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Ring Crew Reviews: Puro Comp #4

October 28, 2012 | Posted by Jack Bramma
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Ring Crew Reviews: Puro Comp #4  

• In case, this is your time first reading, you might want to check in with part 1 (Puro Comp #1), part 2 (Puro Comp #2), and part 3
(Puro Comp #3)

Triple Crown: Keiji Mutoh vs. Jun Akiyama (c). AJPW 03/20/12. Both guys come out in almost matching white robes like a bizarro world Highlander spinoff. They’re both given a bouquet of flowers and an in-ring introduction. Hot crowd for the bell. Akiyama with a quick back suplex, a running knee, and an Exploder for a long 2 count. Mutoh bails out and Akiyama teases a uranage off the apron but the ref pleads with him to hold off. With the wait, Mutoh grabs his leg and breaks out the DSLW and Akiyama eats it to the floor. Mutoh throws him into the guardrail and hits the Shining Wizard to send him reeling. Mutoh then rakes the leg across the guardrail and leaves Akiyama for dead. Lot of pausing, stalling so far for both guys to channel their energy. Akiyama comes back in but Mutoh cuts him off with a dropkick and applies ANOTHER DSLW! Mutoh tries whipping him across but Akiyama is toast and can’t even hobble to the turnbuckle. Mutoh clips the knee a few times to keep him down. ANOTHER DSLW! FIGURE FOUR! Mutoh torques the hold and then switches on to his hip for a breather while applying the hold like a boss. Akiyama tries spinning it over and finally reverses only to get the ropes. As they get back to their feet, Mutoh clips the knee again and wants the F4 but Akiyama pulls him in and hooks in a desperation guillotine and assists with the bodyscissors. Nice counter. They hold the position for a bit and then get in the ropes. Akiyama trying to shake off the leg work, boots Mutoh and sells the leg afterwards. Mutoh rolls to the apron for relieve so Akiyama kneedrops him to the floor and then… uh oh…. pulls up the mat. Akiyama with a bit of a sloppy DDT on the floor. Good idea but iffy execution. Mutoh, nevertheless, “sells” by lying there for about 20 seconds and then getting his second wind. This is like Michael Myers selling – play dead for a minute straight and then Zombie situp back to life. Akiyama goes back to work on the neck and clubs him with a LARIATO and Mutoh sells nerve damage in the neck. Akiayama’s all FUCK YOU and knees him in the face. He goes for the YAKUZA HOMICIDA but Mutoh ducks and takes him out with an enzuigiri. Mutoh goes for an elbow drop but Akiyama no sells and drives the knee back INTO THE NECK! Akiyama with a piledriver and covers for 1, 2, only 2. Akiyama now goes to a chinlock but as least grinds it to work the neck in the process. Mutoh gets to his feet and goes for a charge but Akiyama gets the boot up. He goes for a knee drop to the neck but Mutoh’s all NO NO NO, FUCK YOU and dropkicks him on the way down right on the bad leg. Beautiful.

• Mutoh with the DSLW again. Akiyama like a bastard no sells and hits an Exploder. Never one to be outdone, Mutoh no sells that and hits another Shining Wizard. No sell. Exploder. No sell. Shining Wizard. Both sell. Crowd came alive for the sequence at least. Both up and Mutoh steamrolls Akiyama with a Shining Wizard in the corner and a DSLW. Akiyama now advances to the Michael Myers no sell which involves no playing dead, but only zombie situps. Mutoh stands up amazed and ANOTHER SHINING WIZARD! Akiyama stumbles to the feet only to eat another one to the back of the head. He tries no selling and swats away another attempt. He goes for the running knee but Mutoh blocks that with the DSLW. Another Shining Wizard and both go down. Mutoh up and syncs up for a power up and one more Shining Wizard. Cover gets 1, 2, 2 ½. Ribbreaker and Mutoh heads up top. He hits a moonsault but Akiyama no sells and hooks in the guillotine. The ref goes batshit checking to see if Mutoh has passed out. Akiyama rolls him over and covers for a close 2 count. So apparently, one guillotine = thousand deadly DSLWs and shining wizards. Akiyama with a running knee in the corner, Exploder, and then a knee to Mutoh’s injured knee. He says it’s over and hits one more Exploder. Cover gets 1, 2, 2.7. Mutoh no sells another knee. Akiyama wants one more and Mutoh seems energized by that. Mutoh tries blocking a third but Akiyama shrugs him off and boots him with the other leg. Slick. Akiyama follows it up with a testicular charge and covers for another. Exploder gets 1, 2, 2.99. Crowd is into it but I’m not feeling the gravity. Mutoh counters a charge with a rana out of nowhere. Cover gets 1, 2, 2.99999. Akiyama is PISSED. He knees the hell out of Mutoh, drops the pad and THEN knees him again. One more knee. ONE, TWO, OHNOHEALMOSTGOT’IM. WRIST CLUTCH MICHINOKU DRIVER! 1, 2, 3 to put Mutoh down for good at 18:20. Good match that would have been helped by Akiyama more consistently selling the leg and a bit more variation. I can’t explain it but for some reason I don’t get tired of seeing a million lariats or chops but I do of DSLWs. Spot of the match: Mutoh dropkicking the bad leg on the way down from a knee drop to take over or Mutoh trying to Hulk up and block a running knee only for Akiyama to switch legs. ***3/4

IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Tetsuya Naito vs. Kazuchika Okada (c). NJPW 03/04/12. Crowd gets a quiet Naito chant going to start. Okada checks his ears to make sure he heard that right and then his contingent starts up a chant. Lively for a Japan crowd. Naito with a go behind and tries to bridge into a cover but Okada counters to a hammerlock. Naito rolls through and grapevines the leg. Okada switches to the arm and stays on an omoplata. Back to their feet, Naito tries a takedown and floating into a headlock but Okada ducks back and it’s a stalemate. They fight over a waistlock but Naito gets the advantage with the lying headlock. Okada with a slick roll through winds up on top with the same headlock. Okada torques the headlock to a pop from the crowd for some reason. Naito sends him off and Okada blows through him with a shoulderblock and revels in his handiwork. He boots him around like a peasant only for Naito to clip the knee with a few dropkicks. Naito with a snapmare and a standing Swanton. Naito rolls him into a NICE Tequila Sunrise to stay on the leg. Naito drags him to the center to switch to a stepover toe hold. He drives it into the mat for leverage but Okada gets the ropes. Naito tries staying on the leg and choping him around but Okada yakuza kicks him away and spikes him down with a TOMBSTONE! Naito sells a broken neck and writhes in pain and rolls out to the floor. THAT’S how you sell a Tombstone. The ref tells them to get it back in the ring but instead Okada traps his neck in the guardrail and procedes to sever his spinal cord by booting the vertebrae into pieces. Back in, Okada works an odd straitjacket, neck bridge submission that goes nowhere so he switches to a neckbreaker.

• Naito sells the neck well but Okada gloats a bit too much, so Naito Hulks up and starts smacking him around in the corner and stomps a mudhole. The ref calls for a break as the crowd chants for Naito again probably because he miraculously regrew a backbone and healthy neck. That’s some heavy black magic even for puro. Okada comes back with a not-so-Bluechipper dropkick. He sends off Naito and hits a flapjack. He looks to go for La Magistral but then switches to a crucifix facelock. Naito fights and makes the ropes. Naito fights back with rights to the breadbasket that Okada sells pretty animatedly considering there’s been no midsection work. Naito tries clipping the knee again but Okada sidesteps and delivers a senton. Cover gets 2. Crowd tries getting a rally going for Naito as Okada hits a ribbreaker. He goes for an elbow drop but whiffs and now sells the elbow big time. Of course, then he no sells to hits a stiff forearm to the face that staggers Naito. Okada goes for a charge in the corner but eats turnbuckle. Naito seamlessly floats to the apron and then SWEEPS THE BAD LEG! AND HITS A DROPKICK OFF THE TOP ON THE SAME LEG! Great sequence there. Naito sells the impact as well but recovers first and baseball slides Okada into the guardrail. Naito with a kneebreaker that Okada sells well and then Naito with a DROPKICK HOMICIDA that knocks Okada into the first row. We’re drifting into awesome now if Okada can keep with the selling. Naito follows him into the crowd and elbows right on the knee. Naito loses his mind and wraps the knee around the guardrail and smacks the shit out of him just to be a dick. Naito gets to the apron and… NOOOOOO! NOT THE KNEE! OHHHHHH! Naito DESTROYS the knee by dropkicking the guardrail into his knee that was wedged between a table. Brutal and the sick crowd loves it. Okada’s selling is making the heat if that wasn’t obvious.

