Best All Japan Pro Wrestling & New Japan Puroresu Matches of 1989
After watching pretty much a whole year of All Japan and New Japan TV, I decided to establish a list of my 50 favourite matches, divided in several categories, namely heavies, juniors, tags, six man and junior tags (how original…..). I prefer this kind of ranking since I don’t think it’s fair to compare a junior match to an heavyweight match to a tag match, each having their own kind of style and dynamics. I quickly saw that the different categories were not equals as far as quality goes, the richest one being the heavy tags, the poorest one being the heavy singles. What I mean by this is that there are tag matches not included in that list that are well worth watching whereas there aren’t many other strong single matches. The junior tag category was kinda tricky since I included matches involving heavyweights (Machine, Takano, Davey Boy), but the matches are worked against junior opponents in a junior style, so it seemed the right thing to do.
Instead of just giving away five list of matches, I prefer a thematic classification, complete with other important or interesting matches for each topic.
NB : the number before the air date is the ranking of the match in its own division.
PS : this is a completely subjective list.
All Japan Pro-Wrestling
Jumbo & Yatsu vs Tenryu & the Revolution
This is the main feud of the year, as Jumbo is The Man, seconded by fellow Olympian Yoshiaki Yatsu and other veterans like the Great Kabuki and Masa Fuchi. Tenryu is the native rival, leading the Revolution, which is essentially the Footloose (Toshiaki Kawada and Samson Fuyuki) and « honorary member » gaijin monster Stan Hansen (after he broke up with Terry Gordy).
22/01 : Jumbo & Yatsu vs Tenryu & Kawada
Good match, infamous for Tenryu’s ultra short in-ring time. The ultimate « Tenryu’s sleeping at ringside » match. Kawada won’t make the tag even after getting his ass handed to him, and it’s just bizarre to watch.
(1) 28/01 : Jumbo & Yatsu & Fuchi vs Tenryu & Footloose
A little more than half is shown, and it's the best pure heavyweight action you can find from 1989. They work at a junior pace and everyone is on, even Tenryu and Yatsu. It's basically a big work to the finish section with tons of spots and sequences. The Footloose are particulary good as they carry their part of the team for Tenryu and deliver an awesome performance (not an unusual thing for them). Fuchi is super fun as the junior lost in the middle of heavyweights, but still kicking some ass. The heat is incredible too, as it's taking place in Korakuen Hall, temple of hot puroresu back then.
12/02 : Jumbo & Yatsu vs Hansen & Gordy
This is the main event of an AWA show in Kansas City. Tenryu squashes Wild Bill Irwin earlier on, to tell you how exciting this card was. The Olympians regain the tag titles in a pretty forgetable match, but who can blame these four workers for going half speed when they are working before 500 cluless people instead of main eventing Budokan.
(4) 23/02 : Jumbo & Yatsu vs Tenryu & Kawada
Tenryu & Kawada was a rather unconsistant team because Tenryu often choose to stay out of the ring and let Kawada do all the work, which is not necessarely a bad thing technically, but it made the team a little bit awkward. This was not the case here, as Tenryu was in Korakuen so he was motivated. This match doesn't go as long as some of their others, but it's quicker and everybody makes a contribution and as a result, it's better than any of the Olympic Team vs Tenyu & Hansen matches later in the year. Great stuff.
(7) 08/03 : Jumbo & Yatsu & Takano vs Tenryu & Road Warriors
The main event of the April Budokan show sees the return of the Road Warriors in All Japan. This match is for the NWA 6-man tag, but the real story here is Jumbo opposing the monstruous Roadies and his rival Tenryu. The Warriors execute all their big spots and Jumbo made them look like gold. The heat is unreal as the crowd is going crazy for the Roadies, so Jumbo acts like a heel to add to the fun and makes this a special match to watch. Great performance by Jumbo.
04/04 : Jumbo & Yatsu vs Hansen & Tenryu
First match involving Hansen, and it’s both about Jumbo vs Tenryu and Jumbo vs Hansen to set up their upcoming unification match. Extremely stiff and out of control, in a good way.
(8) 16/04 : Stan Hansen vs Jumbo Tsuruta
It's their brawl at Korakuen two days after the real Triple Crown unification match. It's not pretty, but it's stiff as hell. They just beat the living shit out of each others for 15 minutes, without any sequences or exchanges of moves. They build their match to get to the point of complete chaos, so of course the double DQ is the only way to go. Not great, but certainly a fun match, and better than their rather dull unification match two days later. Super heat too.
