Saturday, February 2, 2019

Pro Wrestling Love vol. 32: Best of 90s New Japan Heavyweights (Shinya Hashimoto, Great Muta, Vader)

Hey Yo Stud Muffins & Foxy Ladies,

Pro Wrestling Love vol. 32:
The Best of New Japan Pro Wrestling Heavyweights 1990-1999

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.

Subject: This thirty-second volume of Pro Wrestling Love is the Top 13 countdown (I couldnt make the cut and had to put a tie for #12) of the best matches to take place in New Japan Pro Wrestling in the Heavyweight Division between 1990-1999. New Japan has a vibrant junior heavyweight scene in the 1990s led by Jushin “Thunder” Liger that has overshadowed the work of the heavyweight division in America. Make no mistake about it however, the heavyweights led by the Three Musketeers, Shinya Hashimoto, Keiji Mutoh & Masahiro Chono were the draws for the major shows at Tokyo Dome, Sumo Hall and other large shows. The Three Musketeers had back up in the form of Hiroshi Hase & Kensuke Sasaki along with the old guard of Antonio Inoki, Riki Choshu and Tatsumi Fujinami. In addition, two major invasion angles (WAR & UWFI) led by Genichiro Tenryu and Nobuhiko Takada bolstered popularity. Their counterparts in All Japan are defined by the decade of the 1990s thus it is just easier to cluster New Japan in the same way. You can revisit past Pro Wrestling Love Volumes at You can check out the full version of these reviews in by going to the forums and finding the folders associated with the date of the match.

Contact Info: @superstarsleeze on Twitter, Instagram &


Honorable Mentions

Shinya Hashimoto vs Genichiro Tenryu – 8/1/98 G-1 Climax ’98 Quarterfinals
Shinya Hashimoto vs Genichiro Tenryu – 6/8/99, NJPW Heavyweight Match of the Year, 1999
It will become readily apparent in the next volume that when Hashimoto and Tenryu lock up it is always going to be gold. They resumed their rivalry in the late 90s and it was just as heated and stiff. Definitely watch the ’93-’94 series, but don’t sleep on their late 90s work.

IWGP Tag Team Champions Steiner Brothers vs Hiroshi Hase & Kensuke Sasaki – 5/31/91
IWGP Tag Team Champions Steiner Brothers vs Keiji Mutoh & Kensuke Sasaki – 8/12/92
The Steiner Brothers were a major part of the New Japan tag scene in the early 90s and appeared on Dome shows as late as 1995. Their style may not be very intelligent, but it is very entertaining. It is big, dumb fun and these are their two best matches in New Japan.

Shinya Hashimoto vs Satoshi Kojima – G-1 Climax ’98 Semi-Finals
NWA Heavyweight Champion Naoya Ogawa vs Shinya Hashimoto – Final Dome 10/11/99
Scott Norton vs Yuji Nagata – 9/23/98 Vacant IWGP Heavyweight Championship
One of the best parts of watching New Japan is the random goodness, since it is not as well-characterized you can stumble across a lot of hidden gems. To me, the best one I found was a randomly bomb-throwing fest between Norton vs Nagata, it is easily the best Norton match I have ever seen. Hashimoto vs Ogawa dominated the late 90s New Japan game and thousands of words have been written about it and I wanted to include the best match from that feud. Hashimoto vs Kojima was randomly great match where Hashimoto vs Kojima play Hashimoto vs Choshu and comes out fun. I highly recommend their 2003 Triple Crown match.

Antonio Inoki vs Vader – 1/4/96
Genichiro Tenryu vs Tatsumi Fujinami – 4/29/96
IWGP Heavyweight Champion Shinya Hashimoto vs RIki Choshu – 1/4/97
 The “old people can still go” section of the honorable mentions. Inoki takes a hellacious beating for our pleasure against one of his greatest rivals, Vader on his Final Countdown tour. Tenryu and Fujinami bleed buckets in a crazy, out of nowhere brawl. Hashimoto vs Choshu a great rivalry from the 80s finally finishes in epic fashion in the Tokyo Dome.

