From “karate guy” to notorious Death note cosplayer, Akitoshi Saito has, continues to and shall forever rule. I should probably try to remember and explore his career a bit, let’s have this serve as a reminder until then.
Once upon a time I proclaimed Shinya Hashimoto the greatest wrestler of all time in the 2016 PWO GWE poll. I tend to change my opinions these things a lot, so nothing’s set in stone (especially with the idea of the *greatest* carrying so much imaginary stake-I very well could just make pace with Kikuchi or Angel Azteca as the 97th greatest wrestler of all time and just go on never thinking about it again). Luckily pro wrestling is more of a fun hobby than an unhealthy obsession for me these days and it looks like getting my stuff together correlates with my participation in silly arguments over fake fighting subsiding. Much like other posts in the “all things” edition, this is going to be a showcase that for those who do enjoy the worker in question, there’s no shortage of excellence to point to, as well as a general guide for those interested in a worker.
Riki Choshu vs Shinya Hashimoto-NJPW 10.8.1991.
Shinya Hashimoto & Riki Choshu vs Genichiro Tenryu & Takashi Ishikawa-WAR 2.4.1993.
Shinya Hashimoto vs Tatsumi Fujinami-NJPW 5.6.1998.
Shinya Hashimoto vs Genichiro Tenryu-NJPW 1.8.1998.
Shinya Hashimoto & Naoya Ogawa vs Mark Kerr & Tom Howard-ZERO-1 9.12.2001.
Toshiaki Kawada vs Shinya Hashimoto-AJPW 22.2.2004.
Shinya Hashimoto & Tatsumi Fujinami vs Genichiro Tenryu & Takashi Ishikawa-WAR 24.5.1993.
Shinya Hashimoto vs The Great Muta-NJPW 20.9.1993.
Shinya Hashimoto vs Kensuke Sasaki-NJPW 9.4.2001.
Shinya Hashimoto & Naoya Ogawa vs Keiji Mutoh & Satoshi Kojima-ZERO-1 2.5.2003.
Shinya Hashimoto & Masahiro Chono vs Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara-WAR 1.10.1993.
Shinya Hashimoto vs Yoshiaki Fujiwara-NJPW 1.6.1994.
Shinya Hashimoto vs Kensuke Sasaki-NJPW 4.1.1995.
Shinya Hashimoto vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan-NJPW 4.2.1995.
Shinya Hashimoto vs Satoshi Kojima-NJPW 11.6.1996.
Shinya Hashimoto & Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs Tom Howard & The Predator-ZERO-1 30.7.2002.
Shinya Hashimoto & Kazuhiko Ogasawara vs Steve Corino & Tom Howard-ZERO-1 5.4.2003.
Shinya Hashimoto & Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs Shinjiro Ohtani & Takao Omori-ZERO-1 31.8.2004.
This was essentially a shoot style spotfest for the most part. I quite like their offence, so I didn’t have much problem with it, even if it seemed there wasn’t much rhyme or reason to it. There were occassional highlights in the matwork in the form of a cool counter, but for the most part it was just fine and used like submission finishers are in modern wrestling, milked to get the crowd behind the wrestler crawling to the ropes. In that sense I liked how they didn’t make it too obvious what they were doing, as they’d have a wrestler reach the ropes before the crowd paked in vocal support or before they even had enough time to start chanting at all too. Still, the best parts of the match were the kicking flurries, and the match just reached a higher level once they reached the finishing stretch and the match turned into an all out brawl, it was like a pastiche of a Bruce Lee movie and a high end K1 fight which appropriated the best of both worlds. It had took the cartoonish stamina and reistance of an action movie and the brutality and kicking precision from actual combat, but also maybe the best exhaustion selling ever. Maeda and Yamazaki looked completely gassed, and a desperate Maeda trying to grab Yamazaki’s leg to counter with a Capture Suplex was an amazing sight, and the rowdiness of the crowd even minutes after the match really cemented how much 99% of wrestling is missing out by not having the ability and vision to fully encapsulate the humanity of combat. ****1/4
I’m not quite sure what to say about Akira Maeda, particularly because my main motivation behind doing these is organizing things so I can recommend matches more easily to folks. But that doesn’t really tell the whole story, especially for Maeda. Who is Akira Maeda? Quite possibly the greatest revolutionary since some 18th century french folks. A man whom you’d admire, but not necessarily respect. A former yakuza, a man who broke Choshu’s orbital bone, kicked Sayama in the nuts, beat up a wrestler backstage for having a bad match, got in Tamura’s face after a K1 fight because he deemed it fixed, fell asleep during some random junior tag match and so much more. Following his career is a wonderful journey, a tale of violence, and, urgh, some other stuff too.
Akira Maeda vs Super Tiger-UWF 7.1.1985.
Akira Maeda vs Super Tiger-UWF 25.7.1985.
Akira Maeda vs Masa Saito-NJPW 18.5.1987.
Akira Maeda vs Kazuo Yamazaki-UWF 12.5.1988.
Akira Maeda vs Kiyoshi Tamura-UWF 25.10.1989.
Akira Maeda vs Dick Vrij-RINGS 14.7.1994.
Akira Maeda vs Yoshihisa Yamamoto-RINGS 16.12.1994.