18/04 : Hansen vs Jumbo
Pretty good build and nice finish, but as a whole it’s a little bit dull and not quite as intense as the Korakuen asskicking. Jumbo unifies the three single titles in All Japan to create the Triple Crown.
(6) 20/04 : Jumbo Tsuruta vs Genichiro Tenryu
Their first match of the year probably built to be another great match like their following two, but as everybody knows, the match is cut short by a powerbomb spot turned ugly, as Jumbo drops Tenryu badly on his neck and the match ends anticlimatically. But what they do before the ending is excellent.
(1) 05/06 : Jumbo Tsuruta vs Genichiro Tenryu
The consensus best heavyweigt match of the decade. Everything has already been said about this awesome masterpiece. Great stiffness, worked at a rabid pace, with an incredible work to the finish section. The greatness of this match mainly comes from the greatness of Jumbo Tsuruta, added to the chemistry he and Tenryu, otherwise a limited an inconsistant worker over the year, had developped at this point. Tenryu gets all the credit in the world to be able to work at this level, but he is the Razor to Jumbo's Michaels and the Kandori to Jumbo's Hokuto.
(10) ??/06 : Hansen & Kawada vs Jumbo & Yatsu
The only time the challenger team is composed of Hansen & Kawada, and the result is better than than most match with Tenryu/Hansen. Both work very hard and they play the opposite roles, as Hansen is dominating Jumbo & Yatsu whereas Kawada is dominated by the opposition. So Hansen is playing Kawada's big brother, saving him a hundred time before Kawada can finally react. Tenryu misses nobody.
(5) 03/07 : Tenryu & Hansen & Fuyuki vs Jumbo & Yatsu & Kabuki
A great six man involving two so-so worker (Yatsu and Kabuki), carried by Jumbo on one part, and Hansen and Fuyuki on the other. Fuyuki is the most hated member of the Revolution. He is always a good whipping boy for Jumbo's team, and makes a super underdog in his match. Kabuki works as good as he can and adds his strange coolness to the match (gotta love those « automatic » uppercuts). Tenryu works less than his two partners, of course, but he still delivers a very good performance.
11/07 : Hansen & Tenryu vs Jumbo & Yatsu
Typical good stiff match bewteen these two teams. Hansen & Tenryu give Yatsu an ass kicking and finally win the titles.
18/07 : Tenryu vs Yastu
Ugly Triple Crown defense by Tenryu, who litteraly sleeps for a good ten minutes before he decides to do something worthwhile. Hats off to Yatsu who busts his ass, as always, but he’s too limited to make this good, and Tenryu won’t pick up the pieces. Some good moments, but as a whole it’s pretty much the match to show to anybody who thinks Tenryu was a great worker.
22/07 : Jumbo & Yatsu vs Hansen & Tenryu
Typical good stiff match between these two teams. Hansen & Tenryu give Yatsu an ass kicking and finally lose the titles. Wait a minute……
(4) 28/07 : Tenryu & Hansen & Kawada vs Jumbo & Yatsu & Kabuki
The three highest member of the Revolution vs Jumbo and the vets. Hansen & Kawada carry their team, Hansen the monster and Kawada the underdog. Kabuki is limited, but works his part very well and is pretty fired up in this match. Tenryu is awesome for heating up his rivalry with Jumbo. Fast paced match with spots back and forth, this is better than their 03/07 match for the simple reason that Kawada is there instead of Fuyuki.
(5) ??/08 : Tenryu & Hansen vs Jumbo & Kobashi
From the Bruiser Brody Memorial show at Korakuen Hall, this match showcased a young and already excellent Kenta Kobashi getting his ass kicked by Hansen & Tenryu. His teamwork with Jumbo is not as efficient as Yatsu's, but he's already so good in the ring that the result is a lot better. He's playing the young underdog role who gets in the face of the legends and pays for it, whereas Jumbo plays his big brother. A great match in the Jumbo vs Tenryu rivalry, and the biggest match of Kobashi this year.
19/08 : Tenryu & Ogawa vs Jumbo & Kobashi
Very cool match with the participation of Revolution rookie Yoshinari Ogawa, who doesn’t belong but still tries to kick some Jumbo ass. Tenryu is working at his best level here, and the opposition is as good as it looks on paper. Super fun, really.
(3) 29/08 : Jumbo & Yatsu vs Tenryu & Kawada
The best match of the Olympic team, working against a very motivated Tenryu and the ever great Kawada. These two teams never worked harder, and it's even better than their Korakuen match earlier in the year. It's pretty much the first time Tenryu uses the little stiff kicks to the head that made him such a fun wrestler. Probably Yatsu's best performance of the year, too.
