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Puroresu Love: NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 1995 – May 5, 1995

June 21, 2006 | Posted by Mike Campbell
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Puroresu Love: NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 1995 – May 5, 1995  

WRESTLING DONTAKU
May 3, 1995

A major show from the simple days of New Japan. Before their booking appeared to be influenced by substance abuse and before their product made me want to gouge my eyes out. Big thanks go out to my man Kevin Wilson for sending me this show.

Sabu . . . proves all the nay sayers right, that he really can’t work to save his life.
Keiji Mutoh . . . puts on one of the smartest singles match performances of his career.
Antonio Inoki . . . makes the angles that Vince McMahon puts himself in, look reasonable.

JUNJI HIRATA vs. HIRO SAITO
Weren’t these guys ever young? They look old here, and this was eleven years ago! It’s odd to think of these guys doing a sprint, but that’s more or less the impression that the clips of the match give off, it’s all action. As impressive it is that these two are shown doing all action, there also isn’t much flow or story to what they do. The pace is somewhat impressive, but they’re just doing move after move without any rhyme or reason, until Hirata nails the Lygerbomb for the win. Saito’s low blow was a nice moment (as was Hirata’s payback for it afterwards), and the pace was impressive given the participants, but without any sort of story, there’s no reason to care.

KOJI KANEMOTO © vs. SABU (IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title)
Juvi and his title win, almost has some competition for ‘worst title change ever’. This is about the worst pairing possible. Because Kanemoto isn’t the right guy to put in there to work around all of Sabu’s bullshit that he does to try to hide the fact that he can barely work. To put a modern perspective on it, picture Triple H going out on RAW with some green rookie who can’t talk his way out of a paper bag, and having to let said rookie dismantle him verbally, not gonna happen. Koji isn’t the guy to sit there and let Sabu do his shtick. The really funny part comes when Sabu points to the sky for what has to be the fifth time in the match, and Kanemoto paint brushes him. When Koji is in control there is at least some wrestling going on, although it’s nothing to write home about, because all Koji is doing is killing time before Sabu can work in the five spots he knows and end it. Koji did do some nice leg work, but Sabu doesn’t sell anything worth a damn.

Sabu is unbearable though. He locks in his Camel clutch about thirty seconds into the match, and it looks like ass, because he only hooks one arm. When Koji isn’t wrestling, Sabu is running around and pointing at the sky. Also it’s not a Sabu match unless he’s brought a table into play, he barley grazes Kanemoto on his attempt to put him through it, resulting in the table not breaking. The sunset flip powerbomb from the apron was easily a match breaker, and Sabu could have just rolled him in and finished him off, and thus actually made the match look like it had some semblance of decent psychology involved. But that would have meant Sabu wouldn’t need to use the table and chairs. Sabu does at least use a wrestling move to finish things, with his Arabian press, but he still needed to wallop Kanemoto with the chair before he did it. So if it’s any consolation to ECW fans, it’s not like Sabu was off doing anything great when he left for those six months.

RIC FLAIR vs. HIROSHI HASE
On paper this looks like a real gem, and in fact it is, in a sense. There are three distinct portions of the match, and all three of them are fun in their own way. However, they don’t connect that well together and it makes the match feel more like a 2/3 fall match, rather than one single match. The opening bits on the mat are filler, but it’s cool filler. They’re obviously dumbed down a bit for Flair to keep up with Hase, but it’s a welcome change to see Flair working the mat, and looking good while doing it, rather being the chickenshit heel that everyone is accustomed to seeing Flair be.

When Flair and Hase each have their respective control segments though is where things go downhill. Flair’s selling is mostly verbal, with the big exaggerated yell after Hase hit any move on Flair. But Flair doesn’t show in his own work any effects from what Hase has done to him. Hase is the same way, Hase’s work doesn’t show any effects from any of the stuff Flair has done to him. They both have extended segments of the match where they work each other’s leg, and both of them apply a figure four during the match (which is how Flair gets the win). But the leg work doesn’t seem to have much effect other than that. Hase still pulls off his Giant swing (twenty rotations) without a hitch, and at one point even charges Flair in the corner and kicks him with the same leg Flair had been working over. Hase working Flair’s leg wasn’t as drawn out, and it really stopped after Hase’s figure four, which was when Flair’s leg work kicked in. One of Flair’s first offensive moves was a delayed vertical suplex, done moments after the figure four had been released, and he held Hase up there without any hint of a problem. Flair’s work is easily more focused, as Hase reverted to using more of his standard moves like the Uranage, and various suplexes instead of keeping on Flairs leg, Flair’s leg work is fun, although nothing really out of the ordinary for Flair softening up someone to take them to school. If they’d picked up the pace a bit more, it’d have probably come off better, as it is it’s a fun little match, but it’s got some obvious flaws.