IWGP Heavyweight Champion Shinya Hashimoto vs Kensuke Sasaki – 1/4/95, 
New Japan Heavyweight Match of the Year, 1995
IWGP Heavyweight Champion Shinya Hashimoto vs Lord Steven Regal – 4/16/95
Keiji Mutoh vs Shinya Hashimoto – G-1 Climax Finals 1995
Hashimoto reigned for over a year from spring of 1994 to spring of 1995 and it included a very beefy, power match against the young challenger Sasaki at the Dome, which I think was the match of the year and a gritty, physical battle against WCW’s Steven Regal. After losing the belt to Mutoh in May, they met in the finals of the G-1 Climax. Most people have this as their New Japan Heavies’ Match of the Year and it is a great one, can Hashimoto finally get the monkey off his back and win the G-1 Climax?

IWGP Heavyweight Champion Shinya Hashimoto vs Kazuo Yamazaki – 2/16/97 
Match of the Year, 1997
They would have a better match the following year in 1998, but this is the best Heavyweight match from New Japan in 1997 as these two have stellar chemistry together. This is when the Right Hand of Hashimoto becomes greatest than Right Hand of God as HE STRIKES DOWN YAMAZAKI!

IWGP Heavyweight Champion The Great Muta vs Shinya Hashimoto – 9/23/92
One of the great revelations from watching a lot of New Japan from the 1990s was how amazing the Great Muta character is. It is a horror movie monster come to life. He is the Creature From The Black Lagoon preying on his opponents. He stalks them with bloodlust and is impervious to pain. Two of his other matches from this title reign make the Top 13, but this match was the last cut and it pains me to cut it.

Top Thirteen Best New Japan Heavyweight Matches from 1990-1999
I could not make bear to cut either of these matches so we have a tie at #12.

#12. (Tie) The Great Muta vs Tatsumi Fujinami – 9/23/91

I give you, The Great Muta, in all his violent glory. He bashes Fujinami's head into exposed turnbuckles, grinds a spike into forehead, slams a toolbox into his head and hits him with canvas poles. Great piledriver in the ring. He gnaws on the bloody cut. He grinds the open wound into the exposed turnbuckle. His bloodlust is insatiable. In the ring, he cuts Fujinami off at every pass, with kicks, suplexes and oh just throwing him head first into hard, metal objects. I don't think I have ever heard that much heel heat in Japan. At least loud booing on three occasions. The Great Muta was just destroying Fujinami here. Fujinami started the match off red hot. He knows The Great Muta and how he is a horror movie monster come to life. He took it right to the beast. Great suicide dive to the outside wiping him out and the bodyslam. The thing is he let up on the gas pedal. Muta rolled under the ring. He undid the turnbuckle padding. You cant let that happen. The first time was an accident when the crown of Fujinami's head strikes the exposed turnbuckle and knocks him loopy. It was all down hill. But after bashing Fujinami's head with everything he could find under the ring and drawing blood. He could not put the Ace of New Japan away. Multiple Saito Suplexes and even a package piledriver and Fujinami would not stay down as Antonio Inoki looked on. Muta missed his trademark back handspring elbow. Fujinami gets in a kick and then Billy Robinson backbreaker! DRAGON SLEEPER! Can he pull off a miracle? Foot on the rope. OH NOW THE REF ENFORCES THE RULES! Fujinami punches Muta repeatedly in the corner as the ref tries to pull him off. If I was Fujinami, I would have been like "Where the hell were you when he was hitting ME WITH A FUCKING TOOLBOX!" The ref keeps at it. GREEN MIST~! It hits the ref not Fujinami. Fujinami cant win the with the ref. Two Saito suplexes, Fujinami is beside himself, he has the monster on the ropes, but no ref. German Suplex, bridge! He gets a visual three, but the ref is down. Fujinami goes for the ten punches in the corner, BALLSHOT! YES! YES! YES! The one last check box on all time heel performance. I love it! Muta gets a glass bottle and colddocks Fujinami. He revives the ref and hits his moonsault for the win. Spikes, piledrivers, blood, ballshots, MIST, Glass Bottles. Amazing heel performance from The Great Muta.

The Great Muta in all his violent glory! 

#12. (Tie) IWGP Heavyweight Champion Shinya Hashimoto vs Yoshiaki Fujiwara – 6/1/94

After regaining the championship from Fujinami at the May Dome show, the 80s strike back continue as Fujiwara is his next challenger.

