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Re: Official Puro Match/DVD Discussion Thread (NO SPOILERS)

Best of Japan in 2000: THE LIST~!

1. Jun Akiyama Vs Mitsuharu Misawa (27/02/2000 AJPW)
2. Toshiaki Kawada Vs Gen'ichiro Tenryu (28/10/2000 AJPW)
3. Toshiaki Kawada Vs Kensuke Sasaki (09/10/2000 NJPW)
4. Masa Fuchi & Toshiaki Kawada Vs Yuji Nagata & Takashi Iizuka (14/12/2000 NJPW)
5. Jun Akiyama Vs Kenta Kobashi (23/12/2000 NOAH)
6. Yoshihiro Takayama Vs Kenta Kobashi (26/05/2000 AJPW)
7. Jushin Liger, Minoru Tanaka & Shinya Makabe Vs Super Delfin, Takahiro Murahama & Tsubasa (14/12/2000 NJPW)
8. Takao Ōmori Vs Kenta Kobashi (15/04/2000 AJPW)
9. Jun Akiyama Vs Kenta Kobashi (06/08/2000 NOAH)
10. Naoki Sano vs. Minoru Tanaka (30/01/2000 BattleARTS)
11. Mitsuharu Misawa Vs Toshiaki Kawada (31/03/2000 AJPW)
12. SUWA Vs Dragon Kid (24/08/2000 Toryumon)
13. Minoru Tanaka Vs AKIRA (10/12/2000 NJPW)
14. Shinya Hashimoto & Takashi Iizuka Vs Naoya Ogawa & Kazunari Murakami (04/01/2000 NJPW)
15. Aja Kong Vs KAORU (13/02/2000 GAEA)
16. Kazunari Murakami vs Yuki Ishikawa (26/11/2000 BattlARTS)
17. Yoshie Koji Kanemoto & Minoru Tanaka Vs Jushin Liger& Shinya Makabe (12/09/2000 NJPW)
18. Minoru Tanaka & Koji Kanemoto Vs Shinjiro Ohtani & Tatsuhito Takaiwa (25/06/2000 NJPW)
19. Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama Vs Mitsuharu Misawa & Akira Taue (05/08/2000 NOAH)
20. Stan Hansen & Maunakea Mossman Vs Toshiaki Kawada & Gen'ichiro Tenryu (23/07/2000 AJPW)
21. Jun Akiyama, Yoshihiro Takayama & Kentaro Shiga Vs Kenta Kobashi, Takeshi Rikio & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi (25/09/2000 NOAH)
22. Genichiro Tenryu vs Kensuke Sasaki (04/01/2000 NJPW)
23. Kenta Kobashi Vs Toshiaki Kawada (12/01/2000 AJPW)
24. Masahiro Chono Vs Masanobu Fuchi (02/09/2000 AJPW)
25. Vader Vs Toshiaki Kawada (17/02/2000 AJPW)
26. Kenta Kobashi Vs Vader (27/02/2000 AJPW)
27. Mitsuharu Misawa Vs Kenta Kobashi (11/04/2000 AJPW)
28. Aja Kong Vs Meiko Satomura (16/05/2000 GAEA)
29. Koji Kanemoto Vs AKIRA (20/02/2000 NJPW)
30. Ryuji Yamakawa vs. Kintaro Kanemura (22/02/2000 BJPW)
31. Ryuji Yamakawa vs. Tomoaki Honma (02/01/2000 BJW)
32. Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima Vs Takashi Iizuka and Yuji Nagata (22/11/2000 NJPW)
33. Kaoru Ito & Momoe Nakanishi & Nanae Takahashi Vs Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda & Kumiko Maekawa (23/11/2000 AJW)

Best Wrestler: Toshiaki Kawada
This was a two-horse race between Kobashi and Kawada, yet the material presented shows the skewed result of Kawada's dominance. While it's true that he was afforded the opportunity to work with some good opponents, his ability to produce great matches was also hampered by the faction-split in which the bulk of AJPW's talent jumped to NOAH. Throw in the fact that Kawada was, usually, the better player, comparatively, within shared opponents and I'd say this is an almost no-brainer; the year is wholly indicative of why Kawada is praised as highly as he is.

