy Suzuki even more! At one point he threw a forearm that was honest to god one of the nastiest I've ever seen. He's like the perfect modern day mix of Tenryu's cunty savagery and Regal's nasty matwork, replete with all sorts of armbars and leglocks that bend joints at angles they shouldn't be bent at. I mean, what a combination! Maruyama and Nomura were fine. Nomura is a young kickpad guy and he had a fun exchange with Suzuki, who tied him up in a fisherman's knot. It was he and Maruyama who closed out the match, but I couldn't tell you how it ended, intent as I was on watching Suzuki and Nakanoue slabber each other on the floor. Give me everything those guys have ever done together.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #3

Hideki Suzuki & Yoshihisa Uto v Ryuichi Kawakami & Yasafumi Nakanoue (Big Japan, 1/2/17)

Suzuki abusing Nakanoue was just about my favourite thing in wrestling last year so when I saw this I immediately got excited. Where Suzuki hated him in 2016, however, he now...feels nothing. It was a different kind of great, where he just reacted with sheer indifference and a haughty sense of superiority. He couldn't even be bothered locking up with him. Instead, 2017 may be the year where he's decided to hate Kawakami. Suzuki waves Nakanoue away with disinterest and asks for Kawakami, and they proceed to have a nice little struggle on the mat without ever really smacking each other in the face. Suzuki is so awesome at doing the nasty little things, like really twisting on a wrist to force Kawakami to the mat. Then when Naknoue tags back in Suzuki immediately removes himself, above even making eye contact. The back end of this felt like it was more about Uto and Nakanoue than Suzuki and Kawakami, but that's only because the latter pair wound up brawling around the ring and up towards the entrance way. Hopefully a sign of what's to come.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #2

Hideki Suzuki v Shuji Ishikawa (Big Japan, 4/9/16)

This was really good. The opening stretch is another strong matwork segment, with everything being mean and nasty and fought for, then Ishikawa decides he can't hang like that and takes a powder. Suzuki opens the ropes as an invite for him to get back in, but instead Ishikawa sits on one of the ringside chairs and gestures for Suzuki to join him. So they sit in the crowd and take turns elbowing each other really hard in the ear, which is a wrinkle on that particular trope that I don't have any problem with. I've only seen a handful of Ishikawa matches, but in every one of those matches he would stiff the daylights out of someone and he did that again here. Suzuki hardly throws love taps in his own right, but while he has the advantage on the mat it's Ishikawa who has the advantage throwing strikes. Ishikawa will apparently also recklessly fling you into things as he drops Suzuki over the ring apron with a front suplex. Some of the strikes down the stretch were meaty as all get out, particularly Ishikawa's knees to the body. We also got another compact-yet-satisfying finishing run -- no overkill, no egregious fighting spirit no-selling, and a cool finish that I initially thought was a miscue/botch. I would very much be down for watching these two crack each other in the face some more.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #1

I haven't watched anything in months. I go through these spells often, evidently. A couple days ago I got the itch to watch some of the pro-wrestling, though, and there's a goodly amount of Hideki Suzuki floating around that I've wanted to check out for a while. Having watched a handful of his matches last year I took an instant liking to him, so for the next while I want to continue down that rabbit hole. We'll see how long this lasts before I drop it and move onto something else (maybe I'll even finish Puerto Rico this year!)

Hideki Suzuki v Masato Tanaka (Zero-1, 1/1/16)

I don't really know why, but I'm always a little surprised when I make my brief, annual forays into the current Japanese wrestling and see Masato Tanaka popping up. Feels like he's been around forever, but he still looks to be in great shape. He's not someone I ever really think of as being in that "grumpy old man" category despite the fact he's been wrestling about as long as, say, Akiyama. I wouldn't say he was showing his age as such here, but I did kind of get a vibe of him being out of his depth (kayfabe terms) against the younger ace (who's pushing 40 himself). When he went to his deathmatch roots and brought out the table, for example, you could probably buy it as a sort of desperation move. Match only went 16 minutes so it was fairly condensed, though the opening matwork section still managed to feel substantive rathepthan perfunctory. It was also probably my favourite part. Suzuki is a Billy Robinson trainee so you always get the grittiness to his matwork, pulling legs at nasty angles and really leaning on joints. They moved away from that with a rote forearm exchange, but I should probably just get used to that already and not constantly bring it up if I'm gonna continue to watch this stuff. It is part of the Japanese pro-wrestling. It's embedded in the fabric of the fake fighting. I must come to accept this. Finishing run was short, and while they might've moved on from a few big spots without letting them truly sink in, I'd rather they did that than keep going for another five/six minutes of bomb-throwing overkill.