Superb! Had all the chippiness you would expect plus a ton of the little things that make both these men great. Fucking Fujiwara, God Bless this man, he rules the school. We get a lock up in the corner and he throws some great rabbit punches. Hashimoto throws one wild haymaker in the corner. I guess Hashimoto has an injured left shoulder because Fujiwara goes after it with ferocity. He takes Hashimoto down with a vicious armbar. Hashimoto makes the ropes and then tries to give Fujiwara a taste of his own medicine, but Fujiwara quashes the armbar takedown as they end up in the ropes. Hashimoto frustrated throws a wicked stomp. Then the best thing ever happens. Fujiwara backs him into the corner and gives him a CLEAN break. What a fucking asshole! I have never marked so hard for a clean break. :D

Other things that are characteristic of Fujiwara is the organic transitions into holds and the struggle over holds. Hashimoto starts to the throw kicks and Fujiwara catches his foot and gets a single takedown. The fight for the single leg crab is great and then Fujiwara just settles for a chokehold. Which just reinforces how much that clean break was such a dick move. FUJIWARA PUNCH TO THE FACE! Punches in puroresu always make me mark out. That was awesome. Fujiwara going back to the choke was great. Then Hashimoto bulrushes Fujiwara and wrenches the knee. Then he points to his shoulder. Fucking love it! Two fucking assholes going at it. Fujiwara goes back to the arm. Rope break. Good selling from Hashimoto.

Hashimoto misses his rainbow kick in the corner. Fujiwara just bounces on his feet as Hashimoto looks like an asshole worried that Fujiwara is going to pounce. It takes a real man to make Hashimoto look like a jackass. Hashimoto overwhelms him with kicks in the corner. Fujiwara catches the foot, this time Hashimoto gets a guillotine. Then backs him into the corner, Hashimoto gives Fujiwara a receipt and PUNCHES him in the face and then he catches him really good with a kick to the chest. Fujiwara does his classic collapse selling. Fujiwara sells so well. Desperately clinging to the foot.

Then there is the one bad egregious spot. Fujiwara puts Hashimoto in a cross armbreaker for a long time. No real struggle or selling. I know PRIDE wasn't a thing yet, but a cross armbreaker is an endgame. I didn't like the disrespect for that hold. The ease at which Hashimoto got out and he elbows the bad knee. I like the double psychology, but just one bad moment. Hey it happens.

They stand up. I love all the resets. Makes it feel like a chapter book. Fujiwara feigns with some slaps and Hashimoto says bring it, don't sing it. Hashimoto gets him in the clinch, Muay Thai knees, Fujiwara goes for the armbar takedown, HASHIMOTO DDT!!! MARK OUT CITY!!! YES! YES! Hashimoto running enziguiri, kneelifts, VICIOUS DDT! Fujiwara fucks up by kicking out, but I don't care, THIS WAS FUCKING AWESOME! Great character work, great build, dripping with psychology, tons of great offense. Only thing this from being in the tippy top is the cross armbreaker spot, watch this match! 

#11. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Shinya Hashimoto vs. 
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Jushin “Thunder” Liger – 2/24/94

Notice on how Liger did not wear a top for this match to show off his muscles to make it more believable he could go toe to toe with Hashimoto.

Respect size and everything matters more. This match is a perfect example of how by respecting size differentials match drama can be greatly enhanced. Early on Liger tries to do his routine moves like the surfboard and Ligerbomb, but cant because Hashimoto is just too big. On the flips side, Hashimoto can chuck Liger around like wicked snap belly to belly and his thrunderdous suplex slam. You really feel bad for Liger going up against this asskicker, but at the same time Liger is such a great wrestler you believe he has it in him. Hashimoto kicks his ass in the beginning. Liger realizes if he does not start fighting back he is going to get killed. So he unleashes a fury of palm strikes and a couple kappo kicks. He tries to speed up tempo, but eats a huge Hashimoto dropkick. Hashimoto destroys Liger's arm with wristlocks and then kicks the fucking hell out of it. My biggest complaint of the match is that Liger does not sell it long term, but still a great match. Liger uses speed and hits a basement dropkick. After those stinging kicks, I would be looking to fuck up his legs too. Liger proves he is not one to be manhandled and slaps the fuck out of Hashimoto in an inverted deathlock. Hashimoto is a great bully and I love how Liger is not backing down. It becomes an arm vs leg psychology. Liger wins out hits a missile dropkick on the knee and then applies figure-4. You see from Hashimoto's selling that it hurts, but does not hurt as much because Liger cant apply as much pressure. Then Liger just rattles off HUGE SPOT AFTER HUGE SPOT! OMG LIGERBOMB~! TOP ROPE BRAINBUSTER~! TOP ROPE FRANKENSTEINER~! GERMAN!!! That top rope brainbuster was scary. Hashimoto lets him have his fun before trying to kick a hole in his body. Those were fierce kicks. When Liger tries a palm strike, Hashimoto wipes him the fuck out with a leg sweep from hell. Kicks his fucking head off and then BRAINBUSTER~! Awesome David vs Goliath match where this time you knew Goliath was going to win and it is cool because it is rockstar badass Goliath, but David put up one helluva fight. 

