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

1995 · NJPW · Shinya Hashimoto

Shinya Hashimoto vs Kensuke Sasaki-NJPW 4.1.1995.

Very well structured and built heavyweight battle with plenty of struggle and smart teases of big moves. Hashimoto’s transitions were really great, there was a sequence where Kensuke started chopping him and advancing forward and Hashimoto just cut him off with a Kesagiri and it looked like he’d beheaded him and another one where Kensuke went to Lariat him and he just punched him in the arm. The aforementioned punch started the armwork which didn’t last long, there was not enough of it for it to make Kensuke’s normal use of his strikes and throws intolerable but just enough of it so they could call back to it when he went for his wacky Strangle Holds. Could’ve done without the pop-up after the DDT but the context it was done in made it more bearable. Exciting finish with some swell nearfalls. ***1/2

Kensuke Sasaki · NJPW · Shinya Hashimoto

Shinya Hashimoto vs Kensuke Sasaki-NJPW 9.4.2001.

I remember hearing about this match, I think I read an old article from SSS Stuart which depicted it as a disaster and shit on the booking and the Inokiism in it. Luckily I’m way too into absurdism to care about who wins in pro wrestling (especially in a fifteen year old match) and the way it was described really made me want to see it. Honestly this might be the best Hashimoto-Kensuke Sasaki match. I’m not sure how many matches they’ve had against each other but of the top off my head I can think of a Hash IWGP Title defence vs. Power Warrior, one in the Dome and a G1 match and I would have this one above all of them. It’s billed as a “no rules deathmatch”, that doesn’t mean you’re going to get garbage spots and heavily gimmicked stuff, just more punches to the face and also a very clever submission spot built around the stipulation. Hashimoto comes out wearing boxing gloves and man do these two beat on one another, they throw a lot of nasty shots in close range and while clinching before the match evolves into ridiculous bomb throwing. I could see the uniqueness of the pacing and (somewhat of) the finish throwing some folks off but I really appreciated them. It’s esentially a proto-Futen match. ****

AJPW · Shinya Hashimoto · Toshiaki Kawada

Toshiaki Kawada vs Shinya Hashimoto-AJPW 22.2.2004.

Hashimoto, the previous champion, challenges Kawada to take back the Triple Crown Championship he’d never lost. Hashimoto had to vacate the title after a shoulder injury. This was actually one of the first Hashimoto matches I’d ever seen. When I watched it I thought it was a great match, but I watched it in a vacuum, not understanding all the nuances and psychology that were present in this match, and also with a much different mindset than the one I currently have (All Japan is the best wrestling ever, Marufuji is the best, more apron moves please). I thought it was a great match because they hit each other hard. But that’s kind of omnipresent in every Hashimoto and Kawada match. This isn’t worked like any other Hashimoto match and definitely not like any other Kawada match. I swear this was going to be at least **** for me for the entrances alone. Man Hashimoto just looks so cool. He comes out and he has the flashy jacket and the bandana and the crowd is losing their shit and I’m losing my shit and Hashimoto just carries himself like this is the most important thing we are ever going to witness. Then Kawada comes out and he’s got the flashy robe and the cool belts and the crowd is going wild once again. Man the feeling out process in this one was super great. Just them stretching and staring at each other manages to be incredibly captivating and super awesome. First bigger thing Hashimoto does in this one is a Hane Goshi and it’s hard to describe just how much the beauty of the technique resonated with me. That’s one of the biggest strenghts of this match-every transition managed to look great, feel great and make sense in the context of the match. They go the strike exhanging and Hashimoto hits Kawada so hard he starts bleeding from his ear. That’s right. I’ve seen a lot of fucked up things in professional wrestling, whether they be in FUTEN folks punching each other as hard as humanly possible or various deathmatch stuff but I don’t ever remember feeling as horrified as I did once it hit me what had just transpired. They engage in a kick battle which you would want from famed kickers and the commentators bring up their fighting backgrounds and how that affects their kicking technique. Man this match rules so much. Hashimoto’s karate proves to be stronger than whatever the hell Kawada did. That might have been the best Suimengiri he had ever done. Hashimoto attacks Kawada’s leg and the commentators bring up Hashimoto submitting Kawada in a big tag match with a Kneebar which I’d kind of forgotten about despite watching the mentioned tag match. Kawada attacks Hashimoto’s injured shoulder in return. That is such an important part of what makes this match work, tapped up shoulder Hashimoto is an amazing character, a couple of months beforehand he had a match vs. Ohtani that featured one of the most unique finishes in wrestling history and it really adds a lot to this match because there’s a feeling Hashimoto could fall apart at any given moment. Hashimoto makes sure to beat the shit out of Kawada’s leg enough to make you feel the same way about him as well. Kawada initially tries to fire back by using the same leg Hashimoto had started attacking but Hashimoto (no)sells them perfectly as Kawada was throwing them both with a weakened limb and from a really terrible position. Hashimoto did register the kicks Kawada threw with his left leg. Of course-kicks are too big of a part of Kawada’s offence for him to give up on them entirely, but despite hitting them he always sells sells the pain while setting the move up and after hitting it, in a way most wrestlers who “fight through pain” simply don’t. There’s a pretty great moment where Hashimoto goes for another Hane Goshi and there’s a struggle over whether he’s going to throw Kawada or Kawada is going to throw him by countering it with a Backdrop Suplex (like in that awesome Kawada-Naoya Ogawa match) and despite managing to throw Hashimoto he doesn’t really do it with the force he usually would due to his leg giving out. There’s a lot of drama over whether or not they are going to be able to execute a certain move due to the damage their injured limbs have suffered which is constantly played up, especially in the final strike exchange. Finish is about as fitting as it couldv’ve been. This was fucking amazing. I wanted more though which is how I don’t feel about the Hashimoto matches I’ve rated as perfect. Maybe I will improve its rating after another rewatch. ****3/4