Best Performance: Jun Akiyama (Vs Mitsuharu Misawa (27/02/2000 AJPW))
Nothing else even comes close to the brilliance that Akiyama showed here. An absolute class performance from what I herald as one of my favourite wrestlers.

Worst Wrestler: N/A
This is far too hard to decide. Yamakawa had two absolutely average performances in this compilation, Kojima delivered one of the worst figure-fours and that match had some truly bad performances, all round. I'd suppose the booking is largely to blame, but that Joshi cage match is unbelievably bad. I'd assume one of them could take the award but, as I noted, I cannot be bothered to research who each wrestler is due to their shittiness.

Spoiler for write-ups:

Spoiler for January:

Barbed Wire Boards and Bed of Nails Deathmatch
Ryuji Yamakawa vs. Tomoaki Honma (02/01/2000 BJW)
★★ 1/4
They teased the board spots pretty well to start off, and most certainly had a captivating moment in Honma transitioning his momentum from the irish whip into getting behind Yamakawa and allowing for the early advantage. Of course the first board spot acts as a catalyst for the ensuing chaos, but sadly said chaos comes at the expense of legitimacy. With both men walking with each other, all around the arena, to set up their spots, it loses the feel of both men actually being there to beat each other up and not as performers in the circus. I could, perhaps, buy something akin to this if it came well into the match (after much damage infliction) but being so early definitely negated those excuses. You probably cannot get more cooperative than stepping through the rings, out of your own energy, purely because your opponent started doing so, while lightly holding their hand near your head. Not a good start to this project.

Shinya Hashimoto & Takashi Iizuka Vs Naoya Ogawa & Kazunari Murakami (04/01/2000 NJPW)
★★★ 3/4
Years after his introduction to NJPW, and the beginning of his heated feud with Hashi, Ogawa is still running rampant throughout the promotion and Hashimoto still hates his fucking guts. The opening moments elicited a “what the hell am I watching?!” reaction due to the Murakami storming out the gates and beating the living shit out of Iizuka. I mean, the fight is so intense that Inoki has to enter the ring, attired with a pimping white tracksuit, and threaten each man with a large stick. UNREAL~!

Hash takes no prisoners, either, in his quest to fight Ogawa. Sensing Murakami won’t let up any time soon, Hashimoto calmly walks into the ring and kicks his head off, before gesturing for Ogawa to bring it. And boy do they bring it in front of this molten hot crowd.

IWGP World Heavyweight Championship
Genichiro Tenryu vs Kensuke Sasaki (04/01/2000 NJPW)
★★★ 1/2
I think what was most exemplary in this bout was Sasaki wrestling with a high fever. This was a good Dome main, that built itself well and created the auro of Sasaki being the, now, bigger ace but it didn’t quite break that ceiling. They delivered a myriad of closed punches, especially to start, but, at the very least, the move was kept important and both men sold them as they should be. The same goes for their chop exchanges. When the flow hits the mid-point, in setting up Tenryu’s heat section, the match starts to get a bit nutty. From powerbombs, to Frankensteiners to suplexes, both men are hell-bent on one-upping the other with vicious tendency. I wasn’t particularly paying attention to the first, but the second enziguiri didn’t come clean. At least that nitpick can act into the pivot of control, though, in that the first allowed Tenryu to sweep up, yet the second allowed for Sasaki to finish things off. Worthwhile 15 minutes, but it wasn’t the best match on the card and will not be something I’d come back to in a hurry.

Kenta Kobashi Vs Toshiaki Kawada (12/01/2000 AJPW)
★★★ 1/2
This was a match of two halves. Both Kobashi and Kawada are masters at their trade at this point, and you can see that in how they form their matches. For the most part, they create the allusion of reality within their holds. Their facials and body expressions sell even the most simplest of sleepers to us as the audience. Kawada so visibly contorting his face when Kobashi has him down can do nothing other than driving the vocal crowd into rallying behind him and screaming for him to make his comeback. Yet, sadly, both men would walk a fine line between creating drama through emotions and through high-impact moves to pop the crowd rather than logically fleshing them out. Kobashi, for instance, works a beautiful upper game on Kawada yet when Kawada makes the enziguiri to Kenta on the apron, Kobashi simply acts as if nothing had happened and followed it with a deathly lariat. Fighting spirit is a wondrous tool to use within the Japanese setting (hell, in any wrestling match), yet it’s one that is far too relied upon in moments that do not need it or, as is most often the case, a tool that is used in too much of a contrived manner.
This would be the last encounter between these two all-time great wrestlers which, considering, is a sad fact of reality. In what I would personally have hoped to be a great culmination to their meetings, the match rather delivers an allusion to a gourmet meal that’s sadly been tainted with the junk food of contemporary Japanese wrestling.