#10. IWGP Tag Champions Keiji Mutoh & Masa Chono vs Hiroshi Hase & Kensuke Sasaki November 1, 1990
New Japan Heavyweights Match of the Year, 1990

So I watched this a long time ago and I loved it. Watched it last night it took my breathe away but it was so fast I couldnt keep up so I am doing a review where I write and watch it at the same time. This reminds me so much of the first Four Corners Tag in June of 1993. 

90s Workrate baby! This is an All Japan tag before All Japan tags were even invented. They set the tone early with tons of rope running and big explosive spots. Thats really what characterizes 90s work rate in my mind it is movement and explosiveness. It is not cool moves but a lot of well-executed high impact moves. Chono hits a big shouldertackle then Sasaki follows suit with a powerslam. Nothing fancy but it is the speed and the intensity that make it compelling. Mutoh and Hase slow it down. There is no sense of hatred from the 1990 bloodbath indicating that Keiji Mutoh and Great Muta are considered two separate entities. Mutoh and Hase work the more traditional strong style opening focusing on wristlocks and single leg pickups. Sasaki & Hase were a young and upcoming team. Hase just graduated from the juniors and Sasaki was very wet behind the ears. Mutoh works the headlock to ground the explosive Sasaki. Sasaki throws him off the headlock and nails a dropkick. I love wrecking ball Sasaki. He tags out to Hase so we get our fourth unique pairing. Hase is such a charismatic wrestler. We get the first sense this is a tag team match as Chono bullies him into the corner and they double team him with a quick tag and double shouldertackle. Chono tags back in and Hase takes him to the ground, which is his forte. Chono again brings him over to their corner and they double team him. I LOVED Mutoh's back drop into his power drive elbow. It looked so good. I like they are establishing the champions as the better team. They are not heels. They are just better at the tag team strategy than the younger challengers. Hase gets an amazing submission out of nothing basically and grabs an armbar. Hase is being controlled without getting owned so he is not dying. I like that sort of struggle and energy. Clear leader, but it is not a blowout. Chono works his way into deathlock and tags Mutoh back in. It is not that Chono or Mutoh is better than Hase they are just better tag wrestlers. Mutoh works his deathlock gimmick including the bridge. Sasaki finally saves Hase with a big elbow to the bridging Mutoh. I love any spot that involves dropping body weight on a bridging opponent. The action is fast & furious, but everything makes sense and is well-executed. Chono looks like a million bucks that neck injury really did him in. Hase immediately tags out! Awesome tag psychology. No fucking dawdling like you will see in America. Hase is being honest with himself and needs to get Sasaki in there. Sasaki dominates Chono with strikes good selling and a nice bump there by Chono. I dont love Sasaki getting all Scotty Steiner