• The ref starts the count and Okada hobbles back in to beat it at 14. He slides back in to another kneebreaker and dropkick to the knee. FIGURE FOUR! And it’s a beauty. Okada struggles but makes the ropes. Okada is toast and can barely stand. Naito goes in for the kill with a baseball slide but Okada staggers out of the way and Naito eats ringpost. Naito tries no selling and heads up top but Okada Hulks up and DROPKICKS HIM TO THE FLOOR! OKADA SELLS THE KNEE! Now, the Okada contingent stirs up a chant for him. Okada like a hero sucks it up and limps to the floor. The ref pleads with him to get it back in the ring. But wait. Okada gets Naito up. What’s that? NOOO! DON’T DO IT! THIS MAN HAS A FAMILY! TOMBSTONE ON THE FLOOR! OKADA STILL SELLS THE KNEE! The place is ooooing and ahhhing along now. Okada recovers to break his own count and now the ref is telling him to get in the ring or else he’s calling it off. Back in, Okada with a DDT and then hooks in the DID, Deep in Debt. Crowd chants for Naito to find his inner reserve. Because Naito’s arms are trapped, the ref awesomely cups his ear to listen for a verbal quit from Naito. Naito is maimed and looks ready to pass out but then lunges with his feet and grabs the ropes. Okada now with a slam and Macho elbow off the top and the knee is looking good. Okada syncs up with the hadouken energies as the crowd chants along. He wants the Rainmaker but Naito ducks under and rolls him into a KNEE HOOK! OKADA MAKES THE ROPES! NO! NAITO PULLS HIM BACK TO THE MIDDLE!

• Okada can’t stand the pain and almost taps and the crowd eats it up with a spoon. The ref can’t tell and checks with an outside official if Okada tapped but no go. OKADA MAKES THE ROPES! The crowd lets out a sigh of relief. Naito with a kneebreaker but Okada tries Hulking up with a few forearms. Okada clubs him into next week and Naito goes down. Okada sends him into the ropes but Naito comes FLYING out with a burrito! HE’S FIRED UP! ENZUIGIRI! SPINNING ENZUIGIRI! GERMAN SUPLEX! Cover gets 1, 2, 2.999. Naito with a rana off the top. Naito follows it up by spiking him down with the BRUTAL DRAGON SUPLEX! HOOKS THE LEG FOR 1, 2, 2.9999999999! Naito tries to bring it home with the Gloria. He heads up top for the STARDUST PRESS! NO! Okada rolls under. Okada tries taking advantage but Naito again clips the bad knee. He wants a charge but Okada gets the boot up in the corner. SCHWEIN NECKBREAKER! Okada covers for 1, 2, still 2. Okada with an FU and covers for 1, 2, kickout. Rainmaker attempt but NAITO DUCKS! SCHOOLBOY FOR 1, 2, 2.999999999999! Okada is ready to finish him with a German but instead sets up the Rainmaker again. NAITO DUCKS AGAIN! STANDING SWITCH! GERMAN ATTEMPT! NAITO LANDS ON HIS FEET! CROWD IS ROCKING AND REELING! Naito goes for the flying burrito again but gets caught in the RAINMAKER! COVER GETS 1, 2, 3 to retain at 28:53.

• Madness. Sheer madness. The timing of the comebacks and counters is so wonderful that it shows it’s not no selling that matters but WHEN you no sell and consequently when you sell as well. If you can’t get up for this match, I can’t help you. Other than just a few questionable moments in the early going in the back and forth, feeling process, this is perfection. Ordinarily, I like doing a spot of the match for the puro comps, but there’s so much here: the sweep to dropkick, the dropkick into the guardrail on the knee, the tombstone on the floor, the perfectly timed burrito, Okada almost tapping on the knee hook, and pretty much everything in the last 3 minutes. The whole match is the highlight. *****

Kensuke Sasaki vs. Mohammed Yone. NOAH 03/18/2012. Lockup goes nowhere and takes them into the ropes for a break. Kensuke tries again with a headlock and a shoulderblock but Yone stands stiff. Yone boots him back so Kensuke brings the lumber with a STIFFFFFF chop and Yone fuckin’ WIPES IT OFF! Like Kensuke is a child who doesn’t belong in the ring with men. Kensuke sizes him up and figures they’ll try it again. It quickly devolves into a chop/forearm war. Yone shrugs off a few more and then does some stretches to get loose. Yone tries the forearms again and now Kensuke is PISSED and just lays him into him for several chops. Yone decides against this strategy and kicks the hamstring out and yakuza kicks him to the ground. Yone slams him down and drops a leg and then goes to the DR FG and a headscissors. That goes on for a minute before Kensuke gets the ropes only to get booted out to the floor. Yone sends him into the guardrail and then brings him into the aisleway. Yone with a head of steam down the ramp but runs into a clothesline from Kensuke. This is a rather curious detour after the awesome bludgeoning of chops and forearms at the start. Kensuke with a suplex on the ramp and then throws Yone into the guardrail. Back in, Kensuke smacks him around and now we’re back to the chop-forearm war. Yone tries no selling so Kensuke clubs him down and goes to a shoulderlock.

