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 gwe.freeforums.project.net) 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 ridingspacemountain.blogspot.com. You can check out the full version of these reviews in ProWrestlingOnly.com by going to the forums and finding the folders associated with the date of the match.
Contact Info: @superstarsleeze on Twitter, Instagram & ProWrestlingOnly.com.
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
#12. (Tie) IWGP Heavyweight Champion Shinya Hashimoto vs Yoshiaki Fujiwara – 6/1/94
#11. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Shinya Hashimoto vs.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Jushin “Thunder” Liger – 2/24/94
#10. IWGP Tag Champions Keiji Mutoh & Masa Chono vs Hiroshi Hase & Kensuke Sasaki November 1, 1990
New Japan Heavyweights Match of the Year, 1990
#9. Keiji Mutoh vs Vader – G-1 Climax 8/10/91
#8. Shinya Hashimoto vs Kazuo Yamazaki – G-1 Climax Finals ‘98
New Japan Heavyweights Match of the Year, 1998
#7. IWGP Heavyweight Champion The Great Muta vs Hiroshi Hase – 12/14/92
New Japan Heavyweights Match of the Year, 1992