loving his own work and telling his opponent to get up. He makes for it with a big Oklahoma Slam and WOW WHAT AN ELBOW DROP! Sasaki brings Chono over to his corner and Hase gets some of his frustrations out on Chono's chest. Sidewalk slam gets two and Hase is thinking Scorpion Deathlock, but Chono gets a inside cradle. They continue to work Chono over in their corner with Sasaki holding the hair as Hase slaps the chest and now a double clothesline on Chono, but the ref wont count the cover. I love old school reffing like that. Now the challengers are throwing good tag psychology back in the champs' faces. Sasaki crashes and burns on a dropkick as Chono holds the ropes. Chono does not tag out. Seems like a mistake but he hits a Yakuza kick to the side of Sasaki's head. He signals for another and then tags out and collaspes. Mutoh immediately hits his back handspring elbow, extra explosive. He throws Sasaki to the floor and Chono whips him into the railing. The champions are escalating the action and the challengers are responding. They hit a Doomsday Device like move and Chono locks in his finish the STF and Mutoh hits a dropkick on Hase, but Hase is able to get past Mutoh to knock Chono off, but Mutoh throws Hase out. Chono reapplies the STF, but Sasaki makes the ropes. High drama! Mutoh hits the kneecrusher. Chono & Mutoh are working on a clinic on the rookie Kensuke Sasaki as Mutoh now applies a figure-4. Sasaki is showing a lot of fighting spirit making the ropes. Chono attacks him in a neutral corner, which seems like a mistake. Sasaki hulks up and THROWS CHONO DOWN! Tags out to Hase who immediately hits his twisting urnage and applies a Scorpion Deathlock. Mutoh casually walks in to break this up to a chorus of boos. Hase tags out to Sasaki. Was it too soon? Sasaki sets up for superplex and hits it. Hase illegally comes off the top rope with a splash, but the ref counts it for two. Chono looks to be in real trouble. Sasaki locks in the Scorpion Deathlock. Mutoh comes into break it up but takes a lot more kicks and Sasaki beats the shit out of Mutoh and they throw him out. Sasaki hits a big dropkick in the corner and then a big German Suplex for two. Hase cant believe it is not three! He comes off the apron to contest the count. I love it! Mutoh is cheering on Chono. Chono hits the Yakuza Kick and falls into a tag. Mutoh comes out hot! Surprisingly, he is able to his back handspring elbow (very rare to be able to hit the same spot twice), but he screws up and dropkicks in Sasaki towards his corner allowing the fresh man, Hase to come in, but Mutoh meets him at the pass and hits a backdrop driver. Mutoh slows it down and feels more in control hits a bulldog then takes him over with a Dragon Suplex. Chono hits a missile dropkick on Sasaki as he was trying to break it up. Mutoh hits his backbreaker/moonsault combo but Hase kicks out at 2! Mutoh is incredulous. Sasaki hits a monster lariat on Mutoh as he is contesting the count. Chono comes in and POWERSLAM! Hase hits a Northern Lights Suplex...BRIDGE...1-2-3!

