Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Pro Wrestling Love vol. 6: Best of Puroresu 2000-2004 (Toshiaki Kawada, Keiji Mutoh, Shinya Hashimoto)

Hey Yo Stud Muffins & Foxy Ladies,

Did you hear the big news: FOUR NEW MOTLEY CRUE SONGS! Am I the only excited? :P New Mick Mars riffage is always something to rejoice. 

Pro Wrestling Love vol. 6:
The Greatest Matches of Other Puroresu in 2000-2004

Objective:  Break up the Greatest Match Ever Project (hosted at into more manageable chunks to help me build my Top 100 List for the project.

Motivation: Contribute to the discussion around these matches to enrich my own understanding of pro wrestling and give a fresh perspective for old matches and even hopefully discover great pro wrestling matches that have been hidden by the sands of time.

Contact Info: You can revisit past Pro Wrestling Love Volumes at You can check out the full version of these match reviews in by going to the forums and finding the folders associated with the date of the match. You can reach me on Twitter and Instagram @superstarsleeze or at as Superstar Sleeze to continue the discussion

Subject: This sixth  volume of Pro Wrestling Love begins the Top 12 countdown of the best matches to take place in Japan in all the non-NOAH promotions from 2000-2004. I had a being internal struggle whether to include the first half of 2000 All Japan (pre-split) with late 90s All Japan. The reason I decided against it is that I want some mystery about what I think the Greatest Match Ever is. If I was force to rank Misawa vs Akiyama from February 2000 against 6/9/95, 12/6/96 and 1/20/97 it might give too much away. :P So I liked the idea of breaking it out in this. Also, it is just easier from a bookkeeping perspective to keep all the 21st century wrestling together. All Japan and New Japan will obviously be featured, but matches from Zero-One, Toryumon/Dragon Gate, U-Style, BattlArts and WAR were all watched.  


Honorable Mentions

Kiyoshi Tamura vs Tsuyoshi Kohsaka - U-Style 02/04/04
Kiyoshi Tamura vs Hiroyuki Ito - U-Style 08/18/04
These are two great shoot-style matches that I really need to go back to watch. I was just getting into shoot-style when I first watched these matches. I may have underrated them because I did not fully understand the genre and the genius of Kiyoshi Tamura. They are in the rewatch pile.

Genichiro Tenryu vs Toshiaki Kawada - Vacant All Japan Triple Crown 10/28/00
All Japan Triple Crown Champion Toshiaki Kawada vs Shinya Hashimoto - Budokan 02/22/04
These are two dream matches from Toshiaki Kawada that just don’t quite live up to my lofty expectations due to some glaring flaws, but there is still enough goodness that people should check them out and make their own evaluations.

Genichiro Tenryu & Nobutaka Araya vs Taiyo Kea & Kazushi Miyamoto - AJPW 4/27/02
Genichiro Tenryu & Masa Fuchi vs Toshiaki Kawada & Nobutaka Araya - All Japan 6/30/01
Two matches that are exemplary of my favorite sub-genre of Puroresu, two dick veteran heels vs. an established star and a junior partner (usually a young lion). So much dickiness and fighting spirit in these two.

UWA World Trios Champions Do Fixer ( Maasaki Mochizuki, Dragon Kid, Kenichiro Arai) vs M2K (Genki Horiguchi, Magnum Tokyo, Susumu Yokosuka) vs Crazy Max (CIMA, SUWA, Don Fuji) vs Italian Connection (Milano Collection AT, Condotti Suji, YOSSINO) - Toryumon 08/30/03
Toryumon was the 21st century answer to Michinoku Pro, I don’t think they were quite as good, but this was the best from what I saw of Toryumon and I wanted to represent it. Highspots galore as expected.

Yuji Nagata vs Kensuke Sasaki - NJPW 01/04/04
IWGP Heavyweight Champion Yuji Nagata vs Yoshihiro Takayama - Tokyo Dome 05/02
A pair of big time Yuji Nagata matches that are hate-filled and full of stiff strikes.

Genichiro Tenryu vs Satoshi Kojima – All Japan 07/17/02
The last one out see the legendary Tenryu in his last great singles match against the hit or miss Satoshi Kojima. After Mutoh brought Pro Wrestling Love to All Japan, it was clear Kojima was the future with Tenryu, Mutoh and Kawada all getting up there in age. This was his proving ground feud against the ornery Tenryu. This is light years better than their February match so if you have seen that and were underwhelmed and decided not to watch the rematch, think again and watch this one! This was not a Tenryu carryjob at all. I say that as person that usually runs cold on Cozy World. Clash of the Titans feel in this one where Kojima actually looks a breakout star. Also check out Satoshi Kojima vs All Japan Triple Crown Champion Shinya Hashimoto on 6/13/03 for another great Kojima match.