• Yone gets the ropes so Kensuke follows up with a piledriver for 2. Yone tires to Zombie situp so Kensuke chops him into next week and covers for 2. Yone shrugs off some more and Batista kicks Kensuke down. They get to the apron and Yone no sells more chops with a yakuza kick. He preps a superplex to the floor but Kensuke boots him away. Yone fires up and picks his big ass up for the MUSCLEBUSTER ON THE FLOOR! Crazy. Yone drags Kensuke back in and breaks the count at 19. He covers for a 2 count and then hits a couple LARIATOS and a guillotine leg drop off the top for another 1, 2, still 2. Yone fires up with a few more DR FGs but Kensuke catches the foot and tries more chops. Yone no sells and LARIATOS him down. Yone with a head of steam but runs into a powerslam. NO SELL! LARIATO FROM KENSUKE! Kensuke with a bulldog. They botch something so Kensuke covers with an armdrag pullover ipponzeoi. Yone tries a kick to come back but Kensuke catches him in a Tornado Bomb. Kensuke goes back to the Strangle Hold Gamma. He releases and covers for 1, 2, still 2. Kensuke tries more LARIATOS but Yone no sells and LARIATOS HIM DOWN! Yone with another guillotine leg drop for 1, 2, 2 ½. DR FG ENZUIGIRI! Kensuke kicks out at 2. Yone preps another Musclebuster but Kensuke escapes out and hits the falling Musclebuster of his own. He covers for 1, 2, 2 ½. He chops away a Yone LARIATO attempt and clubs him down for another nearfall. Northern Lights Bomb ends it clean at 16:24. Solid, stiff power match but one that was hard for me to get into. There never seemed to be much of a progression since they were no selling from the bell on. Still solid. ***1/4 Spot of the match: Musclebuster on the floor.

GHC Heavyweight Championship: Go Shiozaki vs. Takashi Sugiura (c). NOAH 07/10/2011. Go runs into a yakuza kick but armdrags Sug over. Sug headscissors his way to his feet only to eat a chop from Go. Sug with a forearm. He runs full steam into another chop but no sells and hits the YAKUZA HOMICIDA. Go no sells and goes back to the chops. Sug with a roundhouse but Go plows over him with a shoulderblock and now SUG is the one backing up. OOOOOOOO. This could get interesting. They go through some requisite mat work each grabbing the nearest limb for a fleeting moment before it’s countered. NEVERMIND THAT SHIT! HERE COMES THE CHOPS! AND FOREARMS! Each one buckles the other and pushes him back under the weight of their hands and arms. Go with a Bluechipper dropkick though and Sug bails out. Go tries following with a suicide dive but Sug cuts him off with a stiff forearm to take over. Sug throws him into the guard rail and yakuza kicks him into the front row. Sug follows up with a gutbuster and another yakuza kick. Sug settles back in the ring to let Go licks his wounds and generally just regain consciousness. Go tries pulling himself up only for Sug to hit him with the BOOT OF FEAR that sends him flying back off the apron. Well now, that’s downright uncalled for. Back in, Go tries no selling and chopping his way back into the fight so Sug LOSES HIS MIND AND FOREARM SHIVERS HIS ASS DOWN AND CHOKES THE SHIT OUT OF HIM! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEE!