Independent Junior Heavyweight Championship
Naoki Sano vs. Minoru Tanaka (30/01/2000 BattleARTS)
This could have been really good if it had taken a different direction in the middle part of the latter half. Both men are so adept at setting up and working in their holds, as well as reversing out of them, that the majority of this match becomes an absolute treat purely for those slower moments. Of course Sano takes the majority of control for the first few minutes, but as soon as Tanaka starts working back and thus delivering the story of their parity, this match really kicks it up a notch. I was thoroughly enamoured by both men trading holds, and working slow, that I marked out when Sano hit a great turnbuckle rebound onto Tanaka and the match started to get flashy. The high spots weren’t even thrown in without reason, either, as Sano witnessed an opening and took it. Considering Tanaka worked his equal on the mat, Sano knew a quicker match would favour him noting his opponent’s weakened knee and slowed pace. It would just be too bad that when Tanaka made a desperation kick at Sano’s knee when he Sano dived to the outside that things never quite continued as they should have. Sano went with the knee injury and it, once again, put each other on equal footing, yet Tanaka would not go with the opportunity given to him. Still, this was a great affair between two entertaining athletes that never once loses its hold on the viewer. Match of the month.

Spoiler for February:

Aja Kong Vs KAORU (13/02/2000 GAEA)
★★★ 3/4
I wouldn’t be surprised if KAORU suffered a concussion due to this match; Aja absolutely rattled her with vicious unprotected shots minutes into it. The match also acts as example to what I meant in the Yamakawa/Honma write-up, in that KAORU had been knocked loopy and her being dragged around came off naturally and without much issue in believability. Not that I particularly enjoyed witnessing it, though, as Kong running full speed, with KAORU in tow, across the arena only to use the momentum in slamming KAORU’s head into the wall was sickening. KAORU isn’t without her bloodlust, either, though. She ensures she makes small tweaks in her revenge spots to add extra damage (for instance, she stomps on the wood that cracked her open to create splinters that would rip into Kong’s head when she swung it at her face). She not only starts grating the board against Kong’s arm but also ensures the corner of the board pushes deeply into Kong’s hand and plays against Kong’s strong punches. Both KAORU’s face and Kong’s sliced arm sell the violence of the match, but the monster Kong screaming in agonizing pain just tips it that much more.
This may be quite simple in its structure (going from Kong control to KAORU and back to Kong) but it made each transition logical. KAORU losing her upper-hand thanks to a missed board attack, and slicing her hand on the splinters, was a great little touch and one I can wholly buy in allowing Kong to brute-strength her way back to a win.

Vader Vs Toshiaki Kawada (17/02/2000 AJPW)
★★★ 1/4
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have high expectations for this. Kawada/Vader is like a wet dream for any fan of stiff workers, yet it comes off almost like a nightmare at times. While relentless, Kawada’s offence looked pretty bad for the most part with his arms, especially, coming across as non-lethal in their onslaught. I also thought both men struggled to keep together what they planned to do. While their beginning was very good, it kind of lost track after that. Both men had pinning opportunities that they messed up and hurt their flow with. For Kawada, toppling Vader seemed to leave him with a want to take a breather while he had the chance. He assessed Vader lying prone in the centre and fell back, himself, to rest. Health heartedly, he then rose up and went for the cover as if the rest period didn’t benefit Vader, as well. For Vader, though, it was perhaps worse. Having knocked Kawada down in what seemed like a knock-out blow, Vader rather stalls and then picks his opponent up before being stiffed in the face for his troubles. Sigh. Still, this match had what I sorely miss in modern day wrestling; a fight over the armbar. Contemporary wrestlers seem to allow the Fujiwara to be fully applied and build the peril spot from within the hold, seemingly forgetting how devastating said hold actually is. Here, though, Vader uses all his strength to interlock his arms and prevent the armbar. Even when it is finally locked it’s only for a few seconds before the rope-break is called. That cannot cannot prevent this match from being a sore disappointment, though, sadly.