(2) 11/10 : Genichiro Tenryu vs Jumbo Tsuruta
The counterpart to their Budokan meeting. Slower paced, but as exciting and great in terms of stiffness, psychology and moves. Tenryu was better here, as he worked even stiffer at this point of the year, and was beginning to use more little stiff kick to the back and the head. Great use of the key spots with great nearfalls before a perfect finish built around the powerbomb and how to counter it. Awesome match.
(2) 14/10 : Tenryu & Footloose vs Jumbo & Kabuki & Kobashi
Tenryu & the Footloose are the best trio this year, the Footloose handling the strong part of the work and Tenryu picking his spots, playing the overpowering leader of the faction. In this one Tenryu is particulary good, stiffing Kobashi unmercifully and not reluctant to work his share (good God !). Kobashi is the star of the opposite team as the underdog who gets destroyed but makes the hot tags to the veterans. His inclusion into the mix instead of Yatsu really makes a difference. Kabuki has his best performance of the year too.
(8) 20/10 : Tenryu & Hansen vs Jumbo & Yatsu
The best of the long series between Tenryu/Hansen & Jumbo/Yatsu. Contrary to the previous matches during which Tenryu and Hansen kicked their opponents' ass, this match is built around Hansen’s back injury. Therefore he played the role of the victim for a while. Peculiar role for him, but he was great at it and milked the injury for all it as worth. Excellent psychology, great stiffness. Tenryu worked harder than before because of the story.
??/10 : Jumbo & Kabuki vs Tenryu & Fuyuki
Yeah, even with Kabuki, Fuyuki and Tenryu, this match is very good because everybody plays his part and works very hard (especially Fuyuki). And there’s the Wrestling God in the middle of all this.
06/12 : Jumbo & Yastu vs Tenryu & Hansen
Final match of the Real World Tag League, and main event of the Budokan December event. Way too long, but still very good thanks to the chemistry these two teams had developped by then. Yatsu was pretty goofy here, using a thousand headbutts despite a head injury.
All Asian Tag Team Titles
At this time the All Asian Tag Titles were still an important part of All Japan’s product, and 1989 saw some of the best matches of the company happen in this division, thanks to the Footloose vs Can-Am Express (Dan Kroffat & Doug Furnas) feud.
18/04 : Footloose vs Kroffat & Zenk
Good match, but far from what the Footloose would do with the Can-Am. Kawada vs Kroffat is just awesome. Funny to see Zenk, one half of the original Can-Am (with Rick Martel) taking the place of Furnas.
(3) 22/05 : Tenryu & Footloose vs Spivey & Cam-Am Express
This match is more about Footloose vs Can-Am express than anything else, as they are building up to their match at Budokan in June. Spivey and Tenryu play the monster supporters of both teams and add a nice story with the dueling powerbombs. Spivey is particulary great for building heat for him vs Tenryu.
(1) 05/06 : Footloose vs Can-Am Express
Just an awesome match as the two best teams in the world face each other. It means Kawada vs Kroffat, of course, but it's better than this since both teams have an incredible chemistry. Worked at a junior pace, with spots ahead of their time, the workers work the crowd in a frenzy as the Budokan audience is clearly behind the Cam-Am. The whole match looks like a long work to the finish section. Mind blowing and ageless stuff.
(6) 19/08 : Can-Am Express vs Footloose
This is a non title match from Korakuen Hall, in which Kawada injures his ribs as soon as the match begins. Fuyuki works extra hard to make up for it, and Kawada pulls it off even in bad shape. They don't go as long as in their title matches, but the work and the heat are great as usual. After the match, both teams get into a huge brawl to heat up their rivalry.
(2) 02/09 : Cam-Am Express vs Footloose
Even though it's not as great as their first match, this is still a true classic, with a different twist as Kawada was injured and Fuyuki worked twice as hard and played the role of Kawada's protector at several occasions. The audience totally loathes Fuyuki, which adds to the fun. The injury factor gives a new element to the match, and Kawada is just awesome to see working despite the pain and at the same time putting it over. Yet another must see match in the best feud of the year.
(7) 11/10 : Can-Am Express vs Joe Malenko & Kobashi
From the October Budokan show. only the 8 last minutes are showed, but it's a great work to the finish section, as always with the Can-Am. Malenko is more fired up here than during his slow paced junior matches, and Kobashi displays his superb athetic spots. Not as awesome as the Footloose match because Malenko & Kobashi aren't a regular team, but what is showed is easily one of the best tag match of the year.