• Satisfied that Go has learned some respect, Sug gives him a break and switches to the OrtonLock. Go gets the ropes and stupidly wants to go back to the hand-to-hand combat instead of the softer chain sequences. Sug gives him a BRUTAL knee to the gut and just DROPS him on the top rope with a gutbuster almost breaking his neck in the process. Sug covers for 1, 2, only 2. Sug works over the breadbasket and now invites Go back into the center of the ring WITH A SOLDIER OF CHOP WARFARE! IT’S ON, MOTHERFUCKER! Go with a thunderous chop and another so Sug forearms him and yakuza kicks but misses. Go comes flying in for a burrito but Sug sidesteps and knees him in the breadbasket. Awesome. Sug now tries booting him into submission but Go fires up and tells him to bring it on. Go catches another kick and then launches him into a LARIATO ON THE WAY DOWN! CHOP HOMICIDA IN THE CORNER! AND ANOTHER! Sug no sells for forearms so Go chops him again and GORDBUSTS HIM ON THE APRON FROM FIVE FEET UP! Sug eats it to the floor and collapses. Go follows out with a no hands plancha. Go puts him on the apron for the Million Dollar Kneelift and then hits a Fisherman Buster for a 2 count. Go locks in the Anaconda Vice. Sug tries getting to his feet so Go rolls through and drags him back into the hold. Sug staggers to his feet so Go switches to the THROAT CHOP! DISCUS LARIATO! Cover gets 1, 2, only 2. They jockey over a suplex and Sug wins with a gordbuster. Go no sells out of anger and comes back with chops. Sug hangs him out to dry and goes for the YAKUZA HOMICIDA but Go avoids and ties him up in the ropes. Go with a chop. Now Sug no sells and SPEARS HIM OFF THE APRON INTO THE GUARDRAIL! HOLY SHIT! Sug beats the count in at 9 and Go struggles but makes it at 14. Back in, Sug with the YAKUZA HOMICIDA and another. Go tries no selling so Sug Spears him down again. Running knee strike in the corner to Go. Another brutal one to the chest and Go is trashed. He tries catching the next one and comes back with a superkick and a pair of ROARING THROAT CHOPS! He powers up for one more but Sug no sells and folds him up with a German. Go no sells that for Backdrop Driver. No sell and collision on double clothesline. Go finally takes him down with a lariato for 2. Another LARIATO and another 2 count. Go wants a brainbuster but Sug counters and hits one of his own. Go fires up but he’s overpowered by Sug’s fire up and another YAKUZA HOMICIDA.

• Sug with a German suplex and rolls into a bridged Dragon Suplex for 1, 2, only 2. Go tries no selling so Sug pimp smacks him around and then MT knees him into the ground. Brutal. Sick. Guys are crazy. Sug with a head of steam but runs into a clothesline to the knee and NOW, WE GO TO SCHOOL, KUMAMOTO STYLE! Well, not yet as we’re back to forearms and yakuza kicks. Go blocks one and LARIATOS the bad leg again. LEG CRADLE GERMAN SUPLEX! Cover gets 1, 2, only 2. Go moves in for the kill with FOUR ROLLING OVERHAND THROAT CHOPS! LARIATO! Cover gets 1, 2, 2.7. Go Flasher gets 1, 2, 2.9. Go heads up for the moonsault but whiffs and Sug rolls under. Sug with a knee to the gut but nicely sells the short leg work from earlier. Sug throws him into the mat on a face-first suplex and then hangs him out to dry in hellacious fashion in the corner again. Sug brings him up top and preps a SUPER GERMAN SUPLEX! Go didn’t get over all the way and lands on his HEAD which in Japan means you know it’s good and done correctly. Sug with another STIFF knee to the gut and covers for 1, 2, 2.9. Go just won’t stay down so Sug forearms him to a pulp and hits the AngleSlam. Cover gets 1,2 , 2.9999. Sug now mounts into some CATASTROPHIC GNP! Go is DONE. The ref pulls Sug away so he can stop the match but Sug is a blood-thristy sociopath bent on wreaking havoc. Sug brings him pu for the Super AngleSlam but Go fires up and headbutts him off the top. Sug tries no selling so Go comes back with FALCON ARROW OFF THE TOP!

• They both bring themselves to their feet and now it’s MAN UP TIME! They slug it out and Sug cuts off Go midswing with some forearms. Sug follows up with the FOREARM RAMPAGE! Go recovers and now they smack it out and Go ducks a few and tries a LARIATO but Sug smacks the shit out of him and fires up. MOARSMACKS! Go collapses in a heap after putting all of his energy into a LARIATO! Go with another and covers for 1, 2, 2.99. Go with an inverted Go Flasher. Cover gets 1, 2, kickout. Go hits the Moonsault. Cover gets 1, KICKOUT! PINFALL FIRE UP AND NOW SUG IS PISSED! Go tries putting him down for the count with a ROARING LARIATO TO THE BACK OF THE HEAD! LARIATO! 1, 2, 2.999999999! GO FLASHER! 1, 2, ONLY 2! HENKEI GO FLASHER! Cover gets, 1, 2, 3 to crown a new champ at 29:49. Another in a series of classic NOAH slugfests between two towering behemoths. The chops and forearms in these matches will rattle your bones right through the screen. It’s just carpet bombing of the chest, neck, and face that leaves you jaw dropped. Match is all about manhood, firing up, and rarely any psychology rears its head other than Go’s midsection work but still awesome. Spot of the match: either Sugiura going bananas and forearming Go into a coma and choking the life out of him in the early going or Sugiura spearing him off the apron. ****1/2