The Seventh To Twelfth Best Matches of Japan 2000-2004

#12. IWGP Jr Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Shinjiro Ohtani & Tastuhito Takaiwa vs
Koji Kanemoto & Minoru Tanaka – NJPW 6/25/00
Before the vaunted New Japan junior heavyweight division fell off a cliff, they delivered this classic. It is amazing how great Ohtani and Tanaka are and they end up pretty much not doing anything for the rest of the decade. The big take home message from this match is Ohtani & Takaiwa hit hard and I mean really, wicked hard. Like they hit so hard they heel’d themselves and really made you root for Kanemoto & Minoru. They violently mugged their opponents in their corner. Kanemoto and Takaiwa got nasty with each other just yanking on each other noses. That’s level of nasty and gnarly this match got. Takaiwa and Ohtani absolutely slap the piss out of Kanemoto. I love the urgency from Kanemoto and Minoru to press any advantage they get because Ohtani and Takaiwa look like monsters in there. Minoru working flash cross armbreakers was such great, high drama. The finish run is an insane bombfest that will please anyone that loves a million miles per hour wrestling. Those Ohtani powerbombs! I mean goddamn! The stiffness and urgency of both teams keep this from ever feeling like a spotfest. Each team stayed true to their strategy, Ohtani & Takaiwa were going to kick the shit out of them and Kanemoto used movement & flash submissions to counterattack. The last great New Japan juniors match!

#11. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuyuki Fujita vs Katsuyori Shibata – NJPW 7/19/2004
Best Non-NOAH Puroresu Match of 2004

Most of the Puroresu matches I watched from the 2000s come from Ditch’s Best In Japan 2000’s project. Where a nominated list of 200-300 matches were to be selected from to make a Top 100. This match is one of the few I watched from outside that project. The credit for this discovery goes to that crazy, Inokiist Croat, GOTNW. This was an absolute gem of a find.

I am a total sucker for badass shooters. Kazuyuki Fujita is an Antonio Inoki wet dream. A pro wrestling badass that actually had success in Mixed Martial Arts. I have been on the lookout for any highly pimped Fujita and this does not disappoint. His opponent is another sleeze favorite, Shibata. Shibata does not have the same shoot credentials, but he plays the part well. Shibata tries to beat Fujita at his own game by kicking him really, wicked hard. There is one Shibata kick to the eye that is ungodly brutal. Fujita “sells” this tremendously. Does it really count as selling if your eye is literally swelling? Fujita responds by trying to choke Shibata out. Shibata responds with a heel trip/oo-soto-gari takedown and basically tries to kick through Fujita. Penalty Kick! Fujita is furious now. The merciless beatdown that ensues is beautiful. Great champion vs young lion dynamic. The great Fujita match, in all its ultraviolent, brutal glory!  

#10. Shinya Hashimoto & Takashi Iizuka vs Naoya Ogawa & Kazunari Murakami 
NJPW 01/04/00
After the failure in my eyes of the big 1/4/99 angle where Ogawa basically squashes Hashimoto in worked shoot angle. The idea was to capture the magic of Pride with Ogawa stomping Hashimoto in the head a bunch and then a No Contest being called. It felt more Russo than anything else to me. I always thought it was funny that this was also the day of the Fingerpoke of Doom. WCW & New Japan both ran clusterfuck, quasi-shoot angles that really hurt business long-term. However, they do manage to right the ship one year later with the crazier, chaotic brawl spectacle from the Hashimoto vs Ogawa feud.

The Tokyo Dome was rocking for this one. Anyone who has watched a lot of Dome matches know one of the hardest things to accomplish is sustained heat in the Dome. Hashimoto vs Ogawa is the one feud I have seen where the heat is off the charts in the Dome and this match is probably their hottest. What added to chaos so much you felt like every move could be an instant KO or submission. Also, I got give a  shoutout to my boy, Murakami. We are going to talk about him a lot more in the next column, but this dude is one of my favorite wrestlers ever based on like four matches. He is the ultimate cocky shooter prick with an insane amount of energy. He is a total heat magnet. Hashimoto destroys Murakami and the ensuing Hashimtoo/Ogawa confrontation incites the crowd into frenzy. At one point, Antonio Inoki, Vampire Slayer comes into the ring with a Huge Wooden Stake to restore order. It is pandemonium! Everything feels huge in this match. Murakami gets his comeuppance in this match. Hashimoto & Pro Wrestlers finally get a win this feud. Raucous mayhem!


#9. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Genichiro Tenryu vs Kensuke Sasaki – NJPW 01/04/00
I know I am in the minority but I actually from the IWGP Championship match to the wild Hashimoto vs Ogawa tag from the same night. At the end of the day, I thought the climax of the previous match was lackluster because they were clearly still protecting Ogawa and you really wanted Hashimoto to get the win. This match felt more satisfying to me. Admittedly, I am a bigger Kensuke Sasaki fan than most and was very happy he won the IWGP Championship in the Dome against Tenryu. Sasaki is a great powerhouse and is the heir to Riki Choshu.