20/10 : Footloose vs Can-Am Express
Not quite as awesome as all their previous matches, since it’s worked a lot slower, with less spots, and doesn’t go as long. It also lacks drama. Still a very good match though.
NB : The Footloose faced the Can-Am again during the tag league, but pretty much nothing was showed on TV.
The British Bulldogs in All Japan
The Bulldogs were on their last legs at this point, with Dynamite badly injured and Davey getting bigger and bigger thanks to the roids. They toured a lot with All Japan and still delivered some interesting matches though. Up to June, they were looking decent to really good, depending on the day and the opposition, but when they came back for the Real Tag League, they were like a different team. Dynamite looked really old and sad, and Davey was completely unmotivated, using chinlocks a hundred times during matches. How sad.
(9) 25/01 Tenryu & Fuyuki vs Dynamite Kid & Davey Boy Smith
One of best performance from Tenryu this year, as he gets fired up working against the legend Dynamite Kid. Of course, Fuyuki still has to do most of the work, and he's really efficient working as the underdog. It's also the Bulldogs best performance along with the Malenko match. Dynamite works extra hard to make his exchange with Tenryu special, and Davey Boy busts his ass too. The Korakuen crowd is super hot for this one, as the Bulldogs are totally credible against the second native and his lieutenant.
(1) 28/01 : Joe & Dean Malenko vs Dynamite Kid & Davey Boy Smith
Incredible match at Korakuen Hall. Of course Davey is not a junior, but they worked at a junior pace and the match was mainly mat based, which is the style AJ juniors like Fuchi or Malenko mainly use. The Malenkos carry the offense, imposing a submission style to their opposition, who can work with it beautifully, especially Dynamite. A lot a great counters, great double team and sequences since both team have an incredible chemistry. The Bulldogs bring their intensity to the Malenkos. Just awesome to watch these guys work together, and the audience are going crazy for both teams.
14/05 : Bulldogs vs Can-Am Express
20/05 : Bulldogs vs Can-Am Express
Two very good matches opposing similar teams composed of an agile powerhouse (Furnas/Davey Boy) and a great versatile worker (Kroffat/Dynamite). Of course Dynamite looked like the older, slower version of Kroffat.
22/05 : Bulldogs vs Yatsu & Jumbo
The Bulldogs challenge for the Tag Titles, and it’s as good as a lot of Tenryu/Hansen matches. The final minutes is a remainder of Wrestlemania 2, which is both neat and stupid.
05/06 : Bulldogs vs Gordy & Hansen
Yet another really good Bulldog match. Gordy is the most generous worker alive at this point, and will bump like a freak for midget Dynamite. Not pretty, but a lot of impressive power spots and stiff shots.
??/06 : Bulldogs vs Footloose
Pretty much comparable to the Can-Am matches, this is the last very good performance of the Bulldogs, anywhere in the world I think. Dynamite vs Kawada is always something good to see.
29/11 : Bulldogs vs Singh & Abby
This is from the Real Tag League, during which the Bulldogs were pretty dull if not awful to watch. But here it’s like working with two legends and horrible workers motivated them. Davey Boy finally wakes up and Dynamite bleeds all over the place. Bad match, of course, but still fun to see. Oh, and Singh is the most worthless piece of crap in the universe not named Chyna, as even Abby is forced to, God forbid, work when teaming with the Indian Asshole.
All Japan Juniors
Although they are a far cry for their New Japan counterparts, Fuchi and the Malenkos still deliver some worthwhile matches, with the ever welcomed addition of great gaijins like the Fantastics.
20/01 : Joe Malenko vs Fuchi
Typical Fuchi match, with a lot of submissions and streching. Not that much intensity thanks to Joe, but very technically sound.
(8) 16/04 : Masanobu Fuchi vs Shinichi Nakano
Very heated match at Korakuen Hall. The veteran Fuchi disciplines young Nakano and stretches him every way possible. Fuchi is great in his role and makes Nakano a underdog for the crowd to rally behind. Very solid, totally carried by Fuchi, with a very good work to the finish section. Nakano doesn't have a large moveset, but he only has to use it during the last minutes to pull off the upset. Excellent story match.
(10) 11/07 : Joe Malenko vs Dean Malenko
The two brothers in an incredible technical match. A ton of great submission work and counters. Dean is clearly better, working at a faster pace and being more intense than Joe. The match looks a little bit too much like an exhibition sometimes, with not much of a story told, but technically it's just wonderful to watch. Typical Malenko match.