Wow! They pack so much in here without it feeling like overkill too much. There was no waiting for people to be ready. No intricate spots. It was all high impact moves that were well-executed and done with a great sense of urgency that is what defines 90s workrate. I thought this told a great story of the Champions beating the challengers in a tag match by using quick tags and double teams. Chono and Mutoh looked amazing this match and looked like they would be massive workrate stars of the 90s. Sasaki was just a bulldozer and Hase is so damn good on the mat. I like how the challengers won not by cheating per se but bending the rules. Saving is more lax in Japan, but Sasaki coming in trucking Mutoh during an argument with a ref is pretty cheap so it is protects the Champs, but also is an exciting finish. It was just chaos towards the end with bodies flying everywhere. Every bit as good as anything All Japan produced in 1990. It wouldnt be until later that gulf widened. 

#9. Keiji Mutoh vs Vader – G-1 Climax 8/10/91

What makes this work is that you don't have to sell for Vader. The reason wrestlers have to sell is to make you believe. If watching Vader punch someone in the face, does not make a believer out of you then I guess the only recourse is to have Vader punch you in the face. :)

Vader bullies Mutoh into the corner and it is classic Vader the rights and lefts in the corner. You already know Mutoh is in dire straits so when Mutoh makes a comeback it is not that he is no selling. It is that he is fighting through the pain because you already believe. I thought Mutoh was perfect in this match offensively. Five distinct and interesting offensive series. The first being a series of punches to the face that reels the big man and lets him know that he is ready for the fight. Then he goes for a lock up and Vader tags him real good in the face. His next series is a series of dropkicks and after three gets Vader off his feet. Mutoh establishing the quickness game. Now Vader takes offense for a bit longer. It is the clotheslines, splashes and just using his girth to steamroll Mutoh. They go into the corner and then throws him into the post. But as he is getting back in Mutoh dropkicks him. Plancha. Railing. Back handspring elbow on the railing! Back in the ring it is the classic Mutoh elbow. It is a very electric and exciting comeback. Mutoh tries to put Vader in a hold. Bad idea. Vader just tees off on Mutoh. A lot about Mutoh but heres an example of Vader's greatness. Huge Lariat and then the urgency and tightness of his cover put over the stakes of the match. Great stuff from the Big Man. I love the fourth comeback. Mutoh slips down from a suplex and rocks Vader with two smashmouth forearms to the face and then hits a back suplex, springboard missile dropkick (floors him for two) and then a moonsault. Love the urgency from Mutoh. The transition back to Vader is all time great one when he catches him in the back handspring elbow and then Vader THROWS HIM DOWN FOLDING HIM IN HALF. Mutoh is made to look great kickout out of a big Vader splash and Vader powerbomb. My one complaint is the finish was a bit weak. This was a bomb throwing match. To end it with backslides, small packages and not the greatest reversal of a powerslam just felt disjointed from the rest of the match. Mutoh was Vader's equal and this felt tacked on. 95% of this was just gold and you know what the finish is still good enough. Very exciting pro wrestling that makes sense.

#8. Shinya Hashimoto vs Kazuo Yamazaki – G-1 Climax Finals ‘98
New Japan Heavyweights Match of the Year, 1998

Hashimoto is going for his first ever G-1 Climax victory. NJPW booking as it has been explained to me is that Hashimoto was IWGP Champion of the 90s, Chono was the G-1 Climax winner of the Musketeers and Mutoh was sort of the gimmicky star, blood feud guy with a little of both IWGP/G-1 Climax wins in the 90s. Yamazaki is a former UWF shoot-style wrestler that I have never seen before and damn did he look good in this.

Having read other reviews, Hashimoto is coming in with a bad left leg (his striking leg) from his semi-final match with Kojima. If you pay close attention to the beginning when Yamazaki gets an armbar takedown, after Hash quickly escapes he comes up favoring the leg. This led me to look up what had happened. Yamazaki like a shark smells blood and starts wailing on the leg with kicks. Hashimoto's strategy seems to be to use the overhand chop to quite literally chop Yamazaki down and then set up his kicks. Hashimoto sells really, really well. Some of the best fightinfg through the pain selling, you will ever see, Also he gradually sells more and more. As the match goes on, he is less and less likely to throw a kick. Yamazaki's offense which in I love is to lunge at the knee at every opportunity. These are not the chop blocks from behind, but from the front even leading with the head and the knee is NOT supposed to bend like that. I will say it does get a little stagnant. Hashimoto does not seem to have a strategy to win the match at first. Even though he is in control, it feels very defensive due to the bum wheel. He is fending off Yamazaki more than taking charge. Match picks up once Yamazaki gets a dragon leg screw and Hashimoto ends up on the outside and Yamazaki does a plancha to the outside. Love when people use their body as a weapon. Nice legbar by Yamazaki. Hashimoto gets the ropes. Hashimoto tries kicking Yamazaki with his bad leg (he has no other choice) and ends up back in a kneebar. I like that. There is a difference between doing something stupid and blowing off selling. Hashimoto was selling, it was just stupid, but we all do stupid things under pressure and injured. Hashimoto needs a Hail Mary at this point something targeting the head. He gets that in the form of a massive enziguiri. The move is made by Yamazaki's selling. Awesome groggy out on my feet selling by him. Slop Drop and WAIT! Whats this Hashimoto is heading to the top...A MONSTER TOP ROPE ELBOW FROM THE BIG MAN!!!! Popped huge on the airplane (watched this on a JetBlue flight, what a time to be alive!). Hashimoto unloads on him with some massive kicks and then BRINABUSTAAAAAHHHHHH!!!! HASHIMOTO WINS HIS FIRST G-1 CLIMAX!!!!