Koji Kanemoto Vs AKIRA (20/02/2000 NJPW)
★★ 3/4
This started off really well with Kanemoto on offence, but quickly lost itself afterward. I thought AKIRA’s strategy of rushing Kanemoto at the beginning being foiled by his own jacket acting as leverage was a great play in getting Kanemoto in control. The constant knee-work was also really enjoyable but once AKIRA got a hold of his own knee-work it almost seemed as if Kanemoto purposefully derailed their match. Here’s a guy who now sells his pre-injured/not 100% knee like death, yet he’s quick to jump around or purposefully tweak his holds as if to visually highlight his no-selling (the bridge comes to mind in this). Ugh.

WEW Hardcore Title
Ryuji Yamakawa vs. Kintaro Kanemura (22/02/2000 BJPW)
★★ 1/2
What’s a BJPW match without one of the wrestler’s pretending to jack off or blow a light tube? What’s a BJPW match with weak chair shots? The answer to both of those questions is “shit”, obviously. I’m sure this was okay, but I had to rewind four times just to try understand what I missed from zoning out. This really could not suck me in, and its violence did nothing for me, either.

Jun Akiyama Vs Mitsuharu Misawa (27/02/2000 AJPW)
★★★★ 3/4
Despite not seeing any Akiyama matches from earlier in his career, I still had exceptionally high expectations for this. Despite that, however, this match lived up and surpassed anything I could have honestly expected. Every move here has a purpose, and nothing is wasted or filler outside of their respective target spots. Akiyama, especially, works Misawa’s neck like the god of wrestling and is relentless in his barrage of heavy-hitting work. Misawa, of course, is no slouch, either, and delivers a great foil in the moments of Akiyama not being in control. Almost surprisingly, for myself, at least, this was Akiyama’s shining ground and he worked so unbelievably great here. Like I’ve stated, I’ve not watched much of his non-contemporary work, and this may be testament to this, but I cannot think of a match in which Akiyama delivers a performance anywhere near as good as this. He works his control spots superbly, and is a great seller for Misawa’s own comebacks and controls.

Ultimately, this was simply phenomenal match that should end up in the top 5 once I’ve completed this project. If it doesn't, then this decade would have been an absolute treat to have witnessed.

Kenta Kobashi Vs Vader (27/02/2000 AJPW)
★★★ 1/4
I’m actually glad that there’s only one more Vader match on this set, simply because it means my heart won’t have its hopes continually dashed by his matches. While I love the fact that AJPW finally managed to put together some dream Vader pairings, the fact that it would come years after Vader’s peak is certainly something that outweighs the positives. Vader’s rib work here was most certainly focused, with Kobashi doing some great selling for the big man, but it never quite raised itself beyond that. While it is nice to see Kobashi work from under Vader, lasting all of 18 minutes in what was, arguably, an extended squash by surviving endless Vader bombs, chokeslams, kicks, guardrail drops and liver punches took away the novelty of Kobashi’s hope spots as it all became too apparent that he would win. The fact that Kobashi would make the win with only a small amount of offence (comparatively) didn’t sit well with me, either. Disappointing.

Spoiler for March Through July:

Mitsuharu Misawa Vs Toshiaki Kawada (31/03/2000 AJPW)
This would be the finale to their AJPW feud and, even if that wasn’t in their minds in delivering it, they most certainly wove it into their battle here. Both being tied in number of victories within singles encounters up until this point, the match would abandon their slow and methodical pace that became synonymous with their previous encounters. The very fact that their previous Carnival Cup encounters had ended in time limit draws also drove home their need to adapt a new, more hastened approach in finally beating their opponent. The end result, thus, feels even more iconic in that this would also be the first time Misawa could ever hit his Emerald Flowsion upon Kawada.
This wasn’t a blow-away match by any means, and nowhere near their greatest, yet it still hails itself as a good match, nonetheless. Kawada’s selling of punches/elbows is as awesome as ever.

Mitsuharu Misawa Vs Kenta Kobashi (11/04/2000 AJPW)
★★★ 1/4
While this was good, it never quite led to anything and just merely existed. The neckwork was a treat at times, as was parts of Misawa’s selling, but the beginning of the back end was pretty bad. This probably would have benefitted from not being the longest match in the tourney, as twenty six minutes is just far too long for what they put in.