(4) ??/08 : Joe & Dean Malenko vs Fantastics
Only the last 6 minutes are showed, but these are exceptional 6 minutes. The Malenkos use all kinds of great double team moves and sequences with the Fan. As action packed as their Bulldogs match. Dean and Tommy are the real stars of the match, as their sequences are the best. Another great gaijin vs gaijin match.
Misc. Big Matches
Here are the last worthwhile matches in All Japan in 1989, that really didn’t belong in any thematic list.
(7) 08/03 : Ricky Steamboat vs Tiger Mask
An oddity of a match as Tiger Mask was pretty much absent from All Japan's scene and it's his only notable single match. Steamboat is a great 70's style american heavyweight, but his offense looks dated compared to Misawa's high flying stuff. But if the result is beneath what people could except from Steamboat vs Misawa, it's still a very good match.
(8) ??/06 : Jumbo & Yatsu & Nakano vs Hansen & Gordy & Muraco
Very fun match with a rare All Japan appearance by Don Muraco. He's still pretty good, and even though he can't compete with his partners, he delivers something different and doesn't look out of place. The star of the match is Hansen, who is totally out of control, kicking ass, interfering randomly, stiffing his opposition. Poor Shinichi Nakano is the designated victim of the gaijins, and he delivers his best performance of the year here. Jumbo & Yatsu work as their respective selves, which is both great and not that great. Super heat.
(3) 02/09 : Jumbo Tsuruta vs Yoshiaki Yatsu
The best carry job of the year by Jumbo, who gets a great single match out of his partner Yatsu. Good matwork at the beginning, stiff work and good psychology, this match delivers everything you'd want from an All Japan heavy match at this point. Yatsu's execution is hit and miss, as always, but he works super hard to make this as good as it should be. There's just no comparison between this match and the Tenryu vs Yatsu Triple Crown defense from July, and it shows all the difference between Jumbo and Tenryu since Yatsu was game in both matches. It's nice to see Yatsu, who always work hard despite his liabilities, getting such a good single match.
(5) 02/09 : Genichiro Tenryu vs Terry Gordy
The second Triple Crown defense of Tenryu happens at Budokan and it's Terry Gordy who carries Tenryu to yet another notable match. He's the one supplying the offense and controlling the pace, and it's a good thing, because Tenryu would not be afraid to dog it if given the opportunity. Not very long, but it's the right lenght for these two. It's really stiff and the psychology around the powerbomb is excellent. It's Gordy lone great performance of the year in AJ, but it shows how good he was carrying an inferior native.
(6) 15/09 : Tenryu & Footloose vs Baba & Rusher & Fuchi
A super fun match from Korakuen Hall to Celebrate Baba's 30th year in the wrestling business. Of course, with Baba and especially Kimura involved, there's a lot of mediocre to pathetic offense and poor selling, but the match is very long and builds well to a super work to the finish portion (mainly worked by Fuchi). Tenryu and his Revolution pals opposing Baba is fun to see despite the ridiculousness of some spots. A match carried to excellence by the sole will of Baba to work hard and the great teamwork of the Footloose and Tenryu.
New Japan Pro-Wrestling
New Japan seikigun vs Vader / the mighty Hash push
There were three main stories in New Japan in 1989 : the feud between Choshu and Vader, the Russian invasion, and the push of the first of the musketeers, Shinya Hashimoto. At one point all these stories melted into one thanks to the great booking of Riki Choshu. Even though this produced very few excellent matches, the feuds were enjoyable to follow.
03/02 : Choshu & Fujinami vs Vader & Bigelow
Really good tag match with Fuji taking the requisite asskicking from Vader, Choshu being intense as hell and Bigelow delivereing the fat spots.
09/02 : Inoki vs Bigelow
Surprisingly decent Inoki match. Inoki works on Bigelow’s arm and Bam Bam sells it like a king. Good story and build to a logical ending. Damn, Bigelow was good.
09/02 : Fujinami vs Vader
Typical Fuji carrying the limited Vader to a good match. The IWGP champ takes a beating and makes Vader look like gold before doing the job.
22/02 : Choshu vs Inoki
Main event of the Sumo Hall show. The match itself is pretty decent overall, but the ending is the most memorable of the year since Inoki jobs clean to Choshu. It’s pretty much a symbolic passing of the torch as Choshu becomes The Man in New Japan, Inoki becoming something more like a special attraction after this. Inoki doing a job is always a huge huge thing to watch.