Triple Crown Championship: Suwama vs. Masakatsu Funaki (c). AJPW 9/23/2012. Funaki measures the distance early with some kicks to the leg. Suwama tries a lock up but Funaki swings and misses with another kick attempt. Suwama finally gets close enough for double underhooks. They continue trading over/underhooks but still a stalemate and finally a rope break. Funaki tries another kick but Suwama catches and goes to a single leg TD. He tries grabbing a few leg locks only for Funaki to roll through and wind up with side control. Funaki floats into a rear mount and tries switching to an armbar. Suwama winds back up in his guard and goes for a kneebar. Now, they get all tied up in a lying lock up before Funaki catches him in a triangle choke. Suwama stands up out of it and Rampage powerbombs him TO THE FLOOR! Funaki tries regrouping and gets to the apron but Suwama goes on the offense with some rights. He tries a suplex back in but Funaki slides out and they now smack and slug it out. Suwama tries no selling so Funaki kicks the hell out of him and chops him down. Funaki with a few short arm front kicks and a Judo throw. He covers for 1, 2, only 2. Funaki applies a chicken wing ab stretch and adds in a body lock for good measure. Funaki switches to a crossface but Suwama gets the ropes. For taking the low road, Funaki kicks the shit out of him again but runs into a belly to belly throw and a LARIATO for 1, 2, only 2. Suwama gets a first wind and hits a high knee in the corner and a butterfly suplex for another 2 count. He calls for the Last Ride but Funaki escapes out and wants the wrist-capture Michinoku Driver.

• Suwama escapes so Funaki goes back to the kicks only for Suwama to catch one(!) and drive the leg into the mat with the DSLW. Suwama boots the leg and stands on it for the Andre spot. He wraps the leg across the apron a few times and applies a submission on the floor but the ref demands a break. Suwama calls for the submission only for Funaki to boot him away. Suwama no sells a couple of boots and catches another and applies an ANKLELOCK! He climbs the top rope to really torque the hold and then throws him down at the ref’s behest. That was pretty sweet. Suwama works the leg and applies a half crab. Suwama rolls it over into a Lasso from El Paso variation but Funaki quickly gets the ropes and then hobbles to the floor. Back in, Funaki tries Hulking up and going to the chops so Suwama gives him a BRUTAL STEAMBOAT CHOP and lays him the fuck out. Suwama rolls him back into the half crab to stay on the leg. Funaki rolls under and boots his way free. Suwama hits more kicks to the leg and a LARIATO in the corner. He hits a Bulldog powerslam and covers for another 2 count. Suwama with a kneebreaker and a leg capture, belly to belly suplex. He covers for 1, 2, 2 ½. Suwama sinks in the AnkleLock again. Funaki escapes out with a desperation enzuigiri. Funaki tries a forward roll kick. Suwama wants a brainbuster but Funaki counters with a shot to the ribs and goes to the Fujiwara armbar. Nice. Suwama gets the ropes but Funaki comes back with the front kicks. Funaki snapmares him to set up a DR FG. He covers for 1, 2, 2 ½.

