Quebrada Pro Wrestling, Puroresu, & Mixed Martial Arts Reviews by Mike Lorefice

NJPW Tadakai no Wonderland ~Jushin Thunder Liger Story~
#4 4/30/00

3/5/90: Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Cheetah Kid (Ted "Rocco Rock" Petty) 9:24. It's nice to see Rocco before he got into grunge, but I have no idea why they included this match in the Liger series, as it's one of Liger's absolute worst. Cheetah had a way of making everything look at least a bit awkward. For such a good athlete, he was rather mechanical and, next to Liger, came off as nothing more than an imposter indy junior. The match was very much of the you do your spots and I do mine variety. Liger tried, but they had no chemistry. *3/4

1/30/90 Gifu Taiikukan, IWGP Junior Next Challenger Decision League Match: Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Owen Hart 12:28. This match is, in a way, responsible for the greatest junior heavyweight match, as if Liger didn't win here to take the next challenger league, he wouldn't have faced Sano the next night. All the matches in the league that aired seemed to share the "we'll give 'em a good twelve minutes" mindset, so this wasn't the blowout match we hoped for. Liger was pretty much along for the ride, as this was clearly Owen's match, and Owen had the advantage most of the time. Hart has a tendency to make everything look easy because he's so exceptionally graceful. While this is often to his advantage, it can be a detriment as well. He never did a very good job of instilling a sense of urgency into his matches, particularly the openings, which were filled with great athletic counters, so they could still seem somewhat empty because there was no real sense of anything having been gained. Though Hart had more ability to deliver an entertaining opening than almost any junior of his era, and certainly once again did so tonight, you can see in a match such as this one that it can still come off very flat if we aren't given a reason to believe in it. The audience didn't react until he picked up the pace, not because the slower stuff wasn't well done, but because he wasn't moving us, so we didn't take that much notice until we identified some sort of manipulation, in this case reverting to our programming of equating quicker tempo to action of greater importance and enthusiasm. Anyway, they were both wrestling on a very high level and built the match up pretty well. A memorable match was a possibility, but they went home early and rather unconvincinglywith Liger just cutting Owen off on the top and taking him out with an avalanche brainbuster then a Ligerbomb rather than having a run of offense first. ***3/4

1/31/90 Osaka Furitsu Taiikukaikan, IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title Match: Naoki Sano vs. Jushin Thunder Liger 20:00. The ultimate climactic battle, the greatest junior heavyweight match bringing perfect indecisive closure to the greatest junior heavyweight feud of all-time. Not merely a grudge match of epic purportions, but right up there with Akira Hokuto vs. Shinbobu Kandori 4/2/93 as the greatest ever. Not simply state of the art wrestling with awesome drama and great intensity, but the measuring stick. An extremely rich and deep match, with great single match story and psychology, but also playing off the entire brilliant feud in many ways. Heel Sano offers to put the past behind them at least long enough for a display of pre-match goodwill only to get embarrassed when Liger slaps him across the face. Liger roughs up his incited opponent, but Sano quickly exerts his will, proceeding to control 90% of the contest. Abusing and mauling Liger, Sano uses a piledriver on the floor and in-ring tombstone to set up embarrassing him by ripping his sacred mask. Posting Liger until he bleeds, Sano is soon at his cockiest, not wanting to settle for a simple pin, but wanting to prove a point and knock his opponent out. Their first singles meeting on 7/13/89 ended in a double KO, but this time Sano is going to drain his opponent of his lifeforce if not his blood and pummel him until he can no longer stand. Sano nearly succeeds with moves such as the superplex. Liger finally makes a hot comeback, introducing his flying into the match, but it’s suitably short lived. The match is about making the prospects of Liger’s victory look as bleak as humanly possible. At the same time, Liger’s refusal to surrender despite losing a bucket of blood subtly shifts Sano into deciding the victory is more important than the manner, as the belt is what proves he’s the best and will make the fans and promotion eventually see it. The selling is quite simply amazing, more toward Misawa & Kawada dominated All Japan heavyweights from a few years later than anything we'd expect from juniors before or since, with Liger down for lengthy periods as a good deal of drama is placed on each attempt to simply stand. In the best hope spot, Sano tries to take it to the next level with a superplex with both standing on the top, but Liger saves himself by shifting his weight to land on top, though he’s still unable to gain control. Liger’s inability to mount an offensive continues until the final seconds of the match when he counters Sano’s huracanrana with a Ligerbomb. Everything we are used to about pro wrestling tells us Liger will turn it on now, but the series is about making stars of both wrestlers, so even though it’s the blowoff Liger isn’t going to prove true superiority. He’s a beaten down man with nothing left, so he decides to go for broke, positioning Sano with a tombstone and pulling out the most spectacular move of the time period, the shooting star press. Liger wins because he has the greatest move and was able to will himself, or simply be lucky enough, to hang around long enough to execute it. *****


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