Takao Ōmori Vs Kenta Kobashi (15/04/2000 AJPW)
★★★★ 1/4
Misawa, as booker, would finally pull the trigger on Ōmori in this Carnival. Having run at the bottom of the log year in and year out, Ōmori would finally taste success in AJPW’s last Carnival Cup before the faction split. Having picked up a large win against Steve Williams in the round before, Ōmori had decisively beaten Akiyama in the opening round in mere seconds. The match was equally performance making in that Ōmori managed to hang with the current world champion, and even ran in control most of the time thanks to Kenta’s injured knee. The knee work was really well kept together and Kenta sold incredibly well for the most part (falling off in remembering to sell at times, aside). Kenta’s offence was shockingly vicious, though. Ōmori is an utter champ for surviving as long as he did with all the chops TO THE FACE that he took. Kenta honing in on working the challenger’s head/neck would prove too much for the rising star, though. This was a star making tourney run and a great climax in a final that delivered the match the crowd came to see and went home happy with.

Aja Kong Vs Meiko Satomura
★★ 3/4
It’s pretty weird how a series of matches have been noted with such praise by others could deliver a match at this level. Perhaps I wasn’t too focused on the match to notice their story, but this was botchy and clunky.

Yoshihiro Takayama Vs Kenta Kobashi (26/05/2000 AJPW)
★★★★ 1/2
This was absolutely great. Outside of the forced manner in which Kobashi took Takayama’s solid head kick, this was damn near faultless. While Takayama was serviceable, Kobashi delivered an amazing performance as only the legend could. From the inception of the story over the injured arm, Kobashi sold his plight in every tidbit of the match. Perhaps none more exemplary than the way in which he favoured a double-underhook DDT by falling to his left as if his injured, right arm really couldn’t execute the move as well as his left. The build of Kobashi’s left arm was equally smart. While he is no slouch in terms of strength, Kenta is not used to executing his elbows or lariats and thus never fully achieved the impact he desired. With his right arm bent and limp throughout, he knew he would have to risk further injury if he was to ground Takayama and thus went for a desperation lariat with the injured arm. It’s here that Kobashi’s selling culminates into a reason as to why such a fake sport encapsulates us into it’s drama.

Minoru Tanaka & Koji Kanemoto Vs Shinjiro Ohtani & Tatsuhito Takaiwa (25/06/2000 NJPW)
★★★ 3/4
Quick, fun and easy to sit through, this match transitioned back-and-forth nicely between quick action and pounding offence. It almost seemed like everything in here came round full circle at some point later on, too. For instance, Takaiwa struggled out of Kanemoto’s submission only to beat the smaller opponent while he had him locked into the mat. Kanemoto would return the favour later on, when he managed to trap Takaiwa in a hold. Same, too, for the two pairs’ corner dropkicks. Come for Ohtani’s shiny jacket, and stay for the entertaining wrestling.

Stan Hansen & Maunakea Mossman Vs Toshiaki Kawada & Gen'ichiro Tenryu (23/07/2000 AJPW)
★★★ 1/2
I realize that Hansen is over 50 at this point, but he looks pretty poor regardless. Equally, his lumbargo would force him to retire later this year yet his movement at this stage still felt mechanic - almost as if he was mirroring Jim Duggan’s comically-forced motions. The opening couple minutes are pretty great in their intensity, but it devolves with Kawada working Hansen. Those involved most certainly chose when to and when not to sell each other’s offence, and I feel the match came off worse because of it. For instance, Hansen’s been worked down, he’s groggy and disoriented, so Tenryu lets Kawada loose. It’s almost as if Kawada’s repeated kicks to Hansen’s head dislodges the dizziness out of Hansen as he makes a (not-at-all worked) fighting spirit return punch only to then go down again to the same moves. The ring-post spot is another. Tenryu dodges Hansen’s punch and he meets metal and goes back for a chop, misses, again, and now it’s sold like death. Perhaps the first added to the second, but I’d have enjoyed a better build of that. Zero fucks given by Tenryu when Kea superkicks his gut on the apron, too. Throw in a few botches, clunky moments and pauses and I do not see the appeal to this. Kawada’s fucking stiff with some of his kicks, though, and he absolutely rules here, so there’s that, I suppose.

