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Furious Flashbacks: New Japan Fantastic Story in Tokyo Dome

February 5, 2015 | Posted by Arnold Furious
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Furious Flashbacks: New Japan Fantastic Story in Tokyo Dome  

NJPW Fantastic Story in Tokyo Dome

 

4th January 1993.

 

The 1992 incarnation of this show is just dreadful. I almost ceased and desisted my recapping of old Dome shows based on my lack of enjoyment. And yet the scattering of negative star matches hasn’t put me off watching far worse promotions than this. XPW springs to mind. So, as per usual, it was back on the horse and back into the Dome for the 1993 version of the show. Which on paper looks like a massive improvement over 1992. For starters their guest promotion is not WCW but Genichiro Tenryu’s WAR.

 

Akira Nogami, El Samurai & Takayuki Iizuka vs. Koki Kitahara, Masao Orihara & Nobukazu Hirai

 

The team of lesser known wrestlers is representing WAR. Orihara must have impressed here as New Japan brought him back for both the Super Juniors and a title shot at Liger later in the year. It’s either his in-ring or his ridiculous eyebrows or his pointless back flip off the apron. He’s a man of many skills. He also looks like The Hood from Thunderbirds. This is fairly typical opening match fare with the New Japan guys doing the bulk of the lifting and Orihara playing bald guy in peril. While I was aware of Orihara’s skills it’s Kitahara, who’s a dickhead, that wins me over. He looks like a miserable surly old fuck but he’s not even 30 years old so he’s mobile too. It’s at this point I realise I know him better as Tatsumi Kitahara in All Japan. He was young boy then though and he’s the real deal by this point in his career. Unfortunately he’s hardly in the match with Orihara taking heat and Hirai trying to take heat but failing. Speaking of Orihara taking heat: Samurai drops him on his dome more than once. Kitahara gets pissy about it and they tease a far better match with him and Samurai smacking the shit out of each other. Orihara gets killed again with a powerbomb to the point where he looks dead and Kitahara has to save him. Orihara just lies there for ages while the match carries on until Iizuka finally gets around to pinning him. I can only assume he was injured on the powerbomb because he didn’t budge afterward. This match needed more Kitahara. He ran the show from the apron but every time he got in there the match was ace. It wasn’t enough.

 

Final Rating: ***1/2

 

Heisei Ishingun (Shiro Koshinaka, Great Kabuki, Akitoshi Saito & Masashi Aoyagi) vs. Raging Staff (Hiro Saito, Norio Honaga, Super Strong Machine & Tatsutoshi Goto)

 

Heisei Ishingun is Koshinaka’s stable. He’s turned his back on New Japan and formed a like-minded group. Raging Staff is the continuation of Blond Outlaws under a new name with the addition of Super Strong Machine, who teamed with them anyway. Now they’re not blond, a sign they’re not behaving like punks anymore and embracing their Japanese roots. This is a very early big match for Akitoshi Saito, who’s still wearing a gi as he was trained by karate guy Aoyagi. As with most 8-man tags there’s a lot of back and forth action and it doesn’t slow down at all. Nobody stands out but that’s both a negative and a positive. Eventually Kabuki can’t cope and falls prey to the Raging Staff guys. They switch targets to Aoyagi because he can take bumps but honestly, if I was picking someone off for heat it’d be young Akitoshi Saito. Aoyagi rather proves himself inferior in the role with some weak strikes and a dreadful spin kick. Super Strong Machine looks embarrassed by it. And then Kabuki wins with a back suplex. I was expecting a bit more from this but it was an energised mess. Like with the last match there wasn’t enough of the best wrestler, in this case Koshinaka, and the match suffered because of it. Lots of effort for little result.