KENSUKE SASAKI vs. HIROYOSHI TENZAN
One thing that Japanese wrestling usually does better than, its American counterpart is establishing rank within the matches. Most major matches in the U.S. scene are based upon either titles being at stake, or personal rivalry. It’s not very often that you see two wrestlers put in a match together for no real reason. Why this is happening is quite easy to figure out. An attempt to raise Tenzan’s stock and elevate him. And while it’d be easy to just look at the result of the match and say they failed because Tenzan lost, that’s not entirely accurate. Yes. You could say that they didn’t achieve their goal here, but the actual result has nothing to do with that.

What really hurts the match is the way that they work it. Neither Tenzan nor Sasaki had a deep move set at the time. So they spend the early portion simply pelting each other with punches, chops, lariats, etc. What doesn’t happen though is Tenzan winning a strike exchange with Sasaki, in fact Sasaki no-sells Tenzan’s Mongolian chops and dares Tenzan to hit him harder. That’s not really a bad thing. It shows that Tenzan can’t beat Kensuke by playing his game. But Kensuke doesn’t show that Tenzan can beat him. It’s easy to lay all the blame on Kensuke, but Tenzan doesn’t do himself any favors either. Tenzan finally gets control by outsmarting Sasaki, when Kensuke drops his head too early. But instead of working him over a bit, and establishing some sort of strategy, Tenzan goes right for his main moves. Mountain Bomb, diving headbutt, moonsault, and they’re all just thrown out and wasted. Instead of playing to his own strengths, Tenzan essentially worked Sasaki’s style of a match. It was bad that Kensuke doesn’t show any sort of way that Tenzan could have won, but it’s just as bad that Tenzan doesn’t do it either. Once Tenzan exhausts his moves though, they trade more strikes, and Kensuke finishes off Tenzan with a big lariat. It’s not bad that Tenzan loses. What’s bad is that after the match, the only compliment one could give Tenzan is that “he lasted twelve minutes with Kensuke.”

SHINYA HASHIMOTO © vs. KEIJI MUTOH (IWGP Heavyweight Title)
The main issue with the previous match was that there was a good basis for a story, but they didn’t have the work to tell it properly. This match however doesn’t have that issue, and does an awesome job in terms of using the work to tell the story. Hashimoto has been the champion for exactly one year and has turned back all comers. Mutoh has wanted this match for a long time and has really gone through hell to get it (as shown by the lengthy video package preceding the match). The work isn’t perfect by any means, as there are several spots where Mutoh holds submissions for lengthy periods time, looking more like he’s catching his breath, than trying to wear down Hashimoto. But they’re able to make up for the dull periods early on with some extremely smart work.

Being the champion for a year now, means Hashimoto knows how to win his matches. He can drain Mutoh’s energy with his big kicks, and use either DDT or Brainbuster to finish him off, which was how he’d put a fair number of his other challengers down. As far as individual performances go, this is about as smart of a match as I’ve ever seen Mutoh work. He knows exactly what he needs to prevent Hashimoto from doing, and how to go about it. While the lengthy rest hold parts are dull, they’re not without a purpose. Hashimoto has always been a big striker, and Mutoh keeping things on the mat prevents Hashimoto from putting his famous kicks to use. Now as smart as that is, it also causes Mutoh to fall short, because he’s mostly thinking defensively and not always about his own offense. This winds up causing Mutoh to make some silly mistakes and find himself on the receiving end of what he’d been trying to avoid, Hashimoto’s strikes. Mutoh attempts the handspring elbow far too early and gets hit with a big kick for his trouble. A bit later on, Mutoh has tried to take down Hashimoto at the legs one time too many and Hashimoto dodges it and levels him in the chest with another big kick.

