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, 2/14/16)

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.