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