(10) 13/04 : Vader & Rheingans & Saywer vs Choshu & Fujinami & Kimura
The gaijin team is very solid as Sawyer and Rheingans handle most of the work against inferior workers like Kimura and Choshu. Fujinami makes Vader look like gold as always, and Choshu is efficient in these kind of short and fast paced match. Vader only has to pick his spots, so he's looking great. Kimura sucks, but in a tag like this his liabilities are much hidden and he can do the only few signature spots he can do well.
(9) 19/04 : Vader & Rheingans & Sawyer vs Inoki & Choshu & Fujinami
A very good, short but fast paced match between the veterans of New Japan and the gaijins monsters. Rheingans and Sawyer carry the work for their team and let Vader clean the ring and get the special treatment with his limited but good monster offense. Fujinami bumps like crazy and makes the opposition look like gold yet again. Sawyer is particulary impressive, but Rheingans is very solid too, with ton of suplex and submission work. Inoki is picking his spots here, and more efficient than Kimura in the previous match.
(4) 24/04 : Tatsumi Fujinami vs Big Van Vader
Before he injured his back in June against the same Vader, Fujinami was one of the very best native heavyweight of the country, only taking a back seat to Jumbo and Kawada. Working with a limited or poor opposition (Lawler or Sid for God's sake) prevented him from having a lot of very strong matches over the first six months of the year. However, this match from the Tokyo Dome is his personnal masterpiece, as he got the best match possible from an efficient but still limited Vader. Fuji bumps like there's no tomorrow and builds a dramatic match with quick counters and near falls. A testament to the subtle work of New Japan’s best heavy worker of the decade.
24/04 : Hashimoto vs Vader
IWGP tournament at the Dome final. Young Hashimoto ends up against Vader after upsetting Choshu earlier in the night. Needless to say he takes a beating, but gets some good shots on Vader’s injured arm before jobbing. Pretty good.
25/05 : Hashimikov vs Vader
Follow Choshu’s booking : Vader loses his IWGP title won one month earlier to sambo master Salmon Hashimikov. The suisha otoshi is now the biggest move in New Japan.
22/06 : Fujinami vs Vader
Sad match as Fuji injures his back on a backdrop. He was supposed to win, but it looks like shit because his back can’t carry the load of Vader.
12/07 : Hashimikov vs Choshu
Follow Choshu’s booking : Choshu beats Hashimikov for the IWGP title after taking the suisha otoshi.
10/08 : Hashimikov vs Hashimoto
Follow Choshu’s boking : Hash jobs to the suisha otoshi.
(9) 10/08 : Big Van Vader vs Riki Choshu
More basic than Vader's match with Fuji. Choshu is not as good taking a beating, but the match tells a good story. Vader may not be a great worker yet, but he knows his role and how to play his part. Choshu uses both his quickness and his power to try to KO him, so it's a pretty simple match. Good finish with Vader finally being quicker than Choshu.
20/09 : Choshu & Iizuka vs Hashimoto & Saito
Really good tag match even, though Hash and especially Saito are limited. Iizuka is a junior lost in the middle of heavyweight, and he takes a giant beating from Hashimoto, who finally wins the IWGP tag titles.
03/11 : Hashimoto vs Vader
Follow Choshu’s booking : Hash wins a match over IWGP champion Vader, via count out.
05/12 : Hashimikov vs Hashimoto
Follow Choshu’s booking : Hash finally defeats suisha otoshi master and former IWGP champion Salmon Hashimikov (who beat Vader) in the World Cup Tournament. Hum, hum hum…
06/12 : Hashimoto vs Williams
World Cup semi-final. Williams is working exclusively in New Japan at this time, and even though he’s not great yet, he’s making an awesome impression on the audience. Slow match that builds pretty well.
06/12 : Choshu vs Chono
Good match and first notable match of musketeer Masahiro Chono, who pushes Choshu pretty hard in the other World Cup semi-final. Not spectacular, but efficient.
(10) 07/12 : Shinya Hashimoto vs Riki Choshu
Final of the World Cup Tournament, this is also the conclusion of the Hash push in 1989. He already defeated Choshu at the Dome show, so he's got a chance coming into this match, especially after beating Vader and Hashimikov. Slow paced at the beginning, but it builds well. They both have a limited moveset, but they use it efficiently. Nice exchange at the end, with Choshu paying homage to his fellow companions Kimura and the injured Fujinami.
Super Strong Machine & George Takano
Even though the New Japan heavyweights cannot compare to the All Japan top guys, the tag division delivered a lot of good to very good matches, thanks to two of the best worker in the company carrying the entire division nearly all year long. Super Strong Machine and George Takano worked against both heavys and juniors, and were always very efficent, with some excellent teamwork and spots and a will to carry anybody.