Spoiler for August & September:

Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama Vs Mitsuharu Misawa & Akira Taue (05/08/2000 NOAH)
★★★ 3/4
This probably has more relevance in terms of history than the actual work produced. Coming straight off the faction split with AJPW, this would be the main event off the first ever NOAH show. Not only would it mean ensuring that NOAH was the definitive promotion, and those involved were what kept AJPW so loved, it would also be the catalyst in setting up the next big “feud” that would cement NOAH as what the Japanese fans should be watching. The match, thus, would work in putting Akiyama over in quite a large way, especially in the early going with a quick first fall win over Misawa in the opening couple minutes. The post-match is what is most important, though, in that after the fans show respect to all four involved, and it would seem everyone has no bad blood, Akiyama lies in wait for an empty ring in which he can backstab his long-time partner, Kobashi. The match, as its own, is still very well worked and shows just how well each member meshes with each other. Considering they’ve encountered each other a good many times before in AJPW, that’s not something to be surprised about, however.

Jun Akiyama Vs Kenta Kobashi (06/08/2000 NOAH)
How much more of a decisive win can you give Akiyama in his proving match? How much more beautiful can you end a match? Not much. With Akiyama trapping Kobashi in his King Crab Lock and passing him out, the aftermath would see the referee franticly slapping Kobashi and applying CPR in an attempt to bring the now unconscious vet around. It’s a great climax to Kobashi’s selling, too, with a performance that is one of his best of the year. Damn good performance by Akiyama, too, in continually focusing on Kobashi’s injured knee. The tentative opening section probably isn’t going to impress everyone but I enjoyed some of the hold exchanges and it, at least, fits the story they needed to tell. Still, this was a rocking first meet-up between the now opposing pair.

SUWA Vs Dragon Kid (24/08/2000 Toryumon)
★★★ 3/4
Dragon Kid is a masked, little man portraying a massive babyface so, of course, it goes prone to “comical” selling at points. SUWA is on fire here, though, and delivers a great performance in structuring this match to milk as much as he can out of this great pairing. Dragon Kid may look like he should be the one with the nutty offence, but SUWA’s sunset flip powerbomb, despite not coming off quite right, is one of the best I’ve seen in a long while. Sin Cara and Sami Zayn may have put out their own renditions in superficial beauty, but SUWA’s full rotation from the standard powerbomb lift-position is just phenomenal. Props to Kid in doing the Ultra Hurricanrana (with added 180 rotation), it’s always a treat to see. The lucha mark in me wishes this could have played up to the aspuesta gimmick, with vicious mask ripping by SUWA, but its own little drama spot (and restart) was fine enough, all things considered.

Masahiro Chono Vs Masanobu Fuchi (02/09/2000 AJPW)
★★★ 1/4
Chono, and his blackened uniform, are so unbelievably manly. If The Shield were to get a fourth member, 2000 Chono is the only man I’d approve of joining. Fuchi, though, carries on the legacy of batshit crazy, old men who, logically, should be past their prime yet make their matches so thoroughly enjoyable due to their antics. Fuchi did well to hold out against Mr G1 here. It was certainly a long shot, and the biggest potential win in his career, but Fuchi’s victory was believable in moments. Even when the end was in sight, the grumpy geriatric refused to let it end and made you wonder if it actually would; though that trail did lead to Fuchi popping straight up after a vicious piledriver.

Yoshie Koji Kanemoto & Minoru Tanaka Vs Jushin Liger& Shinya Makabe (12/09/2000 NJPW)
★★★ 3/4
Black Liger isn’t as colourful as the more commonly associated get-up, but it still looks wicked. The same goes for this match, in that I expected prettier executions (as this did derail itself a few times) but its still flashy when it needs to be. Tanaka, as usual, throws some great holds and traps even the wiliest of opponents, while Liger does some good selling of his knee in the portions that centre on it. Makabe’s first few spears were less than exemplary but, as he kept hitting them, they grew in to pretty great visuals. This was a nice mix between holds (with some meaning) and high-action, even if the high-action wasn’t all that great. The finishing run displayed some smart strategy in working the illegal opponent while your partner gets the sub/pin so it cannot be broken up; more matches need to work that.

