1991 · NJPW · Riki Choshu · Shinya Hashimoto

Riki Choshu vs Shinya Hashimoto-NJPW 10.8.1991.

I can’t stress how much I love the commentary from the crew who filmed this. People tend to put japanese crowds on pedestals and draw comparisons to theater and whatnot, but this is an excellent reminder what you hear is just the collective sum of all the noise and that many people in the crowd have small talks like “what the hell is that idiot doing taking so long to make his entrance”, yelling “kill him” and what not. The match is pretty much perfectly laid out. So much is accomplished in so little time. Choshu’s inital flurry is amazing and sets the manic pace of the match-his offence looks great as is, but him busting out a Dropkick when after taunting for a Lariat was both a great shocking moment and a nice way to put over how big of a threat Hashimoto was to him. The way Hashimoto came back was absolutely stellar-he pretty much bulldozed through Choshu after taking his best shots and kicked him out of the ring. This could’ve easily come off as Hashimoto just totally no-selling and then an that awkward period which follows after a wrestler gets sent outside the ring, but he smartly sold during and after the comeback in a way that still somewhat protected Choshu’s offence and logically filled the “empty” time. Once Choshu got back into the ring Hashimoto had already recovered, and he started laying on one of the most memorable beatings in a wrestling match I’ve ever seen, completely dismantling Choshu with brutal kicks, Choshu sold it like an action movie star on death watch, and just as I’d start to think they’re running out of ideas something incredible like Hashimoto’s spin kick, brutal arm ddt or a Choshu comeback attempt would happen. Choshu throwing the towel out of the ring was a beautiful moment of machismo, pride and stubbornness, and it’s hard to imagine a better puchline to such a great spot than immediately getting beaten out by a brutal spinning heel kick. While already marvelous, you do see Hashimoto isn’t a *completely* formed worker by this point, as thoughts of repetition never even once entered my mind during some of his later matches which also have large control segments of him pretty much doing the same thing over and over again. some of it was probably how many variations of simple moves he came up with, and that’s the only thing preventing me from labelling this as nearing perfection. ****3/4

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1991 · AJPW · Akira Taue · Mitsuharu Misawa

Mitsuharu Misawa vs Akira Taue-AJPW 26.1.1991.

This was an interesting, although slightly disappointing match. Misawa’s aggressive onslaught in the beginning was awesome, totally caught me off guard and for a moment it looked like it could turn into an awesome brawl, but the next thing was Misawa transitioning into a hold and them just having a standard match, which was nowhere near as interesting. There are moments where you see signs of the nastiness that will come of Taue in the following years but you can also see he’s still too fascinated with jumping of things and what he can physchically do to really dedicate himself to the snugness. They both have good offence, some sloppy (jumping) middle kicks aside, the rope running transitions are something All Japan handled perfectly and Misawa’s misaed Lariat (and following elbow comeback) was a thing of beauty. Still, this didn’t really feel worthy of such a big move debut. Others will probably enjoy it a lot more since I presume they’re not as focused on structure as “holy shit Taue did a somersault!” and that’s valid too. ***