(3) ??/01 : Koshinaka & Kobayashi vs Takano & SS Machine
(2) 04/03 : Koshinaka & Kobayashi vs Takano & SS Machine
Even though Takano & Machine aren't juniors, these are more junior matches than heavy matches. The pace is super quick and the teams exchanges more spots than you can count in a rather long match. The workers have a great chemistry together, Takano and Machine working as quickly as Koshinaka & Kobayashi. The work to the finish is incredible, with a ton of nearfalls. Koshinaka is the best of the match, but everybody is contributing to make it one of the most exciting match of the year. A little bit like the Can-Am vs Footloose. The first match is a little bit shorter, but both are at the same level.
16/03 : Takano & Machine vs Choshu & Saito
Takano and Machine defeat the veteran team to win the IWGP titles. Saito is not pretty to watch, but Choshu is very efficient and work extra hard. Takano bleeds a bucket.
13/04 : Takano & Machine vs Armstrong & Smothers
Very good match as the Southern Boys are a good opposition for the champions. Lot of spots if not a lot of drama.
19/04 : Takano & Machine vs Sano & Goto
Another heavies vs juniors match. Sano is just amazing to watch, and Goto plays the underdog. He could actually work back then and shows it. Very good performance from everybody, even though Sano steals the show.
03/07 : Takano & Machine vs Choshu & Fujinami
Takano & Machine work on Fuji’s back injury and actually get a win. Very good match because even though Fuji cannot do much, the story is excellent and Takano & Machine deliver all the spots.
12/07 : Takano & Machine vs Iizuka & Koshinaka
Yet another very good match against two junior opponents. Very fast paced as always.
13/07 : Takano & Machine vs Choshu & Iizuka
Choshu pushes junior sambo artist Takayuki Iizuki as his partner, and they work a very good match against the champions. The best heavyweight tag match of the year in New Japan, with a lot of spots and a great finish.
??/09 : Takano & Machine vs Fernandez & Sawyer
Last really good match of the team this year. They are dominated by the gaijin team here. Fernandez actually looks pretty decent, but Sawyer is the real star. Awesome looking finish.
NB : Takano and Machine worked a match at the Dome show against Hase & Koshinaka, which was probably very good if not better, but it was not shown on TV. They had to show the sambo masters instead……
Hase to Shiro to Liger
Of course, the best matches of New Japan will be found with the junior workers. 1989 is a peculiar year because it was the transition between the era of Shiro Koshinaka and Hiroshi Hase and the era of Jushin Liger. Only one worker was there during the whole year and made his presence felt with every opposition, and he’s Naoki Sano, the most enjoyable junior to me at this point (Liger’s first matches were not that great because he was still searching himself).
(5) 03/02 : Koshinaka & Sano vs Hase & Hiro Saito
Tag match to build the rivalry between champion Koshinaka and Hase. Hase and Saito play heels, and carry the match, so it's a very solid body. Sano is way over everybody's head in term of spots, and it shows next to Koshinaka and Saito. The match builds nicely to a super quick work to the finish section.
(6)??/03 : Koshinaka & Sano vs Hase & Hiro Saito
Same teams, same kind of match as the later, with Saito and Hase dominating the match as heels, with a very solid work. Sano delivers all the great highspots and Koshinaka brings his energy and intensity to his rivalry with Hase.
(4) 16/03 : Shiro Koshinaka vs Hiroshi Hase
The last great junior match before the Liger era. Not much in term of story as the first half of the match is mainly an exchange of submissions, but the second half is an awesome collection of spots and sequences. The execution is always top notch, and the work is basically stainless. Shiro is the best of the two at this point, and he's mainly responsible for making this match so exciting, although Hase is still very good.
(6) 22/05 : Shiro Koshinaka vs Jushin Liger
The match is too short to be that great, but what they do in the amount of time they're given is excellent. They basically work a Shiro match, very fast, very exciting, and maximize the short time they've been given. Their moveset are not quite comparable, but their chemistry is great. A passing of the torch of sort, from a great worker to another great worker.
(9) 25/05 : Jushin Liger vs Hiroshi Hase
It's the transitional match between the era of Hase and Koshinaka and the era of Liger. It's a rather short match, so it doesn't get as good as it looks on paper. But what they do is still excellent, even though Liger was still clearly searching his game at this point. Not as exciting as the Shiro match, but lot of great spots.