Jun Akiyama, Yoshihiro Takayama & Kentaro Shiga Vs Kenta Kobashi, Takeshi Rikio & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi (25/09/2000 NOAH)
★★★ 1/2
My only addition I could add to this would be Jim Ross as announcer purely so he could sell the hit-squad Akiyama and team became in absolutely decimating the other 6-man team. Otherwise, this was a perfectly fine match that does no shame to the status of big-time Japanese 6-man tags.

Spoiler for October through December:

Toshiaki Kawada Vs Kensuke Sasaki (09/10/2000 NJPW)
★★★★ 1/2
Heavyweight slugfests are pretty much a staple in All Japan these days, amongst certain wrestlers, yet it’s in this setting that the style particularly fits. While the formation of NOAH, and the departure of many top stars, created a major upset within AJPW’s business, arguably without such a move, we would never have been witness to the cross-promotional fallout that took place following the faction split. As such, and on the heels of All-Japan peer, Fuchi, making a challenge within the New Japan ring, Kawada would call out NJPW’s ace in Sasaki – forming one of the biggest dream match-ups to have ever come about. Not only was it ace Vs ace, but it was, also, company Vs company for the right to claim the throne of Japanese wrestling. These two weren’t going to wrestle a technical match, nor would they focus on any particular strategy or focus on specific weaknesses or parts; it was all about taking as much offence as one could until someone couldn’t go on any longer. With a sold-out, 64,000 strong crowd behind them, both men proved that a modern direction nor the heavy-talent of NOAH was needed to capture the pure essence of Japanese wrestling.

Toshiaki Kawada Vs Gen'ichiro Tenryu (28/10/2000 AJPW)
★★★★ 1/2
To be fair, he did have two big roles within the space of this month to allow for the matches he had but, to his credit, Kawada was still on fire in both and more of the reason why two phenomenal matches came so close together. The story of Tenryu’s return to AJPW, following having left a younger Kawada’s side mid-feud against Tsuruta, and the story of role model vs emulator were intertwined so beautifully here. The vicious kicks of Kawada, which have brought on victory over countless others before, would be met with Tenryu’s contempt almost as if the old man was disgusted in how light Kawada worked. It would be a reaction that would cost him, in a sense, when Kawada busted his nose and, thus, painted his face in crimson blood in the process. I’m dismayed, though, in Tenryu’s leg work leading to literally nothing. I’m not one to expect the finish to come as a compliment to said work, but I do expect the continuity to maintain some level of believability. It was obvious that Tenryu applied his submissions as a means of negating Kawada’s kicks yet, almost as soon as Kawada freed himself, he was back to using his legs. Still, in the larger picture, it was but a drop in the ocean.

Kaoru Ito & Momoe Nakanishi & Nanae Takahashi Vs Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda & Kumiko Maekawa (23/11/2000 AJW)
★ 1/2
It would be hard for any match to follow the previous two, but this match was fucking shit, regardless. I’m not sure of how the rules work in this promotion but they’re most certainly at odds with those of what I’m used to. For one, I didn’t know you could interject yourself back into a match once you had escaped the cage. Even so, surely you’re still flagged as having escaped so when you return to aid your team mate, and they escape, you win? To be fair, the weird re-entry rule is weird, but the surrounding means is fine under that circumstance. Fine doesn’t make their work any less bad, though. Aside from the chaotic (and not truly in a good way) start, once the escapes start this match loses all sense of logic. Surely if you’re three-one up, you’d choose rather to focus on knocking your solitary opponent out and escaping together rather than one at a time? Doing so just leaves your opponent open to make a comeback, as was evident here. The babyfaces were always going to win, however, and I couldn’t truly believe anything else. Play it up how you want, when she made the surprise re-entry to aid the escape, she basically dominated all three members. I may be using a lot of pronouns in this write-up but it’s all due to not wishing to even research who each member was. They were all terrible, and I do not wish to see them, again. I mean, those abysmal chair shots, jeez-fuck.