• Funaki forgets the arm work to kick his legs out from under him stupidly. Suwama catches the leg for a third time and goes back to the AnkleLock. Funaki rolls under and counters to an ARMBAR! SWEET! Suwama stacks him up and goes back to the AnkleLock. That goes nowhere as Funaki grabs his own AnkleLock and GRAPEVINES THE LEG! Suwama grabs the ropes and it takes the ref several seconds to even notice. Funaki hits a roundhouse and a Backdrop Driver. He covers for 1, 2, 2.7. Back to the Crossface Chicken Wing. Suwama elbows out and no sells some kicks to grab overhooks and hits a Double Wrist Capture belly to belly suplex. He wants the Last Ride but Funaki counters at the summit to an ARM-IN GUILLOTINE! Suwama collapses under the pressure into full guard. The ref is checking the hold to see if Suwama wants to give it up. He works the hold for a while as the ref raises Suwama’s arm a few times to see if he’s still alive. Suwama stacks him up and stands up out of it to hit the BEAST LAST RIDE like he planned all along! Double KO spot. Suwama up first and gets his second wind. He Hulks up for a Bluechipper dropkick, LARIATO, and a German suplex. He goes for the DISCUS LARIATO! He covers for 1, 2, 2.9. He wants another German but Funaki fights him off. Suwama wants another LARIATO so Funaki kicks his arm and tries a chop rampage. Suwama blocks only to eat it the second go round. They both try blocking and then the whole thing breaks down into a WAR of chops and smacks and LARIATOS. They both collapse in a heap for another double KO spot. Funaki prematurely celebrates as he gets to his feet first. He hits a Shining Wizard and covers for 1, 2, 2.9999. Funaki hits a DR FG gamengiri and sinks back in the Crossface Chiken Wing. He tries the wrist clutch Michinoku Driver but Suwama counters to a powerslam and a Backdrop Driver. Cover gets 1, 2, 2.9999. Suwama tunes up the band and hits a LARIATO. He covers for another 2 count. Suwama calls for another Last Ride but Funaki lands on his feet. He blocks and smacks the shit out of Suwama and hits a couple of enzuigiris and Suwama FINALLY goes down. Funaki Hulks up and finally hits the Wrist Clutch Greetings from Asbury Park/Hybrid Blaster to retain at 26:12. Was rather uneventful for the first several minutes through some uninspired limb work but per usual, the hot back and forth finishing sequence makes the match. Spots of the match: Suwama applying the AnkleLock and walking it to the top rope or Suwama going for the Last Ride only to get guillotined and then counter back to the Last Ride. ****

IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Minoru Suzuki vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (c). 10/08/2012 AJPW. Crowd big into HT as usual though he has a taped up arm so look for that to come into play. HT like a cagey vet decides NOT to lock up and instead circle some more. AHA! They trade wristlocks and HT wants a dropkick but Suzuki moves out of the way and peppers him across the back just for a little lovetap. HT responds by taking him down and Suzuki goes to the wristlcok. HT transitions to a drop toe hold and floats into a headlock. Suzuki drives him into the ropes and gives him a few knees for a break. Suzuki now takes rear mount with a headlock. HT switches to his own and is REALLY impressed by this. Suzuki brings him into the ropes and smacks the shit out of him. C’MON, YOUNG BOY! HT counters a whip and hooks in the ab stretch. He starts working the kidneys to heel heat. What’s that? Heel heat? For Tanahashi? Yes, that’s right. Some men take the low road and one of them is HT in sucker punching Suzuki in a resthold and then throwing him down. Suzuki mans up and goes batshit trying to choke the life out of HT. HT ties him up with forearms and a waistlock. HT tries some stiff forearms so Suzuki goes for a FLYING ARMBAR WHILE HANGING OFF THE APRON ON THE BAD ARM! Suzuki brings him to the floor and throws him into the guardrail and applies the armbar IN THE GUARDRAIL! Suzuki gets bored with that so he hammerlocks HT and throws him into the rail again and now applies the armbar AROUND THE RINGPOST! HT HAS NO ARM!

• The ref pulls Suzuki off like a madman so he calmly pleads ignorance and then boots the arm again. Back in, Suzuki gives HT some STIFF DR FG’s to the arm and then some SWISS DEATH for good measure to the arm. Suzuki takes pride in his carnage and then goes back to the armbar. HT keeps rolling through so Suzuki switches more to an omoplata before HT finally gets the ropes. Suzuki clubs HT around so HT comes back with forearms. HT tries sending Suzuki off but Suzuki grabs the hair and the denizens are all OOO and AHHH as Suzuki lays into HT with a headbutt. Suzuki hooks in a kimura but HT again escapes to the ropes. Suzuki decides just to stand on the arm. The crowd boos but Suzuki cleans out his ear and is all FUCK YOU, SPEAK UP! SUZUKI FOR WORLD CHAMP! Suzuki mounts again with the armbar and now starts to unwrap the tape. NOOO! YOU BASTARD, HE’S GOT NO ARM! Luckily, HT escapes to the ropes and Hulks up and goes to Suzuki’s breadbasket. Suzuki no sells and just destroys HT with a forearm into next week and more kicks to the arm. HT tries a rally so Suzuki no sells and palm thrusts HT down and goes for the kill with a running DR FG. HT blocks and grabs the leg. DSLW! WOOOOOOOO!