 

Final Rating: **1/4

 

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship:

Ultimo Dragon (c) vs. Jushin Liger

 

This isn’t perhaps as exciting as you’d think as Ultimo is still establishing himself as a worker. Hell, he won the title on his first night in the promotion; doing what Liger couldn’t and unseating El Samurai as champion. Liger has generally dominated the division, winning five titles already up to this point. Ultimo is essentially just another hurdle for Liger to overcome. Ultimo wasn’t focused enough on Japan to be a permanent fixture in the title picture. He was also working for CMLL and WAR. Liger continues his habit of switching gear every Dome show by wearing blue. Liger makes a point of not only wrestling circles around Ultimo but also putting over his lucha moves by bumping them clean and crisp. Ultimo’s only real option, if he wants to look competitive, is to take Liger’s leg but he keeps forgetting which one he’s working and switches (perhaps forgetting initially he’s not in Mexico, rather than Liger’s injured right leg from the year before). Maybe it’s harsh to judge Ultimo on the same scale as Liger as he was a supreme junior heavy, maybe the greatest of all time, but Ultimo really can’t measure up here. That’s especially evident when he tries to fly and falls off the top, which he makes amends for with an announce table destroying PLANCHAAAAAAAA. Then he falls off the top again, the fucking GOON. The crowd are audibly deflated by a second fuck-up. Liger continues to wrestle circles around the poor guy, demonstrating superior ring positioning and psychology. It’s painful to see Ultimo try to operate on Liger’s level. He does manage a corkscrew quebrada, this time killing the rail. It’s impossible to hate him because he busts his ass but maybe he shouldn’t wear such slippery boots to the ring. Incidentally if you want to see a Liger match where he does hardly any trademark stuff and just gets by on how goddamn awesome he is, it’s this one. The Ligerbomb sets up a super rana and that’s enough for Liger’s 6th IWGP Junior Heavyweight title. Honestly, this match would have been amazing without the two Ultimo slips. Liger was flawless and Ultimo’s mistakes, disappointing though they were, merely served to show why he wasn’t the champion when the match ended. So there’s logic in there. Plus he destroyed the announce table with a dive.

 

Final Rating: ****

 

Tony Halme vs. Ron Simmons

 

The fascination New Japan have with putting Halme in big singles matches is somewhat mystifying. He’s the definition of a guy who should be hidden away in tag teams, which is incidentally the best use of Ron Simmons too. Ron is repping WCW. With the pressure on both guys fail to deliver and there’s at least one botch that’s just embarrassing with Simmons going for a flying shoulderblock, catching the future Ludvig Borga unawares. It’s not the only mistake and the action is pedestrian. Halme is remarkably lazy and barely gets going at all before jobbing to a botched spinebuster. This was really embarrassing. I’m hoping both guys went out the back and apologised for stinking up the Dome with their shit-awful shit-fest match.

 

Final Rating: -**

 

Sting vs. Hiroshi Hase

 

WCW vs. NJPW. Hase is ideal for Sting as he’ll carry the direction of the match and the pacing and just leave Sting to look strong and hit his spots. When Sting tries flying he finds Hase equal to it and when it hits the mat, Hase overcomes Sting. It becomes a battle of ideals with Hase being the pure wrestler and Sting the American powerhouse. Except Hase thinks he needs to American up his personality by doing Rick Rude pelvic gyrating (no, really) and combines that with a Japanese desire to prove his superiority via tests of strength. Sting happily absorbs the abuse, as he usually does, and doesn’t sweat the Uranages and suplexes and stuff. Hase is solid on offence so the match just flies by with Sting taking a kicking. Not as good as the one he got from Vader but it’s still fun. And then Sting totally blows a top rope…something. Like a flying head-attack or some such. Hase resorts to chops, Sting no sells them and the structuring of the match makes sense at this point. Could Sting have done this earlier or was he just waiting until he got into real trouble? Did Hase wake him up with the chops after bossing him with throws? It would explain why Sting was discombobulated enough to fuck up that rope move. It’s weird for Sting because during this period he’d go with the flow and let people control him, content he had enough fire in his babyface comebacks to make himself memorable. I might be in the minority but I thought Sting was a) a far better wrestler before he became Crow Sting (Sad Mime Sting) and b) was far more interesting. He puts Hase away with a splash off the top, thankfully communicating this to Hase beforehand. Good match.