Kazunari Murakami vs Yuki Ishikawa (26/11/2000 BattlARTS)
★★★ 3/4
Wait, I thought professional wrestling was meant to be fake. Evidentially not. Murakami must be composed of 80% hatred and 20% PRIDE~! if the stare-down before the match begins is anything to go by. His bludgeoning offence is, also, evidence of this. If anything, though, this match is indicative of the fact that wrestling does not need to be much else than an emulation of a realistic fight to succeed at what it does. It also lays as proof that you do not need to work a specific structure in delivering a believable win, considering the reality of grappling. Ishikawa, despite being bloodied and dominated, would gain control with the grasp of a wild kick by Murakami, allowing him to throw on a winning sleeper.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima Vs Takashi Iizuka and Yuji Nagata (22/11/2000 NJPW)
If I never have to see this type of match, again, it’d be too soon. The penchant for no-selling was laughable and so, too, was the set-up for a lot of the moves. None more so than the leg-hook roll into a pin on Tenzan . Kojima also finds himself in a figure four that makes The Miz look like a technical wizard. Rubbish tail-end, to boot, and this is another match that I cannot help but wonder how it ended up on this list.

Minoru Tanaka Vs AKIRA (10/12/2000 NJPW)
★★★ 3/4
I’m truly upset that this match was JIP and that the remaining 10 minutes is lost as what we got was absolutely stunning. The leg work and fast-paced action were about as much fun as I’ve had in any of these matches through the year. This was an absolutely stellar performance from both men and a quick dip that everyone should make, even if they are not participating in the project.

Jushin Liger, Minoru Tanaka & Shinya Makabe Vs Super Delfin, Takahiro Murahama & Tsubasa (14/12/2000 NJPW)
★★★★ 1/4-
I should probably rewatch this before the project is finished as I was pretty distracted going in. Still, I was enamoured by the heel work of the Osaka squad and how they isolated Tanaka throughout. Just when you thought the faces could make a comeback, one of the heels would pounce out of nowhere and only make you realize the comeback was feigned only to lull the faces back into their hands. It’s because of this that we’re treated to a great FIP comeback once the tag is made that only helps the match ebb itself out in remarkable fashion.

Masa Fuchi & Toshiaki Kawada Vs Yuji Nagata & Takashi Iizuka (14/12/2000 NJPW)
★★★★ 1/2
Who needs a “healthy and functioning” roster when a promotion has Fuchi and Kawada absolutely dominating the world with their performances? The great performances didn’t stop with the AJPW stars, either. The specialty of this match is in how well both Nagata and Iizuka stepped up to the plate in creating a cross-promotion war worthy of the legacy they all brought. There’s a final moment where Nagata hangs with Kawada in delivering believable strikes and kicks, and when he gets the better of the toothless punisher the victory feels natural even despite the reluctance I’d feel in reading that without having seen it. The stars of the show, though, are the All-Japan mainstays with Fuchi delivering the badass old man role as perfectly as ever. The difference in talent lies pretty obvious at times (their nuances in their holds, for instance) but one should, perhaps, expect that looking at the name-listing. It’s still comparable to noting the difference between platinum and gold, however. All four men had large shoes to fill, coming straight off the previous Osaka Pro/NJPW match, but they certainly allowed those expectations to drive them to surpass their limits. I’ve seen this heralded as five stars, Meltzer ranks it as the third best match of the year (on a global scale) and DVDVR had this as their number one puroresu match for the year. My own expectations, now placed highly above the normal reach of talented workers, were equally met and, thus, disappointment was not found this day. It’s every bit as good as the hype.

Jun Akiyama Vs Kenta Kobashi (23/12/2000 NOAH)
★★★★ 1/2
What a way to close the year. With NOAH building themselves up as the next big promotion in the fan’s eyes, a 12,000 strong audience packs in to watch the two lead stars duke it out in the “first” big-time NOAH main event. Of course that’s indicative of the match going long but that’s no slight on its quality. Over half-an-hour of these two is, of course, never enough. This wasn’t as good a performance as his match against Misawa, but Akiyama continues his roll of greatness in just about everything he brings. His cocky mannerisms are second-to-none, here, and I smirked when he had to relinquish a submission only to lightly tap Kenta’s neck almost as if to say “I’ve got your number, old man”. Kenta’s arm-selling, as expected, delivers in spades, too. The combined chemistry, thus, epitomizes why both wrestlers are so well respected for their craft. Their flow is perfect, and they manage to believably shift control between each other at the exact moments it’s needed to keep the match piqued. Not to mention it also helps that they aren’t scared of killing each other with high-impact moves; most especially the use of Kenta’s Burning Hammer. Ultimately, this is a very fine end to the 2000 set, and a very fine addition to this list of great matches.

Last edited by Rah; 09-27-2013 at 12:12 PM.
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