Mutoh does learn from his mistakes though, and instead of simply keeping Hashimoto at bay he starts thinking one step ahead of Hashimoto. Hashimoto comes off the top and Mutoh rolls out of the way, and quickly levels him with the power drive elbow, and then sends him into the corner for a successful handspring elbow, and the bulldog. Three of his favorite moves accomplished, all because he managed to roll out of the way of an airborne Hashimoto. Mutoh kicks things up a notch by showing some impressive strength by giving Hashimoto a German suplex. Mutoh makes another mistake though, by not learning from Hashimoto’s mistake about coming off the top, when he tries the moonsault too early and misses, giving Hashimoto an opening to take control again and fire off some more kicks at him, including a brutal spinning heel kick. Mutoh still thinks ahead though, and when Hashimoto hooks the front facelock on, Mutoh knows exactly what to expect, it’s either the DDT or the Brainbuster, and he pushes Hashimoto off into the corner before he can find out which one it is. Hashimoto tries again, and Mutoh counters into a Juji-gatame, and even though he’s too close to the ropes, the point is still clear. Hashimoto now is making the same mistake Mutoh was making previously. Mutoh was thinking too much about how to keep Hashimoto from kicking him. Now it’s Hashimoto thinking too much about needing to hit his move.

Mutoh has already made that same mistake, and that is ultimately what lead him to the title, he’d made the mistake, so he knows how to take advantage of it. Hashimoto makes several more attempts, and Mutoh dropping down doesn’t just stop him from doing it, it also helps Mutoh conserve energy. Which pays off when Hashimoto does finally hit the DDT, and Mutoh has enough energy left to kick out. Hashimoto has one hope left and goes for the brainbuster, only for Mutoh to roll out and hit him with a surprise DDT. Mutoh quickly follows up with a release Dragon suplex to stun Hashimoto and drops two moonsaults to just barely score the pin. The ending was a bit sudden, but the match was a still an excellent case of storytelling, with both wrestlers playing their roles awesomely. The fact that they’d have an even better match in the finals of the G-1 later that year speaks volumes about how awesome they were. ***1/2

MANABU NAKANISHI vs. YUJI NAGATA
Despite that they’d only had a couple of years experience at this point, Nakanishi and Nagata don’t look much different here than they do now, which is both telling and sad. The idea here is to work a ‘Wrestler vs. Brawler’ type of match, with Nagata using suplexes and taking Nakanishi to the mat, while Nakanishi uses his strength and wears down Nagata with strikes. Nagata’s matwork includes several armbars and he also fires off kicks to the arm of Manabu, and it culminates with Nagata hooking on a juji-gatame and scoring the submission. Nothing overly complicated, and technically sound. Of course it’s Nakanishi, so unless Nagata has the armbar actually applied, he’s not doing jack to sell. He’s actually throwing strikes with the same arm that Nagata was cranking on and kicking mere seconds later. Watching Nagata and Nakanishi here compared with how they are nowadays, almost makes you worry for the current crop of Young Lions, who show so much potential and promise.

AKIRA NOGAMI/NORIO HONAGA vs. TAKAYUKI IIZUKA/EL SAMURAI
If the match had anything as far as real substance or story goes, then it’d have been solid, if nothing else. It’s really nothing more than an exhibition and a way to fill thirteen minutes. Nobody is really made out to be a weak link, and nobody really stands out much in the way of the work they bring. The exchanges between Nogami and Iizuka are nice, but lack any sort of intensity, despite the fact that they’re former tag team partners. Iizuka getting the win by pinning Nogami with the Blizzard suplex does put the rivalry into the forefront. But the lack of any real story to the match doesn’t make it run much deeper than Iizuka doing the move, when Honaga couldn’t make the save.

WILD PEGASUS vs. FLYING SCORPIO
There is no doubt that when he finally hangs up his boots, Chris Benoit is going to be remembered as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. The key word though is “one.” Because Benoit is just that, one person. Meaning that as awesome as he is, there is only so much he can do to keep things going, unless he’s working with a tackle dummy, or a jobber/rookie. He’s working with another successful gaijin though, and one he’s had experience working with before, and when that gets factored into things, it only further makes this look disappointing.

When Benoit is in control of things, it’s a fun show. He’s got plenty of offense to work with and young Benoit was always great about bringing plenty of intensity to his matches. His strikes look great, he brings some nice submissions (including a Boston crab variation that would be stolen by Chris Jericho and later Roderick Strong), and his execution is spot on. In short, he’s Chris Benoit. But Scorpio needs to get in offense too and that’s where things go sour. The opening five minutes are telling enough that Benoit is going to have his work cut out for him. Scorpio’s first run of offense quickly sees him blow two spots. Other than basic moves, Scorpio brings little else to the match except dives, looking like a prelude of sorts to Rob Van Dam. So Benoit is forced to sell the offense from Scorpio much more than it needs to be sold, in order to be in position for Scorpio to hit his dives. It’s ironic in a sense that after all the diving he did, Scorpio wound up being put away with Benoit’s diving headbutt, although the tombstone Benoit planted him with before going up top, would have put him away anyway. But it’s more disappointing that Scorpio couldn’t bring anything more to the table, considering with whom he was working, and their previous experience working together.