Akira Maeda vs Yoshihisa Yamamoto-RINGS 24.1.1996.
Akira Maeda vs Kiyoshi Tamura-RINGS 28.3.1997.
Akira Maeda vs Volk Han-RINGS 16.4.1998.
I’m going to go ahead and say they missed the mark on one of the more important things in this type of match, which is really making the crowd buy into the drama. A big reason for that is probably the first pin in the match resulted in a 2 count and at least half of the kick-outs were 2.9 counts, that’s completely against the philosophy of how a match like this should be worked (with the timing of the kick-outs getting later and later and the 2.9 counts being reserved for the finishing minutes). I mean, it’s not like the match couldn’t have been any better, but aside from that it really feels like nitpicking. I agree this is a great example of how to build a long back and forth match-which makes their mistakes that much more devastating and regrettable. One of my favourite things in the match was that, even when they did the rope running transitions I’m allergic to, they were really good, as Sekimoto was actually attempting a move (and one quite important in his arsenal as well) and Sekimoto would until the very end to sway and grab onto him. That’s just so much cooler than countering nothing with a move you can do from some other situation. Sekimoto is a meathead whose COM logic would be quite easy to edit in Fire Pro-you know what you’re getting out of him, you know what he does in what scenarios. I think that limits the quality of his matches most of the time, but there’s an a solid foundation in what he does, which probably explains why he’s such a good trainer. Suzuki really pushed to match in the direction it went-with the emphasis on struggle instead of a ridiculous war of attrition and repetition. Whether it was Suzuki Uppercuting Sekimoto on the Lariat attempt he always does (usually successfully) after eating a German Suplex, Suzuki blocking a Boston Crab by grabbing Sekimoto’s ankle and neck and Sekimoto having to earn an opening by pinning Suzuki to transition into the submission, the the sandbagging of the opponent’s finishers, desperately throwing themselves into pins or continuing to strike away when when they were floored, this match was full of great, memorable moments and a rare modern japanese wrestling showcase of how I envision great wrestling. ****
It’s easy to point to the ridiculous violence of chairhots and throwing beer boxes onto your opponent, but there was so much more which really made the match work as well as it did. It really speaks to both the charisma of Rush and LA Park that they can basically do a ten minute control segment and have the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand the entire time. In ring sequences which end in them doing DDTs and Powerslams aren’t really what you’re watching this for, but when they come they feel a lot fresher and more important because they signalize the end is near. Their dedication to ram their head into ring posts and whatever object they were thrown in was phenomenal. And there were so many wonderful “small” moments too-like Rush selling his own Headbutt, Park’s theatrical bump for a simple chest slap which reminds you how old he is and how much bumps on the floor hurt and Rush salvaging a botch where Park tripped by just kind of shootily underhooking him onto the floor. Doing longer control segments allowed them to have less transitions which almost instantly makes them less memorable, but also allows them to put more thought into making them better, and there were some really neat here-the counter punch into the tope which finally started Park’s initial comeback gave me Sangre Chicana flashbacks, it’s insane a man his age is throwing his body around so recklessly; Rush recuperating and seizing control because Park took too long to get back in the ring for he went to get a chair was clever, and Rush’s kick to set up the rope hanging DDT as Park was about the enter the ring was probably the best single use of that spot wrestling’s seen so far. So, a great match, lots to appreaciate in it, but even with all it’s positives it still felt like there was a floor to how could it could get-it was almost like a solved equation. For a match to do more than just scratch greatness you’d hope for something unexpected, an incredibly special version of the expected, something that really gets it to the next level, there was a moment where LA Park started nailing Rush with vicious punches in the corner where it looked like they could get to that, but then they did the ref drama which negated this match’s chances of being something more. ****
I rolled my eyes when this point was mentioned in a certain match review years ago, but I’ll steal it here-to me, this really felt like a real pro wrestler taking on a phony. Negro Navarro is a lucha maestro-he’s changed with the times and has constantly updated his offence, but the way he’d done it and performed has stayed true to that lineage and tradition. Zack Sabre Jr. is a total hybrid. You can see he is someone fascinated with pro wrestling and wants to rip everything he likes and create this all encompassing stlyle and whatnot, but as a result his matches don’t really have a specific flair, particularly outside of a context that is “indy wrestler having matches indy crowds think are great”. And Sabre looking “bad” isn’t something I came in expecting to think, since I’ve always liked him as a worker, but him working against Negro Navarro in this environment really hammered that at me over and over again. Some of it was a 60 year old man looking like he was in much better shape than Sabre. Some of it were Sabre’s ridiculous facial expressions and silly vocal selling that I don’t pay heed to much when he usually wrestles, which suddenly started really standing out when Navarro was just selling like people usually do in these types of matches. And some of it was that Sabre would hit Navarro with weak European Uppercuts to the chest while the fantastic impact of Navarro’s chops and chest slaps made them essentially look like he was shooting a laser at Sabre. For what it was, this was very well done-I’m not sure a one off attraction match could reach the heights of a title match, but if it could this isn’t one I could point to. A very fun exhibition of holds I’d recommend everyone who likes the style to seek out, but not something that’s going to leave a lasting impression on me. ***1/2