• Instantly, we’re back to a stalemate as Suzuki apparently tore his knee and is now helpless. HT Hulks up and hits ANOTHER DSLW. Suzuki tries no selling so HT clips the knee with a few dropkicks to the knee. HT Tanahashis up and punches some life back into his arm and hits a burrito on Suzuki. Suzuki now shakes some life back into his leg and kicks the bad arm a few times more. HT wants a German suplex to cut off but Suzuki counters and rolls through into a KIMURA! Suzuki locks it in and then begins BITING THE WRAP OFF THE ELBOW! HT bails out to the ropes to save his arm from getting amputated from the elbow down. Suzuki chops him around and hits the BOOT OF FEAR. Back to the Kimura. HT with some knees to escape so Suzuki counters to a Sleeper. HT armdrags him over and wants a LARIATO but Suzuki counters back to a FLYING ARMBAR! TAP, TAP, TAP, TAP! HT struggles with the pain but again gets the ropes. HT ducks behind and now he’s got the Sleeper to try and hold down the maniac Suzuki for a few minutes. HT bridges the Sleeper into a Sling Blade and the crowd didn’t exactly love that one. Suzuki tries going back to the armbar so HT hits a chop block and the HIGH FLY FLOW ON THE KNEE! HT tries a Texas Cloverleaf but Suzuki fights him off so instead it’s a Figure Four. Suzuki is caught dead to rights in the middle but stills talks trash to HT. Suzuki lunges for the ropes but HT pulls him back to the middle. AHHHHHHHHHHH! NOT THE KNEE! Suzuki Hulks up and is all BRING IT ON and he finally grabs the ropes after a solid 4 minutes in the submission. Crowd chants for Tanahashi as he hits another DSLW on the wrecked Suzuki. Suzuki dodges a LARIATO and tries his own but the knee is hurt too bad and the crowd loves that. HT with another LARIATO attempt but runs into a dropkick. Suzuki punches life back into his leg and now IT’S ON, MOTHERFUCKER!

• They smack it out and Suzuki wins that by going to the bad arm and smacking HT some more. He ducks behind for a Sleeper. HT goes to reverse, NO! Suzuki locks it back in. SAKA OTOSHI! HT is fading. The ref is screaming at him to make a move or he’s going to stop it. TAP, TAP, TAP, TAP! HT Hulks up and makes the ropes. Crowd is loving every second of this. HT is DONE. Suzuki can’t even pull the dead weight up and starts talking trash to get his lazy ass up. HT stands up into a fury of smacks. He keeps trying to fall down only for Suzuki to pick him BACK up and smack him several more times. YEAHHH! Suzuki spins him around but HT counters to a DSLW attempt. NO! BACK TO THE SAKA OTOSHI! SWEET! Suzuki releases because it’s CRADLE PILEDRIVER TIME! HT fights it off temporarily. Suzuki gets him up again and this time has it for sure. NO! HT wiggles free and hits another DSLW. Crowd chants for HT again but might as well be chanting for the awesomeness that is this match. Suzuki tries a rally but HT clips the knee and hits a Sling Blade. HT heads up for the High Fly Flow but Suzuki gets the knees up and injures himself countering the move. NICE! Suzuki smacks HT off his feet but is too spent to take advantage. More smacks but HT escapes to the apron and ties Suzuki up with a desperation DSLW. HIGH FLY FLOW CROSSBODY! HT heads back up top for another HFF and hits it. He covers for 1, 2, 3 to retain at 29:24.

It’s pretty much a genre convention that there is a dearth of selling so that has to be accepted and not considered a flaw. That aside, there’s too much awesomeness to contain in this match. Suzuki puts on one of the best performances of the year easily in just terrorizing HT and making mince meat of his puny comeback attempts for the first 15 minutes straight. Tanahashi here is much closer to Flair than Cena like he’s looked in previous matches – he lets Suzuki be the story rather than his comeback as he keeps it to meat and potatoes with several dragon screw leg whips and his signature stuff. This is one of the only matches I can think of where I legitimately believed the match could end on a submission at any time – sleeper, figure four, armbar, kimura – and that to me is a huge compliment to the match’s credit. Hell, go crazy. ****3/4

Spots of the match: Suzuki being unable to run off the ropes but still managing a comeback dropkick and Suzuki countering a DSLW attempt with the mounted RNC.

The 411: More excellent stuff with Okada/Naito and Suzuki/Tanahashi standing head and shoulders above the rest in the discussion for match of the year.
411 Elite Award
Final Score:  9.0   [  Amazing ]  legend

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Jack Bramma

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