SCOTT STEINER/RICK STEINER vs. HAWK WARRIOR/SCOTT NORTON
This is pretty much your basic tag match between four big guys. It’s sketchy on simple work, but generous with the no-selling. Norton really isn’t too bad, although not nearly as decent as he was in the February tag match. Hawk makes Norton look like Kawada when it comes to selling. He even pops back up after getting spiked with a piledriver from Scott. The bulk of things is the Steiners in control, suplexing the living hell out of Norton. It makes for some fun viewing, but because there isn’t really a specific wear down target, like his arm in the February tag, Norton can’t sell anything to a great degree (not that he necessarily would have, but he wasn’t given the chance).

The Steiners simply being in control makes for some fun viewing, but there is also a bonus in them really doing a nice job as bad ass heels. Rick sneaks in a low blow behind the ref’s back, constantly hitting Norton with cheap shots on the floor to get him counted out, and the chop block to prevent the Doomsday Device. If Norton was paired with just about anyone else, this would have come off a lot better. Besides his horrid selling, Hawk also mucks things up other ways as well. When Norton finally gets a hot tag, Hawk runs in and cleans house, but tags Norton right back in after all of a minute. Unless Norton is really Super Mario and one of the ring boys gave him a star for invincibility, then there is no reason for that. Hawk also takes the Doomsday DDT which is one of their deadliest finishes, and kicks at two. Now that’s not as bad as it could have been since Rick and Scott did play to the crowd a bit afterwards. Rick and Scott hit Hawk with the Bulldog right afterwards for the win. Norton and the Steiners made it a decent little affair, but it’d probably have been better if Norton was paired with just about anyone else.

SHIRO KOSHINAKA/TERRY FUNK vs. MASAHIRO CHONO/HIROMICHI FUYUKI
With Koshinaka being the only one here who can really bring any decent work, obviously this wasn’t going to be a good match. Fortunately, it does have Terry Funk, and if nothing else he can make things entertaining. Within five minutes Funk and Chono are brawling on the ramp and Funk is already tossing chairs. Funk doesn’t bring much actual work wit him, but he does show his toughness when he levels both Fuyuki and Chono with his left punch and both of them drop like a safe. And it’s not a Terry Funk match in Japan, unless he uses the spinning toehold. Terry Funk also takes a decent sized beating from Chono and Fuyuki complete with over-the-top selling. Fuyuki and Chono mostly just brawl, and Fuyuki does his lariat a whole bunch, and Chono works in his usual stuff like the Yakuza kick, STF, and a nice enzuigiri. There isn’t much as far as story goes, other than Chono and Fuyuki not really being able to get along, which pays off when Gedo (Fuyuki’s stablemate in WAR) interferes and accidentally dropkicks Chono, letting Koshinaka pin him. It’s a somewhat fun match thanks to Koshinaka and Funk, but with Chono and Fuyuki bringing so little to the table, that’s about as good as it could be.

ANTONIO INOKI/KOJI KITAO vs. RIKI CHOSYU/GENICHIRO TENRYU
Just like the previous match, this is more of a spectacle type match than an actual wrestling match. The story is pretty simplistic. Kitao uses his kicks to hold back Tenryu and Chosyu, and when either of them finds a way to get Kitao in trouble, it’s Superman Inoki to the rescue. I don’t know if it was because Tenryu was younger, or just a show of respect for a fellow sumo, but when Tenryu unloads on Kitao with knees, punches, kicks, etc. they look almost Baba-like. Chosyu and Tenryu quickly figure out that the key to Kitao is to get him off his feet, which is accomplished by Tenryu picking him up for a backdrop, and the Riki Lariat. Kitao being involved as much as he is, kills any chance of this being any good. Inoki may have been past his prime, but he looks like he’s in good shape, and at least it’d have made for some entertaining viewing. The ending is beyond lame, with Inoki catching Chosyu in a sleeper, holding it for all of ten seconds, and then getting a pin. Neither Inoki nor Chosyu had been involved all that much. A flash submission would have made tons more sense, and been even more appropriate considering it’s Inoki after all. Instead it’s an Inoki ego-stroking ending, following a dull match. Wonderful.

The 411: This looks like something Confucius would have booked. Every match with something good to offer, also had something bad tacked on there to deal with. Even the really good IWGP Title match has the distinction of being one-upped by their G1 finals match later in the year. I’ll have to go in the middle for this show.
 
Final Score:  5.0   [ Not So Good ]  legend

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