Great Clash of Titans match in the Dome that is a battle of generations. The structure of the match is simple anything Tenryu can do, Sasaki can do better. There should be no question left that Tenryu is the past and that Sasaki is the future. For fans of Greg Valentine, this is a match for you. Just two muthas stiffing the hell out of each other. When Tenryu takes a cheapshot with a closed fist, Sasaki gives as good as he got with his own closed fist.  Throughout the match, Sasaki is winning the little battles while Tenryu is forced to take cheapshots like closed fists and chops to the throat to stay in the match. Tenryu rattles off the Best Hits of Tenryu as Sasaki kicks out to prove his mettle. The best sequence of the match is Tenryu goes for a Top Rope Frankensteiner, but Sasaki powerbombs him off the top and then does his own Top Rope Frankensteiner. Whatever Tenryu can do, Sasaki can do better. New Japan in its simplicity can be just as beautiful as All Japan in its complexity.  

#8. Toshiaki Kawada vs Keiji Mutoh – AJPW 4/14/01
Mutoh invades All Japan with Pro Wrestling Love. Misawa & Co. departure from All Japan to form NOAH created a seismic shift in Puroresu. All Japan was left with just Toshiaki Kawada and quickly brought in Genichiro Tenryu as stopgap measure as WAR finally closed. All at the same time, the two biggest stars of New Japan saw the writing was on the wall as Antonio Inoki was slowly going insane with his obsession with shoot credentials. Hashimoto left New Japan to form Zero-One in 2001, get it? Mutoh saw an opportunity to gain power in All Japan fill the roster with his boys. Mutoh would end up becoming the President of All Japan for much of the decade. All Japan became a weird mix of Mutoh’s crew, Tenryu’s crew, Kawada and occasionally Hashimoto. This match comes from the beginning of Mutoh’s 2001 resurgence where he shaved his hand and became obsessed with injuring his opponent’s knee.

The beginning of the match told the story that Mutoh acknowledge Kawada’s supremacy in striking and tried his best to avoid the DANGEROUS strikes of Kawada but fall prey to them as Kawada zeros in on the neck. Kawada is amazing in this early control segment. Then comes classic Mutoh, he turns the tide with dropkicks to the knee and arm. He is peppering the entire right side of Kawada. There is nothing Mutoh does better than Kawada on a level playing field, but if he can take away Kawada’s striking ability than he has fighting chance. I love the urgency of Mutoh here on offense. He is doing a total full court press here. However, it is Kawada that ultimately shines brightest here. This is one of the best selling performances of all time. Kawada is able to sell two different limbs (leg & arm) like million bucks while still being competitive in the match. Mutoh had to blow off the neck selling to get his offense in. Kawada is a rare performer that can convey he is fighting through the pain to still kick ass. He does not stop selling and then go back to selling. He is selling while on offense that may be the single hardest thing to do in wrestling and that’s why Kawada is one of the elite. We see the genius of Mutoh’s strategy at the end as he is working figure-4s and cross armbreakers, but as Kawada is no longer able to stand it leaves him vulnerable to the Shining Wizard. Epic match to re-establish the re-invented Keiji Mutoh ad show why Kawada will always be one of the greatest sellers to ever live.

#7. All Japan Triple Crown Champion Toshiaki Kawada vs Naoya Ogawa – Zero-One 12/14/03
Best Non-NOAH, Puroresu Match of 2003

The story is simple: the larger Naoya Ogawa just needs to hits patented STO (a modified oo-soto-gari, a classic Judo takedown) and Toshiaki Kawada has to avoid. Naoya Ogawa is an Olympic Silver Medalist in Judo that is much larger than the typical Japanese pro wrestler. Kawada is usually a “kick you head off, drop you on your head” asskicker, but here he needs to change that strategy against the larger, more powerful Ogawa. He sticks and moves until he creates an opening by attacking the legs of Ogawa when Ogawa goes for the STO the first time early in the match. What follows is just amazing pro wrestling. Ogawa is this wounded bear that is fleeing from the scene but throwing wild double fists trying to keep the tenacious pitbull, Kawada at bay. There in lies the tension of the match. Can Ogawa get the one home run shot, his STO before Kawada makes it so Ogawa cant even stand? When you have a fan asking those types of question during a match you have them hooked. The drama can get no higher because at any moment you think the match can end. I loved how much struggle there is in this match. Kawada really has to earn his offense on Ogawa. Just because he injured the giant shooter, does not mean he is easy pickings. He constantly has to suffocate Ogawa as Ogawa is always throwing wild bear paws. Then it happens OGAWA STO! Kawada does his classic sell job falling ass first through the ropes to the floor. That is where I will leave the reader. Will Ogawa be able to capitalize with his bum wheel or does Kawada does survive the KO blow? Only one way to find out, watch this classic David vs Goliath chaotic brawl!

The next volume will cover the best six Non-NOAH matches to take place in Japan from 2000-2004. Conspicuous by their absence is pre-split All Japan where will they end up? Only one way to find out, tune in tomorrow! 

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