 

Final Rating: ***1/2

 

Dustin Rhodes & Scott Norton vs. Shinya Hashimoto & Masa Saito

 

So…Scott Norton again huh? He’s guaranteed to drag this down by himself. It angers me that some wrestlers are brought up by the standard of their opponent (Sting springs to mind) and yet there are some who end up turning great wrestlers into total shit, just by turning up. There are moments where Flash doesn’t suck. He’s a powerhouse so his chops are good and he looks the part…until he attempts anymore more complicated than walking and chewing gum at the same time. His awfulness seems to be catching and Dustin botches a backroll on Saito. Why are there so many botches tonight? On the upside, after this match it’s all marquee stuff. Norton continues leave an impression with his power but nothing else. Dustin inserts too many rest holds. It’s not a good match. I feel bad for Hashimoto who blatantly tries to turn this match into something it’s not…good. His selling and bumping is great and his comeback kicks are great. He just can’t cover for everything else that’s wrong. This is especially evident on the ‘dramatic’ finish where Dustin mistimes his bump off the Enzuigiri, Norton is late coming in to break the fall and Saito is almost as late cutting him off. I suspect Hashimoto was just happy to go home.

 

Final Rating: **

 

IWGP Heavyweight Championship:

NWA World Heavyweight Championship:

Great Muta (c) vs. Masahiro Chono (c)

 

This is another of these big title vs. title bouts. Muta is IWGP champion, Chono carries the NWA belt after it’s resurrection. Muta’s title win was a big deal because he was the first of the new generation (Hashimoto, Chono etc) to win the title. Choshu, Fujinami and company haven’t quite stepped to one side as they’re both above this match on the card but they’re not being belt-hogs anymore. Something Muta should fucking learn from. This run of historical New Japan shows is giving me a fresh perspective on Muta. I’ve always disliked him and never really given him a chance based on how sloppy and weird I perceive him as. But then I pretty much skipped everything from the middle of his career, when he was in his prime, so it’s a chance to re-evaluate. This probably isn’t the match to do it as it grinds along at a snail’s pace. Until Muta wastes all his energy by charging the entire length of the entrance ramp to hit a clothesline, which Chono has to stand about waiting for. It might be the dumbest spot on the show, which is saying something.

 

The match steps it up a touch when Muta misses a moonsault and Chono, ever the opportunist, goes in for the kill with an STF. It’s frustrating to see that after he stood there waiting for the clothesline. Surely he should have countered it. Like Muta counters a cumbersome suplex from Chono into a suplex onto the ramp. Both guys look strangely lethargic outside of bursts of offence but when it makes sense, like Chono dodging a Muta attack on the outside, it works. There’s a brilliant block on the moonsault too with Chono smashing Muta across the face with his shin. I’m disappointed he doesn’t sell it more, instead popping back up, hitting a backbreaker and hitting another moonsault. A third moonsault gives Muta the double titles. I didn’t care for 2/3rds of the entire match but when it was firing, this match was pretty damn awesome. Shame it wasn’t more consistent.

 

Final Rating: ***1/4

 

IWGP Tag Team Championship:

The Hellraisers (c) vs. The Steiner Brothers

 

Hellraisers are the Roadwarriors team minus Animal, who was injured, and with added Kensuke Sasaki (“Power Warrior”), looking lost inside his spikes. Seeing as Sasaki basically uses all of Animal’s spots, this is basically Steiners vs. Roadwarriors. Normally the Steiners just bully their opponents but they can’t do that here because Hawk won’t let himself look weak (does he ever?) and insists Sasaki be the same way. Sasaki’s first two moves are a lariat that rocks Rick Steiner and a release German suplex that lands the DFG on his neck. Nobody is in the mood to sell so the match is a real war, constantly peppered with suplexes. Eventually Sasaki finds himself overwhelmed by the situation and has only been tagging with Hawk for a few months. The Roadwarriors way hasn’t quite rubbed off on him yet. Of course it wouldn’t be a match on this show without an obvious mistake and Scott slips on the ropes ahead of a lifted version of the Doomsday Device. After seeing the Ultimo Dragon match, I’d steer clear of those ropes. One thing that really stands out during this match, compared to everything else on the card, is how many Irish Whips Hawk does! Every time he’s in there the first thing he does is an Irish Whip. Frankensteiner would finish Sasaki but Hawk saves, although he was late so Scotty had to stand up off the cover like a goon. They follow that with a SICK spot at ringside where Hawk tries to lariat Scott of Sasaki’s shoulders, which sends him spilling over the rail and both guys stay down hurt for the count out. The crowd HATE that finish. Aside from a few flubs and the finish this was an entertaining match.