Liger vs. Sano
The feud of the year is New Japan. The new king of the juniors is threathened by a young prodigy, Naoki Sano, who’s playing a subtle heel all along the feud. The psychology from one match to another is absolutely great, that’s why they must be seen in order to really be fully understood.
(9) 27/06 : Liger & Nogami vs Sano & Sasazaki
Early tag match in the Liger vs Sano feud. one of the rare appearance by Shinji Sasazaki, a pretty good junior heavyweight, here carried by his superior opposition. Sano vs Liger and Nogami is a great sight to see, as they work super fast and exchange great spots. Sasazaki is slower and less impressive, but doesn't get put to shame either. Excellent work by everyone involved.
03/07 : Liger vs Sasazaki
Even though Sasazaki is not a threat for Liger, the champ gives him a lot to make the match good. Sano attacks Liger after the match.
(3) 13/07 : Jushin Liger vs Naoki Sano
Their first match at the Sumo Hall that ends on a double ten count. The two best juniors of the year finally facing off to ignite the best feud of the year in term of storytelling and psychology. Contrary to what some may say, the spots and sequences haven't aged at all to me because all is so clean and perfectly executed. Great stuff.
(10) 08/08 : Liger & Nogami vs Sano & Hoshino
Key match in the Sano vs Liger feud, as Liger hurts his shoulder and Sano and Hoshino work unmercifully on it. Hoshino is old and limited, but he is a little sneaky bastard. When Liger finally gets to tag out, Nogami takes a classic bump in the railway on a tope and slices himself open, which will play its importance on future Sano vs Liger matches. Work may be not be stainless, but the story is great.
(1) 10/08 : Naoki Sano vs Jushin Liger
It's the Sumo Hall match during which Liger was wearing the protecting shoulder pad. The work may not be as great as usual because of this, but I love the injury story so this gets the crown for me. Both are just incredible, Liger as the wounded champion and Sano as the subtle heel challenger. They play off their previous single and tag matches to work the smartest junior match of the year. Not the best match in term of pure workrate, but my preference goes to this incredibly dramatic title change, and Liger's first loss.
(2) 20/09 : Naoki Sano vs Jushin Liger
Only the last 7 minutes of this one are showed, but it's just incredible to witness, as these are the best 7 minutes of the year as far as pure work goes. Not only that, but they continue to play off their previous encounters with spots and counters like the suplex from the apron to the outside or the suicide bump in the guardrail. The sequences and nearfalls are awesome.
Misc Junior Matches
The mix of old and new juniors delivered others very worthwhile matches.
11/07 : Liger vs Black Tiger
Two days before his first match against Sano, Liger defends his title against Black Tiger in a British Rules match, with rounds of three minutes. Mark Rocco is still a decent worker, but he’s pretty bland compared to Liger. This ain’t 1982 anymore.
(7) 28/07 : Jushin Liger vs Akira Nogami
Liger educates young Nogami by giving him a beating, but also enough offense to shine and get some credible nearfalls. Nogami is a great athlete and shows a lot of fire, but he needs a carrier like Liger to guide him during the match.What makes the match is clearly the quality of the work and spots, as the story is not as good as the Sano match.
(8) 03/08 : Hase & Iizuka vs Sano & Nogami
The Sambo combi of Hase and Iizuka work as much with heavys as they do with juniors, but here they got their best opposition. Sano and Nogami are the stars of the match and deliver great high flying action which contrasted with Hase and Iizuka's submissions. The work is excellent all along, but the match ends with the sickest bump of the year, as Nogami executes a plancha over the metal guardrail and literally squash Iizuka against it.
(5)??/08 : Naoki Sano vs Akira Nogami
The best junior of the year against the best up and coming junior of the year. I take this Akira match over the Liger match, as Sano plays more a heel and Nogami tries harder to push him. Sano carries Nogami to his best single match and gives him a lot considering Nogami is still way beneath him in the rankings. A superb performance from Sano.
(7) ??/09 : Koshinaka & Sano vs Kobayashi & Hiro Saito
Yet another great match with the team of Koshinaka & Sano. Hiro & Kobayashi carry the match playing heels, but always use their limited offense with much efficiency. Saito works a lot of very quick sequences with Sano. Koshinaka brings his great intensity to the match and boosts the pace. Sano is clearly the standout of the match, but not stealing the show as everyone makes a notable contribution.
03/11 : Liger vs Iizuka
Ironically one of the only « junior only » match for Iizuka. Pretty much the same thing as Liger’s match with Nogami, except Iizuka pushes him a little harder with his sambo submissions. However the match is less spectacular.