Incredible, back to basics, fundamentals pro wrestling match, no frills, just kills. It is what Hasimoto & NJPW excel at. The leg injury was an awesome hook, which both wrestlers took a unique take on (no real heat segment) that really impact every moment of the match. I love matches where the wrestler in control feels really tenuous. You just knew at any time Hashimoto knee would give way and Yamazaki would take over. Submissions were hot and the headshot was a great transition to Hashimoto finish run. In a match with only two highspots they made the most of it with the top rope elbow and Brainbuster. Little stagnant in the middle and could have used one more Yamazaki nearfall to really bring it up. Killer minimalist match and one of Hashimoto's best of all time.

#7. IWGP Heavyweight Champion The Great Muta vs Hiroshi Hase – 12/14/92
New Japan Heavyweights Match of the Year, 1992

Probably the most famous New Japan heavyweight match of the 90s stateside as this is famous for developing the famed Muta Scale where Great Muta does a five alarm bladejob bleeding like a stuck pig. From the reviews I recently read, this match is no longer regarded as a classic and is more of a novelty for the sheer gore of the match. I disagree. I think this is a match that benefits greatly from watching a lot of Great Muta during this time period. Great Muta wrestles unlike any other wrestler in New Japan or anywhere else in the world except for the Undertaker. He is a horror movie character come to life. Most violent wrestlers we think of are wildmen like The Sheik and Tiger Jeet Sngh. Great Muta brings the violence of these men with a dimension of stalking dread that is more reminiscent of Frankenstein or the Creature From The Black Lagoon. There is no selling when you wrestle Muta. There is no grappling holds or traditional pro wrestling struggle. The struggle is in the survival. Hasimoto, asskicked extraordinaire, learnt this lesson take Muta lightly and you will be blinded with a broken back. The Sting match did not feature as great of a finish but again Muta beat the hell out of Sting. Muta chokes, claws, blinds his opponents using railings, chairs, mist and his spike. The spike has been a foreign object that Muta loads his boot with and he will come down across your back with a kneedrop to setup his backbreaker/moonsault combo. The first couple times, I really wanted the spike be used to carve up an opponent. Little did I know Muta's comeuppance would come at the hand of his favorite weapon.

Hase's strategy early is smart he dropkicks Muta at the beginning of his prematch ritual, the mist blow. He doesn't let up. Wicked urnage. He takes him to the outside whips him into a railing. He grabs a table brings it on his side of the railing and drives Muta into it. Unlike any other opponent, Hase knows the demonic nature of Great Muta better than anybody as Muta bloodied him up in 1990. The problem is at some point he does run out of steam in the ring and thats when Mutas strike with rapid fire kicks and chops. I thought Mutas speed and strikes looked great. What was uncharacteristic for Muta is that he grabbed a hold instead of taking his opponent outside. Muta does his bridging Indian Deathlock and I loved Hases counter the smother of Muta and then a wicked neck clamp. Now Muta does what does Muta best be weird. He goes looking for his spike. Going each of the four sides and he cant find it. Hase lies in the ring and welcomes to come back into the ring. Muta takes Hase back outside and drives him head first into the concrete. Then anytime Hase gets chippy Muta crotches him on the ring rope or then the steel railing. This is really both of them no selling, but I think when you are in there with a monster like Muta you need to throw everything at him. Muta throws in a chair. Hase grapples with the ref for it and then Muta bashes him with the chair and then backbreaker, but Hase pushes him off the top rope. Hase constant suplexing Muta and especially this instance after a chair shot is what drops this match from perfect status he was no selling too much. Muta gets the spike, but before he can put it in his boot. Hase gets it and carves Muta open. NASTY BLADEJOB! Crimson Mask has never been so appropriate. Piledriver, sleeper, and biting lots and lots of biting. Hase mocks Mutas mist spew with Mutas blood. Thats sick. Hases body looks like a murder scene. Muta starts suplexing the shit out of Hase. Four back drop drivers. Muta crashes and burns on the moonsault! There is still life in Hiroshi Hase! Mutas sell is so great. He looks like a fish completely spent from flopping around and died. Hase hits a wicked urnage. 1-2-NO! Powerbomb! 1-2-NO! Hase goes for another Urnage, but Muta snaps off a Dragon Suplex, bridge 1-2-NO! Even Muta is shocked! Another snap one with bridge for two. Muta is ready to destroy. Backbreaker/moonsault and it is over. Hase came closer than any men before him, but all fall before The Great Muta. ****1/2

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