 

Final Rating: ****

 

Tangent: With the tag titles having recently twice changed hands it’s understandable they didn’t want to just hot-shot the belts back to the Steiners here. After all they jobbed to the horrendous unit of Norton & Halme before the Hellraisers beat Norton & Halme on the tour before the Dome show. Presumably they didn’t want the Steiners to lose either, hoping to get another match out of it but they were also heading to the WWF so perhaps Vince had a hand in this booking. Either way, the match was great but the crowd didn’t like the finish.

 

Takashi Ishikawa vs. Tatsumi Fujinami

 

Ishikawa is from WAR (and used to work for All Japan) so he gets heat and the Dragon is seriously over. That’s intensified by him knocking Ishikawa out of the ring and hitting a FUCKING TOPE as his first gambit. Ishikawa’s spot on this show is a curious one as he wasn’t that good and seemed to get the match by virtue of being Tenryu’s tag team partner. I would have loved to have seen Koshinaka get the spot, seeing as he worked for both companies, but it wouldn’t have the same heat. Where Ishikawa succeeds is by differentiating himself from the New Japan guys and specifically using AJPW-esque Strong Style. Fujinami getting bashed by elbows helps to intensify the atmosphere. Then Ishikawa steals the Dragon Sleeper. BOOOOOOOOO! The Tokyoites don’t like that at all. Fujinami decides to let Ishikawa have most of the match to create the tension that he might lose. I don’t buy it for a minute but the crowd gets a bit antsy. Ishikawa had an entertaining style but his actual execution was a bit off. This is evident on him hitting a lot of the same moves as Tenryu/Kawada but without the same impact. Fujinami kicks Ishikawa in the head a few times, channelling Inoki, and finishes with the Dragon Sleeper. The crowd made the match better than it was but the wrestlers had great intensity, which helped matters.

 

Final Rating: ***1/4

 

Riki Choshu vs. Genichiro Tenryu

 

This is the main event; NJPW vs. WAR and the embodiment of WAR; the owner/booker/main star. Tenryu is the guy who, at the peak of his powers and just having been anointed as All Japan’s top guy, promptly quit and formed his own promotion; SWS. When that promotion failed, in 1992, he started up another one; WAR. So the New Japan fans don’t care for him, with good reason. Not only that this is a battle of hairstyles; MULLET VS. PERM! Following on from Fujinami, the atmosphere is a bit flat. Choshu fixes that by STOMPING ON TENRYU’S FACE! That busts Tenryu open hardway and meets with my approval. Tenryu gets brutalised after that with Choshu kicking him in the head and hitting lariats. There’s something very satisfying about watching Tenryu get mashed. It wouldn’t be this show without a botch and Tenryu happily delivers by missing a top rope elbow, landing on Riki’s ear, by the looks of it. I’m not even sure where he was aiming for. He also botches his own powerbomb finish although that may have been deliberate, due to tiredness. They clamber back up and Tenryu hits another powerbomb for the win. I don’t really like Tenryu all that much. I should probably be thankful he quit AJPW when he did because it left a slot open for Misawa to take over and turn the company into Awesome Central during the 90s. That said, this carried the weight of the main event for the most part, even if it was underwhelming by any other standard.

 

Final Rating: ***

 

 

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You can also follow me on Twitter @ArnoldFurious

 

7.5
The final score: review Good
The 411
For consistency this is easily the best Dome show to this point. Everything major delivered and there were a few stand-out matches. However there’s no escaping the sheer number of errors (literally every match, bar Fujinami’s) on display and the lack of a superb match like in previous years. There’s nothing all that memorable about all the consistency. But still 7 matches over *** in 1993 has to be a recommendation and only one match that really sucks. Call it a thumbs up for the ’93 Dome Show.
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